Finding Artisans in Halifax Area and Beyond

Posted on: August 2nd, 2018 by Quentin Burns

Discover Galleries & Studios of Local Artisans in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a rich arts and crafts tradition. The beautiful natural scenery and the community-focused spirit have combined to make a place where local art is thriving and celebrated. Many artisans in Nova Scotia live solely on their craft, while others do it on a part-time professional basis. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or whether you’ve lived here for years, these resources will help you find new places and events to explore.

Discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map used to discover artisan studios in Halifax / Dartmouth and beyond.

Halifax Art Map

Leathersmith Designs is proud to be a featured location on the 2018-19 Halifax Art Map. The guide has been running since 2002. Leathersmith Designs has been appearing in it since 2016, alongside dozens of other amazing artists and craftspeople from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

I called Keith McPhail, the advertising and business coordinator of the Halifax Art Map, to ask about how the guide started and where it is headed. I thought I had only a few simple questions which would take him a few minutes to answer. At the end of our hour-long phone conversation, I realized how much I hadn’t known about the Halifax art community. Much of my own city and industry are still mysterious to me.

That’s the mission statement of Art Maps: to de-mystify the mystery. Their goal is to make people aware of what’s out there, to get people through the doors of small workshops and studios. Above all, they ultimately want to guide consumers towards finding a piece of art they can fall in love with.

How Halifax Art Maps Started

In 2002, Keith was working for the city in the Tourism and Culture department. “Culture” was a new addition at the time. They didn’t have much funding or much of a concrete game-plan. They were approached by a group of artists who wanted to highlight local art, to combat a perceived lack of knowledge by the public. Thus the Art Map was born.

In its first year the map covered only Downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, and was focused on the tourism market. There was no money available from the city that year, so the project was funded solely by ads. The response exceeded expectations. They learned there was a lot of local interest and local discovery happening as a result of the map. Therefore, they decided to expand the goals of the project.

In the second year they received matching grants (one each from the province and municipality) for three years to develop the project (print layout, website, distribution). Later they added an annual exhibition. In the last six years they added social media, and the Art Map solidified into its modern form. Nowadays, the market for the map is half tourists and half residents of Nova Scotia.

How do they find Artists?

The Halifax Art Map relies strongly on word of mouth from participants. Artists recommend the map to other artists, and recommend new artists to the map.

Artists can apply to be featured at the Halifax Art Map website. The Halifax Art Map doesn’t have any restrictions on what type of artists can apply, but they do vet their artists for professionalism. They want to feature people who are serious about doing art professionally. The goal of the project, according to Keith, is “helping local artists and craftspeople make a sustainable living”.

Where to find Halifax Art Maps

You can find Halifax Art Maps at every featured artist location, at Visitor Information Centres in the HRM, and at some larger Visitor Information Centres across Nova Scotia. They are in Halifax and Dartmouth hotels, at the Halifax cruise ship pavilion, and at and the Halifax and Dartmouth ferry terminals. They are also distributed at conferences, to reach visiting professionals from all over the world. If you’re planning a vacation, Halifax Art Maps has an online artisan directory where you can search for artists by area or category.

Keith told me hotel concierges proved to be unexpected gold as a resource. They get to know the map, and remark on the changes and updates to it year after year. Even more, they are great at getting maps into the hands of serious art and craft lovers … AND they talk up the local scene.

The library and their branches were also a surprise as they help distribute maps to all their 17 branches. They help get it into the hands of locals as part of their mandate and service as information providers.

If you’re in the Dartmouth area, stop by Leathersmith Designs to pick up a free copy of the map. Jamie Hartling, our master leatherworker, has been a dedicated member of the Nova Scotia crafting community since 1975. He can give you a tour of the leathercraft shop and tell you all about the local leatherworking scene.

Creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist shown in the printed Halifax Art Map as well as on the Halifax Map website.

The Halifax Art Map in both print form and on the web displays the creations of the artisan as well as useful and interesting info on the crafter / artist.

Who is the Halifax Art Map Team?

For Keith, Art Maps a labor of love. Its creators have all worked in the arts themselves and are passionate about supporting the Nova Scotian crafting community. Keith (second from right) and Kathryn Fraser (third from right) are the core team. Together they do add sales, coordinate exhibits, and organize artist talks. As of this writing, there is a Halifax Art Map event coming up at the Halifax Public Library on how to buy art. To keep up with current craft and artisan events, you can follow the Halifax Art Map Facebook page.

