Joe Freitag is the designer and craftsman behind premium accessory brand Friday & River, founded with his wife in 2011. With nearly two decades of experience heading up brand strategy and marketing for leaders in the sport and fashion-lifestyle markets, Joe consults for a variety of brands when he is not turning sides of leather into wallets, belts and bags.
These “Five Things” are thoughts on learning a craft and hand-making products for customers.
1: There is no “undo”
Having stared at a computer almost every day for the past couple of decades, “command z” is second nature. Mistype something? Screw up an image? There it is… “cmd z” to the rescue. A handy little safety net that is there for us whenever we make a mistake (I’ve already used it writing this). In leatherwork there is no “undo”. You are committed to every cut, and each cut is critical to the outcome of the piece. One cut can mean the difference between a beautiful finished piece and scrap. Not having “cmd z” to rely on is an incredible (and often frustrating) lesson in planning, focus, thoughtfulness and commitment.
2: It helps to be obsessive sometimes
I’m obsessive about everything that goes into the craft of leatherwork… every detail, stitch, rivet, snap, and finishing touch. Our customers might not notice each one of these things individually, but it matters when it comes to how they see the product as a whole. The same goes with just about every type of work I guess… the more obsessive you are about mastering the details the better chance you have at doing the best work.
3: It feels good to make stuff with your hands
This one’s obvious, but I get a lot of satisfaction from making things with my hands. It’s so personal, so tangible, and there’s a connection to each one of the people that uses one of our pieces because we make every item that goes out the door by hand.
4: Being accountable
Since we make each item ourselves, whether it be a wallet, belt or bag, we feel personally accountable to our customers, so quality is critical. Commitment to quality takes more time and cost, but it pays off when someone shows us one of our wallets that they’ve been carrying for years, showing how it has aged and what adventures it’s been on. Its age is like a badge of honor – and that is very gratifying.
5: Enjoy the process
Learning any craft is an ongoing process, and leatherwork is no different. As long as there are new things to make, there are new things to learn, which is what ultimately keeps driving me to make things. I’m always tempted to just focus on having the completed item in hand, but I’m just as happy when I’m designing and making an item as when I’m holding the finished piece.
JUST FIVE THINGS: An ongoing LESS+MORE initiative designed to illuminate, in the simplest way possible, the five most important things to know about a particular art, craft, discipline or process.
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