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THE ART OF HANDCRAFTING LEATHER GOODS
In the crafting of leather goods, quality and luxury are more than just specifications or end results; they are deeply embedded within the creative process. The connection between artisan and materials is physically intimate, and the techniques employed are timeless and irreplaceable. Traditional methods and aesthetic values are central to the enterprise. Mission Mercantile's philosophy is to reaffirm the spirit and skills of the age of the pioneers by preserving the crafts that built a nation. We have no interest in creating museum artifacts or ingenious replicas; every item we produce is a living, breathing piece informed by the riches of our history - that’s relevant and high functional for the modern world.
HANDMADE AND HANDCRAFTED – IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
Many people are unaware of the distinction between handmade and handcrafted, especially when applying the terms to leather goods. Both handmade and handcrafted products are frequently created by a combination of machinery and hand assembly. For example, in our shop we use a die to cut out leather parts rather than using a sharp knife (ex. X-Acto) to cut them individually by hand. This allows us to cut a high quality full-grain US steerhide perfectly - and exactly the same - the first time, every time. Other shops may make liberal use of highly automated equipment like a CNC cutting machine which laser or knife cuts the individual pieces on a digital template. Those individual pieces might then be stitched together using a highly automated CNC sewing machine. In a sense, it's more machine-guided than handcrafted, and one of the difficulties for consumers is knowing the extent to which a product has been machined. If it's branded as "handmade", or “handcrafted” what does that actually mean?
WHAT IS HANDCRAFTING?
This is a process that eschews any recourse to highly automated machinery. Our artisans select and prepare the raw materials and perform every step of the process by hand, just as their predecessors would have done for centuries. We train all our beloved artisans in-house to our exacting standards, even if they come to us with years (or decades) of experience. It’s the only proven way to assure the very highest quality control and is what we mean by quality and luxury being part of the process.
WHY DID WE CHOOSE HANDCRAFTING EVEN THOUGH IT TAKES LONGER?
In an age when digital technology and automation are changing every aspect of manufacturing and retailing, manual skills remain vitally important. A novel written by Artificial Intelligence, a picture painted by a machine or a song composed by an algorithm may read, look and sound fine at first, but what's missing is the human element, the indefinable value of connection between material, creator and consumer. It's that precious quality to which we aspire in creating durable, timeless, luxurious, desirable goods. We are intensely proud of everything that goes under the Mission Mercantile name, like our best-selling Benjamin Leather Bifold Wallet, our Theodore Leather Backpack and our White Wing Waxed Canvas Shotgun Case.
HOW DO WE CREATE OUR LEATHER GOODS?
Quality is only as good as your materials and process, so we begin with only the finest raw materials. All our leather comes from full-grain vegetable and chrome-tanned homegrown US steer hides, hand-selected for strength and quality. Then, each piece is carefully cut, and then inspected again by our artisans prior to assembly.
Having created all the constituent parts, we then proceed to stitch them together. This is an intricate procedure that demands immense skill, dexterity, attention to detail and patience. The slightest mis-stitch will compromise the entire item. We use only the highest quality German-spun marine-grade polyester thread that is both weather and UV resistant. A leather good is only as strong as it’s stitching and riveting; you can tell this by turning your product inside-out and see if it’s as attractive on the inside as outside. This is where a LOT of other brands (even high-end brands) skimp, and why a product won’t last … much less be guaranteed … for life. Check out our Mission-Built-For-Life lifetime promise.
Rivets are an important feature of many leather goods, both aesthetically and to give it crucial strength. So, to set these, we use either a rivet press or set by hand (depending on the type of rivet used). We may even hand-hammer (peen) copper rivets for a specific design aesthetic (see our Heritage Tradesman Bag with 32 hand-hammered copper rivets).
Once the piece is assembled, we apply the finishing touch, which is the hand-stamping of our logo as a guarantee of provenance and authenticity. The entire process is painstaking and requires skills acquired over many years or even decades. Handcrafting is not a job that can be rushed, and the reward for such an investment of time and ability is exceptional quality and a durability that should last for several lifetimes … we believe and guarantee this for every Mission Mercantile leather good.
In an age of disposability and built-in obsolescence, handcrafted goods are among the last and strongest defenses against the erosion of pre-industrial excellence. We believe that vintage style is not a fad or a passing preoccupation. To paraphrase Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem The Brook, "trends may come and trends may go, but craft goes on forever."