Return to Meet the Artisan
You won’t hear the whir of a sewing machine anywhere in Cambria Harkey’s leatherworking shop, just the soft sound of needle passing through hide, as she and her staff hand-stitch each beautiful and functional, high-end bag and accessory. In 2015, leading fashion industry journal, Women’s Wear Daily featured Cambria as a “Brand to Watch.”
Have you always worked with your hands?
I have. Ever since I was a little girl I was always making things or drawing.
What drew you to your chosen craft?
I wanted to make something that would last forever yet would also be useful. Leather is also nostalgic for me. It reminds me of my family ranch in NM.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
I love it when I see people using their bags over a long period of time and seeing how they’ve aged and held up. They always take on a different personality.
How long did it take you to become an expert?
I’ve been hand sewing for over 20 years.
Do you feel like you are still learning?
Every single day. I learn so much from craftsman that work for me and the business aspect is very challenging also.
How many hours do you spend making each item?
Our pieces can take anywhere from two hours to 25 hours. Some bespoke pieces take weeks’ worth of work.
If you could spend a day with a master of your craft (past or present), who would it be and why?
I’ve love to learn from an old, wise craftsman at Hermes.
Is there any one person who has bought/used any of your products that makes you especially proud?
I’ve had a few wonderful and fun public personalities that buy from me, but most of all I’m proud to be able to sell to people who genuinely love and appreciate the craft.
What does the future hold for you type of work? Are you training young people in your craft?
I hope to continue training and carrying on this ancient craft for as long as I can. I’m working on building a community of saddle stitching leather smiths.
Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
It’s very rewarding to see what you’re making with your hands come to life. When you make something yourself, you tend to appreciate it more and take care it.
In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?
In our craft, the quality truly is better than a machine stitched piece because of the strength of the saddle stitch. When something is handmade, it will be unique in small yet great ways and each piece will carry its own story and life from beginning to end. I believe the warmth and love of the craftsman is felt in handmade goods. Making things with your hands the hard way is 100% a labor of love.
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