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Life & Work with Wayne Peterson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wayne Peterson. 

Hi Wayne, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
Before I ever started working with leather, I toured around the world in a band playing music with my closest friends. I quickly learned that anything I wanted to do was achievable, it was just a matter of what I was willing to sacrifice in service of that goal. We went to over 35 countries and paved a new way of touring for small bands. We stopped touring full-time in 2011, and I found myself searching for a new creative outlet. I saw a wallet I couldn’t afford but was motivated to try and make it instead. So, after a few attempts, I had my wallet. I shared it with some buds and before I knew it, I was making wallets, then belts, and all kinds of things for all these old friends and people I had met on tour. It slowly grew over the last decade and now has been my sole source of income for the past few years, and have continued to bring people’s ideas to life through the medium of hand-crafted leather goods. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My first struggle was finding confidence that there is value in what I make/do. But I had this realization that anything any of us makes is a product of the hyper-unique cumulative experience we live. And that alone, I see as intrinsically valuable. I find the closer I get to leaning into expressing my personal experience, the more value I see in offering it to the world. The self-doubt still catches me all the time but I’m getting better at checking it at the shop door. 

The second is harder for me to articulate, but I operate on a central principle of engaging in one on one mutually beneficial exchanges, rather than viewing this as a company. Each order is an opportunity to connect and communicate directly to bring an individual’s idea to life. The thing I struggle with the most is maintaining laser focus on that exchange, without diverting attention away for the purpose of “brand building” or “fiscal growth” or “marketing” etc.… If I do redirect that energy, I notice, they notice, and while it’s excusable in pursuit of building the business, I honestly have no interest in owning a business, and I have never considered myself an entrepreneur. There’s no doubt it’s a hard line to walk. And while I may not be able to see that line, I certainly can feel it. I’m determined to achieve my goals by focusing on what I do and doing it good. The emotional toll that it takes to survive exchanging creative labor outside the framework of classical economic thinking has been more challenging than anything I’ve made. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My bag is creating one-of-a-kind custom handmade leather goods. Everything is made from scratch, one at a time. So, everything from the shape, layout, carrying capacity, design, special features, and more can be made to your specifications. I have no formal training, I didn’t apprentice with anyone, never watched a tutorial, everything I have done has been personal discovery through trial, error, and creative critical thinking. This has had allowed me to grow and maintain a unique style that I feel truly reflects who I am. I started out making wallets and belts, but the coolest part of creating custom work for others is being the vehicle for their ideas. And after 10 years of this, I can safely say y’all got some incredible ideas and I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring those to life as my continued education in the craft. Engaging in these ideas one on one really creates a special tangible representation of that communication and the cooperation as well as a functional super killer item. I’ve made purses, motorcycle seats, sheaths, camera cases, books, and so much more. My favorite things I’ve started making are these super-duty slides and loafers. It really has pushed me way outside my comfort zone, but the desire to get these ideas out of my head has always superseded my desire for comfort. I can’t speak on what sets me apart from others, but something important to me is my passion for the personal connection. I am proud of everything i make, but i am most proud of the network that continues to grow of amazing people I have met through this pursuit. 

What matters most to you?
Cultivating meaningful connections by carving my own path, on my own terms, through one on one mutually beneficial exchanges. There is a long and growing list of things I’ve sacrificed or lost in the name of this idea, but sitting in this moment, reflecting on that loss against the gain, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. 

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