Return to Meet the Artisan
Ranching, rodeo and the cowboy way are at the core of Grady Douglass’ life and art. Each of his unique leather crafts reflects his dedication to hard work, and creating a high-end carved and tooled piece that’s both stylish and functional.
Have you always worked with your hands?
From a very early age I enjoyed working with my hands and creating things. Whether it was working on a vehicle, playing the guitar, drawing, or even just taking things apart and putting them back together, I have always loved using my hands for a purpose.
What drew you to your chosen craft?
The Western way of life, the traditional nature of this craft, and the heritage that comes with leatherwork and saddlemaking is something I hold very dear. I wanted to stay immersed in this culture, and build things for people I enjoyed talking with, and learning from. Every item I build goes on to have a unique story to tell – a briefcase for a successful businessman in the city, a pair of leggin’s for a working cowboy, or just a simple wallet for someone who appreciates quality leather – they all have an exciting story to tell after years of use. With a little attention to taking care of your leather, my products can be passed on from one generation to another. There is something really neat about that.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
What I enjoy most about my craft is the ability to be creative. Not all projects allow lots of creativity, but tweaking small details to find out the way to achieve the best possible finished product is something I really love.
How long did it take you to become an expert?
Even after quite a few years of doing this, I still don’t call myself an expert. There are always new things to learn and ways to improve. I was just immensely blessed by God to be successful in something I’m truly passionate about.
Do you feel like you are still learning?
I try and learn something new every day. Many influential people in my life have used the phrase, “When you quit learning, it’s time to quit.” I strongly believe that I can continue to learn until the day my body won’t allow me to do it anymore.
How many hours do you spend making each item?
Each item is different. Some require a short amount of time while others take weeks or months to complete. The time is in the details.
Is there any one person who has bought/used any of your products that makes you especially proud?
It might not sound like a big deal to most, but after a lifetime of using and appreciating leather goods and saddles, the fact that my granddad uses and wears the belt I made him every single day, it makes me really proud. I think the other thing that makes me the most proud is when I get an order from across the world, or a customer contacts me after seeing one of my products in person in a far-away place. That sure makes you feel good!
What does the future hold for you type of work? Are you training young people in your craft?
The future for my type of work, I feel, is very bright. There are only a select number of folks out there still doing this, but of those people, there has seemed to be a renaissance of ideas about tooling and carving and creating new designs. That, paired with the fact more and more people are showing a growing interest in high quality, handmade goods leads me to be confident in the ability of this trade to continue on for a long, long time to come.
Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
Accomplishment. That’s what creating with your hands makes you feel. Looking back on a completed, well-made product and knowing you, and you alone, created that from start to finish makes you feel really good.
In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?
It’s all about the attention to detail. There may be some minute flaws or inconsistencies in something created by hand, but that’s just one of the many reasons for the beauty. Mass-produced items carry no uniqueness and character. It takes holding and using a handmade item to truly FEEL the difference, but once you do, you’ll be sold forever.
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