10 Years of Custom Heavy Leather, Guitar Straps & more: Part 3

Part 3 of 3 posts. Enjoy!

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

If you missed out, check out the Custom Work Blog Part 1 HERE, and the he Custom Work Blog Part 2 HERE

 

TEXTURE

 

I have a tough time deciding which custom leather is my favorite but I’d say it’s a tie between the above styles. These were all so much fun to create and each came out really clean despite the heavy detailing. The straps with the pink monster theme and the Iron Maiden theme were both heavily dictated by the customer. They were ordered by the same guy, who gave me a ton of details on what he wanted, and then let me roll with how it should all be put together. The layering of texture, embroidery and studding detail created a really rich aesthetic. The other 3 straps were designs I came up with, loosely based on customer requests.

 

 

The cross design was the first strap I made for Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath- a creation based purely off the Black Sabbath sound. After this one, I made a few additional custom straps which he wore on multiple tours. I now make his official signature straps, which you can find for sale HERE.

 

UPHOLSTERY

 

I rarely take upholstery jobs but here are a few that I particularly enjoyed. The chair project involved a new and inventive method of construction. The leather upholstery was made exactly to match the original from the 60’s, which had completely worn through at parts. I ordered very thick leather which I’d never worked with before. I hand stitched the pieces together with heavy duty thread- my sewing machine was not set up to handle such thick material. The bottom piece is one large slab of leather, which I molded around the armrests. I dipped the sides into boiling water and while still wet, molded the leather around the metal. I would love to re-create this chair- for personal use!

The center project was a car kit that my neighbor built and needed upholstered. Years ago, I worked in an auto body shop assisting in car upholstery. When this job came along I called for help from my old co-worker. The two of us took the seats out of the car, re-created the original seat patterns and constructed them new in white vinyl with orange stitching and piping. A massive project that was awesome to see roll through town.

 

This bike was my personal chopped up 1977 Yamaha XS 650. I carved the seat foam, upholstered the leather and built a custom resin seat pan for it- in my living room. Eventually, the seat pan broke loose since just about every piece of this bike rattled off at some point (fun to witness going 80 on the highway). Gotta love those vintage bikes.

 

 

The below bike was my personal Honda CB350.

 

I copied the seat pattern based off of the original 1974 design and re-constructed it out of brown and black leather. This was a mega fun city bike that allowed me to plow through Brooklyn potholes while all the hardtail choppers lagged behind.

 

SHINE ON

 

These shiny straps were made in the earlier years of Heavy Leather NYC. There were a few thin, malleable mirrored plastics that I loved using as an underlay. The shiny bits look dynamic when illuminated under stage lighting.

I made the matching straps on the left as gifts for Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, which I gave to Dusty over drinks at Sweden Rocks Festival in 2008.

Here’s the story in a nutshell- I had made the straps for ZZ Top as a gift and planned to find them backstage when their set was through. I watched their show from side stage and ended up backstage afterwards raging with Lemmy and Phil Campbell in their trailers (Motorhead was playing the festival the next day). I partied way too hard (no suprise there) and lost track of time. Eventually, I came around to remembering my mission and ran outside. The first guy I saw was Mark Mendosa from Twisted Sister, who I was hanging out with earlier in the day. I told him what I was up to and he laughed- he said the ZZ Top guys left the venue long ago. But I was determined- I firmly believed I’d still find them wandering around somewhere. So I asked Mark if he wanted to join me on the hunt and he agreed. We walked around for, must have been not even 5 minutes, when we bumped right into Dusty Hill. I told him about the straps and he asked if we wanted to grab a beer. So, me, Mark, Dusty and his manager walked over to the closest tent and drank beers, talked about the days when he toured with the Dictators… and a whole lot more. To be continued in another post!

 

The strap on the right was custom ordered by Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. I’ve worked with her over the years, making her and the band multiple custom tour straps.

Lzzy Hale/Halestorm in her custom shiny logo tour strap

 

MATCHING PAINT

Matching a strap back to a guitar’s paint job is a request I get often and is one of my favorite to create- I get inspired by the guitar’s grain, edging, frets, head stock, etc. It can be challenging but it’s always fun to explore new methods of using dye. Dye blends in a totally different way on leather than on canvas or on cotton fabric. You can spray it, use a dauber, a brush, or any other method that’s effective. The above strap to the left was made for James Williamson/Iggy & The Stooges.

 

ORNAMENTATION

Heavy duty hardware is a constant throughout my leather work. The spiked strap above was meticulously assembled using heavy screw-back studs. The customer requested that it be close to 5ft long- the weight of that strap was insane. I love exploring the hardware store and using odd bits from bridle hardware, sailing and climbing hooks, etc.

NATURAL

The above styles were inspired by a softer look, using novelty leathers, patinas, distressing and dying techniques to create a natural feel. Often subtle and tonal detailing is where most beauty lies.

RUNWAY

I worked with the line Skaist-Taylor to make their runway accessories. They supplied me with baby alligator skins which I ornamented with chains to make cuffs, chokers, and belts. Alligator is especially hard to work with. It looks best without stitching so we cut around the natural edge of the scales and used a permanent- and very stinky glue to fix the top to the backing. The pieces came out gorgeous, even if the Heavy Leather crew lost a few brain cells in the process.

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