I'm a Leather Artisan with Nelson Deskins
My wife and I met in art class, many years ago in high school. Art has always been something we enjoyed doing, in various mediums.
It was just a hobby and the dream was to do more. Working with leather is not the cheapest artistic hobby. We decided to sell some items to assist us in affording to buy supplies.
Hello ! Who are you and when did you open your workshop?
My name is Nelson Deskins. My wife, Janet and I officially opened Bientro in 2015. We have also taught our sisters, Lori and CarriAnn , the art and they are now working with us as well.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My wife and I met in art class, many years ago in high school. Art has alwas been something we enjoyed doing, in various mediums. In early 2015 I suffered a heart attack. Shortly after that I decided I needed to start doing things I enjoyed more, art be one of them. I had done many mediums of art except leatherwork. The medium sparked an interest and I delved into it more. Janet purchased an ultimate starter kit for me from our local Tandy store and I took my first intro to leather class. It was an instant hit! Leather is a medium that combines all our previous artistic skill-sets and combines them in its own way into a new form of expression. We decided to sell our artistic pieces and started Bientro as our studio name. Bientro is an Elven word that means create. Our logo is a silhouette of our mini dachshund, Chopper.
Tell us what was your first product.
My first product was a tooled flower. I tooled it into the leather and then colored it using various leather dyes. It was simple, yet it filled me with joy to create it. Our first item to sell was actually a simple leather key strap.
Describe the process of launching.
It was just a hobby and the dream was to do more. Working with leather is not the cheapest artistic hobby. We decided to sell some items to assist us in affording to buy supplies. We started online (Etsy) and then through conversation with other artists were able to get into the "Shop of Wonders" in Universal Islands of Adventure! Our beach-related products are in the Pink Turtle Gift Shoppe in Flagler Beach, Florida. We launched our Amazon Handmade store in 2019 and continue to increase our product offerings.
Since launch, what was the first step to attract customers?
Word of mouth and Facebook were two ways we started promoting ourselves. Janet created our business cards and we handed those out as well. Once in the park we were blessed to be featured in a few YouTube channels with a big fan following.
What do you love the most about your profession?
Being able to create something that is not only artistic, but useful. The idea that an item we have made can be used and passed down, is encouraging. That as it is carried forward, only gains more character and beauty through time.
Do you master any specific techniques?
With leather you are always learning more. One of the nice things about leather artisans is their willingness to share tricks of the trade. It is a group where the preservation of the art form is just as important as the art. Mastering leather is the adventure, a goal to always strive for in everything we do for the craft. In teaching and sharing with others, keeping the art alive, that is what we must do. Since we are always honing our skills, we seem to learn something new on a weekly basis.
What tannery would you recommend in your area ?
We have not dealt to much directly with any local tanneries, although we are looking into it. We purchase most of our leather through our local Tandy store. The staff there have become good friends and do alot to assist us and promote us. Central Florida is not known for having tanneries.
What type of leather you prefer and why ?
It really depends on the project. Leather is so versatile and beautiful. For tooling you must use veg tan leather. However, we use a lot of upholstery leather for the wand holsters and many other products.
How would you define what you do?
We define ourselves as leather artisans. What we create has more than just a functional use. Each piece has its own story and artistic value.
What do you love the most about your profession?
You can't cheat. You have to work with the leather to create the final piece. We also love the open creative aspect.
Have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We have learned to plan out your more detailed projects. You have to assemble and disassemble things before you begin or you will run into issues. You have to envision the final product and being able to adapt that vision as time moves forward.
What platform/tools do you use to sell your works?
Retail and online through various sites, such as, Amazon, Etsy, and our own site. We also have products in local stores.
What have been the most influential resources?
What's your advice for other leather artisans who want to get started or are just starting out?
Take a class at your local Tandy or other leather store. See how fulfilling it can be. Don't worry if your first attempt is not perfect, the imperfections is what make each piece unique and worth more than just another cheap machine pressed out item. It makes it art!
Where can we find your business ?
Universal Orlando's Island of Adventure in the Shop of Wonders - Orlando, Florida
The Pink Turtle Gift Shoppe in Flagler Beach, Florida
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