We all know that our little town of Boerne is growing, and with that growth comes new and exciting little shops and artists coming to town. The artist I am going to introduce y’all to today is actually a native to the hill country, who is more than thrilled to be able to be doing what she loves in the place she has called home for most of her life.
Let me introduce you to my good friend Lauren Wexstaff. Her family has made their home here in the hill country for the majority of her life. As a young child she was encouraged to spend most of her time out in nature exploring and playing. A lot of inspiration for the arts came from her grandmother:
“She taught me how to be resourceful with the things around me, and I drew a lot of inspiration from her.” As many people know, it is important that we learn as much from our grandparents and older generations as we can, so that we can carry on traditions to help keep them alive.
Everyone experiences changes in passions and pursuits, and it is very common to go from one thing to another. It is very rare that someone knows from a young age what they are going to do, and how they are going to achieve that goal. Most people go through phases of trial and error. Like most of us Lauren has pursued many different paths to try and find where her true passion lies. In high school she was involved in the Hill Country Youth Orchestra:
“I always thought I would be a musician so I was heavily inspired by music….I loved just being part of the whole, playing concert orchestra.”
Then at 17 she made a drastic change and decided to pursue art, more specifically metal sculpture:
” I was very drawn to it, just metal being industrial and just creating these massive structures…”
After a lot of thought and back and forth, she finally decided to focus on photography so she got a major in Fine Arts degree in photography. Lauren had to go through all these experiences, and learn about the things that bring her joy in life, in order to find something that she could truly find enjoyment in doing, and a trade that she felt was worthy of pursuing and just putting her whole heart into, which I for one am grateful for because it shows us that following our dreams can lead to accomplishments.
Now that we know a little more about Lauren and how her interests eventually led her down this artistic path, let’s get to know a little bit more about her craft of leatherworking. As you know leatherwork has been around for a very long time, and takes a certain skill set and devotion to achieve the desirable results shown in her creations.
Inspiration for something can come from the craziest of places. While Lauren was working a full-time job, and pursuing her photography career, she got the urge to create a bag for herself. Most people that I know would have just gone down to the fabric store and gotten some material to sow together a quick bag, but Lauren took it deeper than that and decided to try her hand at leather, which is a much more difficult medium to work with: “ I realized bag making was very sculptural…like its 3D, it has depth, it takes up space…If I could marry art and functionality than that was really satisfying to me.” And as any artist knows, something worth doing well is going to take time, and the ultimate satisfaction is when it finally comes together in one functioning piece. Like many artists, Lauren is self-taught. Unfortunately, like many crafts and skills that are dying out there are no real apprenticeship programs available for people wanting to learn this trade. You have to come from a family that has been doing this type of work for generations, or afford a trip to Europe to be able to work under someone. One day she hopes to be able to tour some of the facilities that excel in their crafts, but for now she continues to pursue her passion through reading as much as she can, and doing as much research on the subject that is out there.
There are many different types of leather material that can be used for this type of work, but Lauren chooses to use an all-natural leather that is only tanned with a vegetable tanner. There are also many different grades of leather that are used, and each one has different uses. For example: you would use one grade of leather for saddle making and for making bags or wallets. There are also many different tools that are used for this type of trade, and also a lot of actual manual handwork in order to be sure the pieces are aligned properly. When asked about how long a piece takes, she said the initial design can take a few days of drawing and rendering, and putting it together can take anywhere from 6-9 hours or depending on difficulty of the piece. One day she hopes to be able to tour some of the facilities that excel in their crafts, but or now she continues to pursue her passion through reading as much as she can, and doing as much research on the subject that is out there.
Leatherworking like most trades, can tend to be a bit of a male dominated area, so for her to break in to it and have such success should show young women, or anyone really, that if you have faith and you believe you can do anything. That’s not to say you won’t make mistakes, and it will be easy, but stay true to who you are, and if it means something to you, go for it. She has been doing this for three years and in that time, through many trials and errors, and lots of research, has been able to hone her skills into some remarkable pieces. Her perseverance has truly paid off, and should be an inspiration to anyone wanting to pursue a dream that seems hard to obtain.