Jane Lombard (far right) is their graphic designer and works on the Halifax Art Map part-time for about three months each year. Peter Eastwood is the webmaster for the Halifax Art Map website, and puts in about one month full time.

Then, of course, there are the featured artists and craftspeople. Every year, Kathryn stops by to talk with Jamie Hartling about the state of Art Maps. Art Maps began as a scheme by a group of Halifax artisans, and aims to stay true to its roots as a “community collaboration”.

Halifax Art Map release in 2016 listing artisans.

Jamie Hartling (leather artisan on left) attending a Halifax Art Map release in 2016 with some of the key Halifax Art Map organizers.

New Directions for Halifax Art Map

Every year the Art Maps team makes decisions on how best to keep supporting artists in their community. Every year they decide to keep the map in printed form. It is now one of few surviving publications in Nova Scotia. Although paper costs continue to go up and the format of the map is expensive, Keith says it’s important for the map to look good, to represent the quality of the art inside it. It’s also important that it remain a tactile piece, because the core buyers of art are familiar with a tactile world. However, the demographic is slowly changing, so the decision must be made anew every year.

This year, they are also considering a new service. They are looking into options for how Art Maps might help facilitate marketing plans for individual artists and small galleries. When Keith spoke to me he was getting ready to attend a seminar on the subject. He told me the next step is to go out and talk to members of the community about what they would want from such a program.

Nova Scotia Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide features Artisans in Nova Scotia

The Province of Nova Scotia Tourism publishes a comprehensive travel guide called “The Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide“. You can request to have it mailed to you anywhere around the world. You can also pick up the guide at any of the Nova Scotia provincial tourist bureaus. On the Nova Scotia Tourism website under the “See and Do” heading ,you can find a section on “Galleries, Shops, and Artisans”. As of 2018 there are 170 listed. While the Halifax Art Map focuses on artists in the Halifax area, this guide is province-wide. It features many small studios and creative artisans off the beaten path.

Artisans in Nova Scotia found on provincial website.

Viewing galleries, shops and artisans in Nova Scotia, Canada on the provincial tourism website.

Citizens of Craft

Citizens of Craft is a good resource for finding craftspeople and artisans in Nova Scotia, as well as across Canada. You can search by location, type of establishment (museums, studios, galleries, etc.), and craft type. There is a diverse array on offer. You can find sculptors, leather workers, fibre artists, glass blowers, furniture makers, metal workers, potters, jewelers, and more. Artisans featured on Citizens of Craft are all registered members of their provincial craft councils, which promote quality in craft.

Artisans from across Canada featured in this national craft directory "Citizens of Craft".

Citizens of Craft is an online directory of artisans from across Canada.

More Sources for Finding Artisans in Nova Scotia

Provincial craft organizations such as Craft Nova Scotia, Arts Nova Scotia, Visual Arts Nova Scotia and Centre for Craft Nova Scotia can put you in touch with the craft community and artisans in Nova Scotia. Even more, there are many regional and local organizations such as the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, Halifax Crafters Society, Dartmouth Handcrafters Guild, and Maritime Makers. Various craft shows throughout the year also provide a great opportunity to meet artisans coming to your area.

Discover the uniqueness and quality of individually handmade crafts. Besides that, nothing is more memorable when visiting an area than purchasing a one of a kind piece by a local artisan, or watching a handcrafted item being created before you in their studio.

Leather handcrafts tooled by leather craftsman in Dartmouth, NS. studio.

Artisan at leather craft studio in Dartmouth, NS shown hand tooling design on leather guitar strap.


Tealight Candle Holders Leather Project

Posted on: July 6th, 2018 by Quentin Burns

How To Make Wood Candle Holders

These vintage candle holders were made by Alana LeBlanc, using reclaimed pallet wood and scrap leather. This is a good project for people looking to improve their leather crafting skills whilst using up spare scrap materials. Any flaws will just add to the rustic look of the tealight candle holders leather project. These leather decorated wood candle holders make great personalized gifts.

leather crafted tealight candle holders

The finished leather project: tealight candle holders.

Preparing the Wooden Blocks

Cut your pallet into manageable pieces and cut to size with a hand saw or chop saw.

Trace your tealight in pencil onto the tops of the candlestick holders, and measure the diameter so you will know what size drill bit to choose. Measure the height of the metal cup for the tealight to determine how deep you will need to drill. Secure the wooden block in a clamp so it will not spin when you drill. Wear safety glasses and hold the drill perpendicular to the top of the block and drill to the desired depth.

