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18-year-old creates custom leather work

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Date Modified: 03/20/2013 9:04 AM

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ORANGE CITY — Because he enjoys turning raw materials into art and something useful, 18-year-old Matt Fedders has created his own business of custom leather work.

It's an off-shoot of another interest of his — blacksmithing. Both businesses were once small-town mainstays, but as manufacturing changed from custom work to mass production craftsman businesses became nearly extinct.

Fedders setup business in a farm house where his grandparents once lived. Fedders purchased equipment and other tools of the trade and invested in different leathers.

He read books, attended forums on the internet and worked with his father, Mark.

"We will get a project," said Matt Fedders. "Then first make a prototype, practicing until we get it right."

Often it involves first drawing a pattern or blueprint on paper with exacting measurements.

Different leathers have their own strengths and uses. Cow hide is the most commonly used leather, but he has also worked with horse hide and ostrich. Untanned leather is called rawhide.

The Fedders have leather belts on hand, but prefer to make belts to fit customers' needs. Bling belts take considerable time because all the stones are applied by hand.

Other popular requests include guitar straps, bridles and other horse tack, bull riding chaps, holsters for concealed weapons, cellphone cases and checkbook covers.Someone recently neededaccordion straps.

Fedders has also made a saddle. He started with a metal frame salvaged from a barn fire. He remade the metal frame of the riding saddle into a bronc style. Last year at the Plymouth County Fair he demonstrated the beauty of design in leather.

One area they see their business growing is in purses. They admit feeling a bit sheepish checking out women magazines to see purse styles. Sioux Leather also does leather clothing alterations.

Fedders will be exhibiting his leather work at the Sioux Center Indoor Fair, which will run from 3 to 9 p.m. March 20 and 21 at the All Seasons Center, 770 7th Street NE, Sioux Center.