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The Martinez Family  ♦  Orox Leather

Portland, OR  | Leather Backpacks |  Website

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At age 8, Jose Martinez designed and created brightly-colored, Rod Stewart-inspired shoes for himself. They turned out so well he made several more, and sold them at a market in his native Oaxaca, Mexico. His early entrepreneurial skills never diminished. Now as the creative leader of Orox Leather Company based in Portland, Oregon, he continuously strives to try out new designs and techniques on the products he produces. The retail store and workshop are located in Old Town. He and his family have created an inviting atmosphere where customers can meet the artisans and watch them work on the company’s high quality purses, wallets, belts and backpacks.


GET TO KNOW JOSE

What drew you to your chosen craft?
Personally, I didn’t choose leatherworking as much as it chose me. This is a craft that has been passed down through my family over four generations, so leather and leatherworking have been a part of my life since I was a small child. One of my earliest memories is chewing on vegetable tanned leather as a teething baby.

Revitalizing the family craft and opening up our store in Portland was an important step to expand upon our craft and reconnect with our craftsman tradition.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Being able to carry on the traditions of our ancestors is an honor. Being able to turn our tradition into a sustainable business is a gift. Every day I get to work with my mother, father, and brothers and create products that are representative of our family’s history. Every time that somebody tells us that one of our products is “beautiful” or “well-crafted” it is a complement that goes deeper than just one generation.

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
There is a level of pride that comes with handmade crafts. When your own hands are the primary means of production you have an increased level of responsibility to the quality and durability of the final product.  Also, making things with your hands really teaches you humility. It is hard work, so you really have to stay focused and diligent.

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?
Handmade goods are generally held to a higher standard of quality, particularly in the materials being used. No craftsman wants to work with bad materials, so why sell them? But beyond this, handmade goods have a bit more character than those that are mass-produced. Every product has a story and a legacy. And those legacies are expanded upon by every journey that they are taken on post-purchase.

What does the future hold for your type of work?
I think we are seeing a trend in the U.S. where people are valuing handmade goods more and more. This is obviously exciting for us from a business perspective, but from a social perspective it is equally exciting. The increasing appeal of handmade goods means more jobs and opportunities for American craftsmen and craftswomen. I love my job and it is great to think that more people will be able to with their hands, with their families, in the U.S.


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