Apply wood stain to your candlestick holders with a wet sponge brush, to best cover any crevices in the rough wood. Before each coat dries, wipe off excess stain with a damp cloth. Seal with varathane satin finish.

Cutting the Leather

We use a cutter to make these stars, but you can also print out a paper template of the pattern you want, trace it onto the leather, and cut using a sharp utility knife and a straight edge.

leather project: decorative star cut-outs

Cut out decorative star pieces for your candle holder leather craft project.

Etching Your Leather Project

Make a template for the design you want to etch. You can do this by drawing or printing your design onto regular computer paper. If you want to etch a word, a thicker font with rounded edges will be easiest to replicate with the etching tool.

Wet the top of your undyed tooling leather with a damp sponge of water, and line up your template on top of it. Using a sharp pencil, trace over the design with a firm hand. This will mark the leather underneath and create a guide for your etching. You must use undyed tooling leather also known as vegetable tanned leather and carving leather in order for the leather to accept the etching or hand stamped designs.

Pattern for personalized leather craft project

Use a pattern to trace a personalized message onto your leather pieces.

Discard the paper template and re-wet the leather. Trace the design again with a rounded modeling leather craft tool, applying steady pressure. Retrace and touch up the etching until it has a consistent depth. The goal is to indent the leather, not to cut into it, so don’t be too rough at this stage. Designs can also be imprinted in the tooling leather with leathercraft stamp tools as shown in this article on tooling and dyeing leather guitar straps.

Etching letters into your leathercraft project

Etch lettering to personalize your leather pieces.

Painting and Finishing

Once you’re happy with your etching, there are several options for finishing the leather. Alana’s pieces for this project have been brushed with neatsfoot oil, a leather conditioner. You might also color the undyed tooling leather with a leather dye. Apply two or three coats of leather dye with a dry flannel cloth or sheep’s wool. Then apply the neatsfoot oil, if using. The conditioner will darken the leather.

Leather craft project darkened with neatsfoot oil.

Use neatsfoot oil to darken your leather panel.

Wait an hour or more for the oil to soak in. Finish by polishing the leather with Fiebing’s acrylic resolene, if you want a glossy look. Apply two coats of polish with a damp cloth, brushing in the same direction with a light hand. Let dry for ten minutes after each coat.

The last step is painting the etched designs with acrylic dye. We use the round headed modeling tool but you can also use a fine artist’s brush for this.

Painting letters on leather project pieces.

Handpaint letters onto your etched pieces for the leather project.

Gluing Leather to Wood Candle Holders

Position your leather pieces where you want them on the wooden candlestick holders, and trace them in pencil.

Lining up decorations for wood candle holder.

Trace the decorative leather pieces onto your wood candle holders.

Apply contact cement to the back sides of the leather, and to the wood where the designs will be placed. Once the glue is dry, stick your leather pieces onto the candlestick holders and tap with a cobbler’s hammer to firmly adhere.

Contact cement application for wood candle holders.

Apply contact cement to the wood candle holders.

 

Cementing decorative pieces to wood for leathercraft project.

Tap decorative leathercraft pieces with a hammer to cement to the tealight candle holders.

The Final Tealight Candle Holders Product

Complete leathercrafting project: tealight candle holders

The finished tealight candle holders.

If you make this project let us know how things went for you, and send us pictures so we can share them!


Custom Leather iPhone Case Handmade

Posted on: November 9th, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Leather Used For Custom Leather iPhone Case

Our handmade custom leather iPhone case is made from rugged natural tooling leather and lined with goatskin. The thickness of the undyed tooling leather is 5 – 6 oz thick (5/64 – 6/64 inch thick) and the goat skin is about 2 oz thick (1/32 inch thick) used in the leather smartphone case. The following steps shown on how to make a hard leather cellular case applies to both custom iphone cases and custom smartphone cases.

Custom handmade molded leather iPhone cases.

Custom leather iPhone Cases handmade and molded to the shape of the cellular phone.

Molding The Custom Leather iPhone Case

The first step in hand making the custom leather iPhone case is to accurately measure your smartphone. Next, make a block from wood or plastic that is the same size. Attach a spacer to the block such as a piece to 6 oz leather to give a little extra room for the phone when molding the leather. This extra room will make it easier to pull the cellular phone out of the cell case.

The natural tooling leather is placed in a bucket of water for about 10 minutes so it is thoroughly soaked through. Then the leather is stretched over the block with the help of a white plastic bone folder. When it is almost formed, staple the molded leather over the block, fine tune the shaping and let it dry over night.

Custom leather iPhone case molded with a bone folder.

Molding custom leather iPhone case with a white bone folder.

