In 1976 I started doing leatherwork at the prompting of some friends. I was leaving an art teaching position at a mental health center and was pretty burnt out. My friends convinced me to try and do a craft, something utilitarian that people can use rather than art to hang on their walls. Making crafts was becoming a popular lifestyle. Individuals with a bit of talent, the nerve to take chances and risks found they could create objects with clay, metal, glass, wood, leather and mixed-media to become entrepreneurs. I had art training,talent and time to immerse myself into this new venture. I bought some books, tools and leather and started to create. At first I used firm bridle leather to make belts. Then came thinner tooling leather for wallets. My work was always colorful. I bought my own pigments and made my own colors with denatured alchohol. My work was becoming an extension of my graphics, drawing and painting. I carved designs into the leather and painted the surfaces as I would a painting. I lived near water and in the summer I found sandals were a good product. I always used my artistic and design sensibilities. I began to design things that many other leather people did not make like hand mirrors, wall mirrors, clocks, wine racks and music boxes. This gave me a little edge at craft shows and I began to make enough money to live reasonably well. The best part was I was working for myself. I made all the decisions. I had no one to answer to. I had complete creative license. I found, even though the objects I made were unusual, beautiful and made me a living, I could not crack into the top notch craft shows that I heard brought people big bucks. They were prestigious and drew a different crowd of buyers including galleries and boutiques. I was told I should start making bags.

I started to make soft "fashion" bags in 1980. I used my graphic design and color sensibilities to design bags and briefcases that were unique, beautiful and functional. It was at this point that I started to participate in the high quality craft shows that not only brought in high paying customers but also buyers from galleries and boutiques. My work started to recieve notice from the buyers and I also built a following of loyal customers. I would make one of a kind bags and briefcases to order, as well as accessories like belts and wallets. My color combinations and some of my styles were eventually plagiarized by other craftsman. I began to loose interest in the constant traveling and 12 hour work days that I didn't feel warranted the declining income because the economy was faltering. I went back to school to finish my Masters degree in 1988 and at that point began to limit the amount of shows I would do. I started to substitute teach in 1990 and did a minimal amount of shows during the school year and in the summer I would participate in a few shows. I stopped my wholesale business because the rising prices of leather made it impossible for me to compete with the price effective imports and mass produced leather goods flooding the market.

In 2001 I decided to stop making leather goods. The work presented on this website is only a sampling of what I have made. As time goes on I will try to include more work from my early period and the home furnishings. I still have some bags, briefcases and belts in stock and if there is anything that looks interesting to you and want to inquire about a purchase you can reach me at barrysmi@barrysmiller.com

briefcases
bags

home furnishings and the early years

All work on this website is original and copyrighted © 2002. Any downloading or copying without permission from Barry Miller is illegal.