Q. Tell me about Gusset Leather.
Gusset Leather is a small business specializing in custom leather work. Gusset Leather is owned and operated by myself, Keegan Lodder, out of my home in Hamilton, Ontario.
The name, Gusset, refers to the part of a bag between the front panel and the back panel - which gives the bag width and depth. I chose this name because the vast majority of my work involves custom bag-making—and because I only had 2 weeks until my first trade show and I needed a business name!
Gusset Leather debuted in 2014 at the first SuperCrawl event in Hamilton. It was a last minute commitment but I managed to show up to the event with 20-30 items and was blown away by the interest and support from the Hamilton community. Each Gusset Leather product prioritizes functionality and durability over ornamentation while allowing the leather to speak for itself to combine for a pleasing aesthetic.
Working with raw materials requires striking a delicate balance between manipulating your material and showcasing what is already there—in all of my work it is my goal to bring the beauty of leather to the fore.
My main focus is custom work, however, I do maintain an online shop on this website featuring some of my more popular designs which I update as often as the inspirations and materials come to me. You can check that out here.
Q. How did you develop an interest in leather working?
Prior to the beginning of my undergraduate degree in 2011 I was looking for a quality messenger bag for commuting to and from school. I was coming off of a summer job as a stonemason and, with a pretty sore and messed up back, I was interested in a bag with a wide, supportive leather shoulder strap to minimize strain on my spine.
Around the same time, a good friend of mine introduced me to a small leather shop in Hamilton, Ontario called Tundra Leather. I visited Tundra and the great staff there directed me to the tools, materials, and advice I needed to attempt to make my own bag. After a steep, uphill battle my first leather project was eventually completed (pictured) and, after lots of practice, I began taking on small custom orders here and there for friends and family. I guess when you walk around with a custom leather bag there are people who will ask you about it—eventually it all just sort of ‘snowballed’ into more and more leatherwork for me.
I have worked in trades all of my life—starting in stonemasonry and then moving into landscape construction which I still currently do full-time. Experience in trade-specific work taught me the importance of attention to detail and the satisfaction of working with my hands.
Like any other trade, leather working necessitates a symbiotic balance between creativity and industry and this is the reason why what I thought would be just a hobby eventually turned into the small business it is today—it just sort of ‘stuck’ for me. There are days where there is a kind of rhythmic repetition in production, where I may be making hundreds of the same simple item, but there are also days which may be completely spent making just one bag with multiple different elements and techniques involved.
Q. So, is it handmade?
Each Gusset Leather item is made using traditional tools and methods—this means that almost everything from cutting to burnishing to stitching is performed by hand. Working by hand affords the opportunity to achieve the highest measure of precision which, in turn, results in the best possible quality and longevity. Each and every Gusset Leather item passes through one set of hands from start to finish.
For these reasons I gladly offer a lifetime warranty on all of my work.
I personally design all Gusset Leather products from scratch and each is made from the highest quality full-grain leather I can get my hands on. I generally stay away from production run leathers in favour of the abundance of odd-lot leathers available in the Hamilton and Toronto areas.