Trimming The Leather

The amount of lip required for sewing the front to the back of the leather case is marked. A utility knife or box cutter is used to trim the excess off the lip of the leather.

Lip on cellular case trimmed with a utility knife.

Trimming leather lip on cellular case with a utility knife.

Dyeing Custom Leather iPhone Case

The natural full grain leather is dyed with an alcohol dye such as Fiebings Oil Dye or Eco-Flo Leather Dye. The leather dye can be applied with a cloth or sheep’s wool wrapped over a wooden block or with a wool dauber.

One main difference to consider when buying leather dye is how it can be shipped. Since the Fiebings Pro Dye or Oil Dye is flammable, it can’t be shipped between Canada and the United States through the postal system. We can ship it through the postal system if we ship to a Canadian customer since we are located in Canada. It has to be shipped by other couriers between Canada and the United States which are more expensive. However, the Eco-Flo Leather dye is not flammable and can be shipped inexpensively through the postal system between Canada and the United States.

After the leather dye dries, a leather conditioner such as neatsfoot oil is applied to the top surface of the leather. When that is dry, a couple coats of polish such as resolene can be applied to give it a nice sheen.

Leather used to make cellular case is hand dyed.

Leather used to make iPhone case is dyed by hand.

Setting Snap In Leather Smartphone Case

Small jacket snaps set great in 5 – 6 oz thick leather. A sturdy anvil on a solid surface is used with the snap setter so there won’t be any bounce when tapping with a hammer. A goat skin liner is glued on the inside of the case on top of the under side of the snap. This will protect the smartphone from coming in contact with the metal snap.  A goat skin liner is also glued over the rivets on the back piece of the custom cell case for the same reason.

Snap being set in a leather smartphone case.

Setting snap in a leather smartphone case.

Making Finger Holes In Leather Smartphone Case

To make it easier to take the phone out of the case, finger holes are punched in the leather sides of the case. If the phone is too wide or is positioned horizontally in the case, you fingers may not reach wide enough to grab the phone. In that situation, finger holes are punched in the bottom of the case so the phone can be pushed upward to be able to grab.

Finger holes hand punched with hole punch.

Hole punch tool used to make finger holes.

Sanding Edge Of Custom Leather iPhone Case

The front and back of the handmade iPhone case are glued together with contact cement. Next, a drum sander is used to sand smooth the leather edges. The beveler hand tool is then used to round the leather edge by removing the leather from the corner edge of the leather.

The edge can be dyed black with Fiebings Edge Kote or another leather dye. It can then be burnished smooth with some beeswax on a piece of denim.

Sander smoothing leather edge of custom smartphone case.

Sanding edge smooth of custom smartphone case on drum sander.

Sewing Custom Leather iPhone Case

We sew our custom iPhone cases with a strong nylon thread on an industrial sewing machine. If you wanted to make a case yourself, you could use leather sewing tools such as an awl, overstitcher hand tool and an adjustable groover to  handsew the hard leather cell case with waxed linen thread.

Leather iPhone case sewn

Sewing leather iPhone case.

Stretching Cellular Case

After the custom iPhone case is finished, we sometimes stretch it a little if we want the phone to be removed a little easier from the leather case. The forming block is placed inside the leather case and then a wooden stick about the size and thickness of a wooden yard stick is inserted between the block and leather to stretch the depth of the leather case. Sometimes we might insert a screw driver down the side of the case to stretch the width. If more space is required, you can dampen with water the inside section of the hard leather cellular case and stretch again with the stick or screwdriver.

Video showing leather cellular case being stretched.

Quality Made Custom Smartphone Cases

Leather artisans such as ourselves take pride in creating our handmade custom smartphone cases. The custom iPhone cases are built to last as they are industrial in strength when compared to what can be purchased in chain stores.


Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Posted on: October 13th, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs
Communion Pyx Leather Pouch

Leather Pouch For Communion Pyx

Leather Pouch

The small leather pouch for this communion pyx was recently handmade for a customer who visited our custom leather shop. Importantly, the leather pouch has a sturdy leather lace so the small leather pouch can be worn around a person’s neck for safe keeping which is commonly done with a leather pyx case. A cowhide bag leather was used for the body of the leather pouch. The inside of the front part of the leather pouch is lined with a soft leather to cover the inside part of the metal snap. This is done to prevent damage by not allowing the metal snap to rub against the metal pyx.

What Is A Communion Pyx?

The word Pyx is rooted in Greek and means a container. Many centuries ago if you wanted to carry your coins to the market, you might put them in a pyxis. However over time, the pyx came to refer mainly to a sacred vessel.

