Laser & Leather together
Fri, 12/06/2013 - 12:44pm admin
It’s not Santa’s workshop, but it comes close.
Anyone visiting Clearwater Laser & Leather can watch craftspeople busy at work, making unique items that are perfect for Holiday gifts.
The store/workshop opened in June in the storefront next to Part City Auto Parts, across Smith Street from Little Dukes.
The shop is actually two businesses in one. Elandah Leather, owned by Erik Kask, and Clearwater Laser Etching, owned by Ryan and Lisa Pridgeon.
Both businesses have been producing unique items for years, but have remained one of the best kept secrets in the area.
Kask, a former German teacher at Kimball, started leatherworking years ago after a friend introduced him to “Mac” McMillen, a leatherworker who made leather mugs at the Renaissance Festival.
“I was curious to see how it was done. I got invited to his workshop and helped him with a few things,” says Kask.
He was really fascinated by McMillen’s old 900-pound sewing machine used to sew the mugs together. Kask learned a little about how to use the machine.
Unfortunately, McMillen died shortly after and his widow tried to keep the mug-making business going.
“A few months later she called me and asked if I would make some mugs,” says Kask. “So I would go out a few times a month and sew mugs.”
Eventually the woman could no longer keep the business running, and Kask bought out all the equipment and set up shop in his basement and garage.
In 2004, he was accepted as an artisan at the Renaissance Festival, selling the same type of mugs McMillen had made since the 1970s.
Over the years, Kask opened up a leather repair workshop at the festival to demonstrate his leatherworking ability.
“It started out with performers. If they had something leather that broke or a seam split or needed a new snap, they’d bring it by the shop and I’d fix it for them,” he says. “Then customers started bringing things to be fixed. I can’t tell you how many sandals I’ve repaired over the years.”
Kask used the opportunity to learn more about leatherwork. He learned to repair just about anything, and learned about hand-tooling leather for special items people asked him to make.
Most of his early business came from sales and repairs at the Renaissance Festival. He still gets most of his income that way, and from orders for special items he gets during the festival.
In 2005, he began renting space in a pole shed owned by Ryan and Lisa Pridgeon in Lynden Twp. He set up shop there and encouraged the Pridgeons to become artisans themselves.
“He was looking for someone to do laser etching on mugs and we bought a laser etcher,” says Lisa. “Then we realized there were so many other things we could do.”
Although neither of the Pridgeons had experience with laser etching, their background in PC support made it easy to make the transition.
“The technology didn’t scare us. A lot of the design work we do is on the computer. And the laser itself is like a printer,” says Lisa. “So a lot of it is like sending the work to a printer. But it burns in wood or leather instead of paper.”
Ryan is the computer designer. Lisa takes the etched product and finishes it using stains, paints or whatever is needed.
They attend lots of craft shows and sell all kinds of products, like wall hangings, military plaques, Christmas ornaments, laser-etched reproductions of photographs and cribbage boards.
They also etch glass, which is popular for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
“We go to a lot of wedding shows,” says Lisa. “We can etch wine bottles, glass mugs and fluted glasses. They can all be customized. It’s almost unlimited what we can do. It lets us be creative.”
The Pridgeons created the Clearwater Medallion for the medallion hunt, and the granite plaque for Kayleen Larson’s memorial bench.
In June, they all decided they needed to have a bet- Leather Continued On Page 2
ter way to sell to the public. They saw the storefront for rent sign and made the move.
“We’ve been in business for awhile and we knew people had trouble finding us. So we looked for a retail spot,” says Lisa. “We couldn’t have picked a more visible spot.”
Now people are stopping in all the time and browsing through all the unique hand-crafted items.
There are gifts in all different price ranges, from leather mugs, belts, purses, wallets, wall plaques and Christmas decorations.
To learn more about their products, check online at www.elandahleather.com.