10 Years of Custom Heavy Leather, Guitar Straps & more: Part 2

Part 2 of 3 posts. Enjoy!

Inspired? Order your custom leather/guitar /camera strap today! Email Rachael@heavyleathernyc.com


Carving is my favorite technique to add dimension and personalization to a guitar strap. The above custom work is detailed using overlay and underlays combined with paint, studs, trim and python skin. Some designs require precision carving, where I’ll start by drawing the art on a computer or by hand. I’ll then glue the printed sketch to the underside of the leather as a cutting guide. Other times I’ll cut the overlay freehand, as exemplified in the above Prince strap. For that style, I had a loose initial sketch and improvised the design while assembling it.


Gun holster, Guitar strap


Ian St. Pe of the Black Lips in his carved name strap

Vieux Farka Toure’s strap uses a mix of carving and overlay

I crafted similar versions of this carved pot leaf strap for two of my favorite reggae artists: Junior Marvin of The Original Wailers and Carl Harvey of Toots & The Maytals. You can view Carl’s Heavy Leather NYC signature One-Love guitar strap HERE.

Junior Marvin, Carl Harvey



Embroidery is a distinct way to get extra detail and color on a strap. On the custom strap to the right, I was given a photo of the dog to have embroidered. I re-drew the image as a color blocked sketch in Photoshop. I had the art embroidered as a patch, which I later stitched onto the strap. Embroidery can be applied directly to leather, but if the art is too complex it can break the skin so I’ll have it made up as a patch first.


I love the bold detailing on the above camera strap. This photographer’s badass style is represented by his custom gear. The strap to the right is a custom vegan (vinyl + cotton) padded bass guitar strap for Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath. The flat black embroidery on the glossy vinyl adds a subtle, yet heavy design detail.



The above styles were made for Cat Stevens (Yusuf). Depth and a vintage look was created through tonal, subtle detailing.


Cat Stevens


Of all the holsters I’ve made, this was my favorite. The custom design has one side functioning with a quick-release camera attachment/wrist strap, and the other side, a pouch with a business card holder. I used black python skin as the underlay and personalized it by embroidering the customer’s logo on both the shoulder strap and pouch. The mix of leathers, both polished and dull, looks sharp with the matte black hardware. The holster has a rich and striking style without being overtly flashy.



The above denim guitar straps were made custom for Loren Cronk, a denim atelier with a store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He makes high-end vintage-inspired denim garments for men and women. His aesthetic is inspired by 1950’s workwear through 1970’s disco.

Loren had a massive amount of vintage and new denim sitting idle in storage which he suggested I re-purpose. I picked through piles of his fabric, made up of bolts and neatly folded scraps, half pant legs, and fully assembled garments. The above styles were made from my findings, through which I produced a small, limited edition line of straps sold exclusively in his store.


I got infinitely inspired deconstructing Loren’s vintage jeans, using the pockets and belt loops in a fresh way. I added the trims, hardware, decorative stitching, and patches.


Loren working on his BLKSMTH denim line, Brooklyn, NY.



The steampunk straps were some of the most complex designs I’ve ever crafted. The design to the right was a custom order where I was given full authority to create my unique steampunk vision. The buckle was a vintage find and the hardware I picked from my toolbox and from catalogs. I sketched out an initial version of the strap which I improvised on while putting the strap together. It took hours of trial and error to work out a clean, balanced composition for the design. The end result was worth the extra time. A one-of-a-kind strap that I’m proud to show off as exemplary custom Heavy Leather.

The Slingshot style steampunk camera strap in the center was a custom piece that influenced a larger project. From this piece, I created a limited edition signature strap run for Trey Ratcliff. I had his company logo, Stuck In Customs, foil embossed onto the front and used a mix of gold and blackened gold hardware.

Photo on the right by Trey Ratcliff



*Warning: The following story may not be of interest to the vegan-friendly.

This strap was commissioned as a dedication to the owner’s deceased dog, Zola. He asked that I use the hardware from Zola’s harness in the design of a steampunk-themed strap. He sent me a photo of the dog as a reference for embroidery and asked to have her name carved into the strap. His final request was to include the Zola herself in the strap- he wished to have her ashes incorporated into the design.

When I received his package with the hardware I was surprised to find a large zip-locked bag with Zola’s ashes. I suppose I expected it to be a small envelope’s amount, which I planned to sprinkle and glue between the top and backing leather. I stuck with that construction, adding extra ashes to the design. I assembled the strap and it came out great, a bit on the heavy side. I believe I did right by the dog and the owner, the strap came out rich in detail and deeply personal.


10 Years of Custom Work Blog Part 3 Coming Soon!

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