The metal pyx is used in Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. The host is carried in the pyx to people that could not attend the mass/communion church service. The idea is that by doing so, the celebration is extended to the whole community. The host is the bread or wafer consecrated in the celebration of the Eucharist. Mainly people that are sick or homebound have the consecrated bread from the church service taken to them. The pyx is like a portable tabernacle that is used to hold the host.

In the Catholic tradition, the pyx containing the host (communion bread) would be put in a fabric or leather pouch called a burse. The burse would be carried around the neck hanging close to the heart of the eucharistic minister or priest to take the consecrated bread to the infirmed.

Most pyxes are made of brass, gold, silver or pewter material. Usually a Christian symbol adorns the cover. The pyx is usually in the shape of a cylinder. The cover normally has a hinge and clasp to keep it closed.

Christian Gifts

Other Christian gift items we have custom made for members of the Christian community include personalized guitar straps with Christian symbols embossed, leather inserts for collection plates, leather crosses, imprinted leather neck discs for Cursillos, carrying cases for large bibles, imprinted leather wristbands and slip on leather covers for hymn books. The imprinted Christian symbols could be a cross, triquetra, fish or praying hands.

 


Horseback Riding – Horse Riding

Posted on: May 3rd, 2017 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Horseback Riding Adventure

Horseback riding is one of the exciting adventures a family can enjoy while vacationing. Part of our summer vacation led us to Boulderwood Stables in Ardoise, Nova Scotia, Canada which is only about a forty-three-minute drive from our custom leather shop in Dartmouth, NS.

Ann and James Wootton have run these stables since the early 1990’s. They expanded their business into a huge leisure and activity center. It includes a swimming pool, hot tub, day camps, birthday parties, red cross swimming lessons, tennis courts, play area in addition to their horse riding lessons and trail rides.  Our daughter enjoyed a couple days stay there years ago with her Girl Guide Trex group.

Not being experienced riders, we chose a one hour trail ride which took us about four kilometers though beautiful wooded trails and fields. We thought the 10 kilometer trail would be a bit too much for us. Horse riding helmets are provided for safety. The experienced guide led us through a route and speed that was tailored to our ability.

Horseback riding through beautiful fields at Boulderwood Stables led by Cassidy.

Cassidy, our guide leads us horseback riding through beautiful open fields at Boulderwood Stables.

The change of scenery on the many trails is interesting. Some trails are geared for more experienced riders and other trails are geared for taking the novice on.  The guide chooses the appropriate trail for her group.

Horseback trail rides going though woods.

Much of the horseback trail ride winds through woodland.

The Horse Stables

After the trail ride James Wootton showed us around the stables which has numerous horses. He explained about the care of horses which we appreciated. We enjoyed petting some of the horses in the stables.

Horse saddles are removed by James Wootton.

James Wootton unsaddles the horses in the stable after the trail ride.

Appreciation of Horseback Riding Gear

Of course being a leather worker, I was very interested in all the leather horseback riding gear used in the bridles, harnesses and saddles. Although I don’t make horse gear, my business Leathersmith Designs supplies harness buckles and other leather hardware such as D rings, bridle buckles and O rings to saddle makers, harness makers and leather repair shops.

Cassidy explained the many differences between English saddles, Australian saddles and western Saddles. The English saddles tend to be lighter and are geared for the ride positioning for jumping as well as dressage. The western saddles which have a horn but no knee pads tend to be best suited for reigning, barrel racing, pole bending as well as hold and tie maneuvers. The Australian saddles are designed for comfort and rider stability. This is important when horseback riding in steep country or when making sudden changes in direction when handling livestock. They are characterized by the knee pads that stick out on the front side. For securing young novice riders better in the saddle, Boulderwood Stables tend to use the Australian saddles.

Horse saddle variations explained.

Cassidy explains the difference in horse saddles. She points to the horn between the knee pads sticking out on the sides of this Australian saddle.

I enjoyed examining the saddle room which had lots of leather bridles hanging on the wall. As I spent a bit too long examining all the interesting leather gear, my family eventually got me out of this saddle room as their highlight which was the trail ride had ended.

Bridles hanging in the saddle room.

Saddle room with lots of leather bridles hanging.

Boulderwood Stables

Boulderwood Stables is certainly an exciting place to enjoy for the novice wanting a horseback trail ride or for people that want to be trained for more serious horse riding. What a wonderful way to spend a day as it certainly was an exciting horseback trail riding adventure.




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