We took a trip up to Gloucester, Massachusetts to chat with Benjamin, the sole creator behind his eponymous bespoke leather goods brand, Benjamin Bott. He spoke to us about the importance of prioritizing quality in the old-world craft of leatherworking, how he stays true to his artisanal roots in today's world of mass production, and the joy he finds in collaborating with customers to craft personalized pieces they can cherish across generations. 


Q: How does your brand encourage customers to tap into their creativity and appreciate the analog side of life? 

 A: Offering a bespoke style where customers can choose their leather and thread options, and then knowing that I’m going to handcraft their order, gets people excited. Instead of being told what they want, they're encouraged to think about their preferences and create something they can cherish for a lifetime. 


Q: When a customer receives their custom-made wallet, what do you hope they feel? Joy, nostalgia, confidence?   

 A: I love the idea of my wallets being passed down through generations, embodying pride and nostalgia in the chosen colors. Each item may represent something meaningful in their lives. Creating groomsmen gifts is particularly fulfilling because it's rewarding to know that someone chose something handmade by me to gift to their best friends, symbolizing one of the best days of their lives. 


Q: How do you balance tradition with innovation to stay relevant in today's fast-changing world? 

 A: I love the idea that using social media, a new-world technology, allows me to run a business with an old-world craft. Using computers to create designs and then being able to print out templates on the 3D printer to test ideas before taking them to market is incredibly beneficial, too. 


Q: What's one change you believe others in your field can make to encourage a more mindful approach to life and foster deeper connections with their customers? 

A: Being a one-man operation of a micro brand means I handle everything, from sales to creation, marketing, and shipping. Every little aspect is a part of what I do, so customers appreciate knowing that everything they see comes from me and my creative expression. Allowing my inner creative passion to shine through in everything I do creates a more meaningful connection for them to the product they’re buying. People aren’t just buying a wallet; they're buying something I've thought about and put in all the time and effort to create. They're not purchasing my wallets because of the logo or the name behind it; they're buying them because they know someone has dedicated their life to crafting something they're passionate about. 


Q: Leatherworking is a craft that demands time. While it's undoubtedly a labor of love, are there ever times when you’re tempted to “cut corners” or deviate away from your usual slow approach to making your products?  

A: I’ve never considered cutting corners. If anything, I’ve taken a simple process and added more steps to make a better product in the end. Cutting corners isn't something I'm interested in. I might make more money doing things differently, but the passion behind the creativity and the process of making each wallet excites me. Being able to take one extra step to create an even better product is what drives me to work every day. 

 I've thought about adding a sewing machine to my arsenal of tools to stitch faster, but it doesn’t fit the style of wallets I make. There are many things I couldn't do with a sewing machine, even though it would be faster. Certain designs just wouldn’t work with it, so I haven't taken that leap. 



Q: You mention that your hands are in every step of the process when making your products – can you explain what some of those steps are?  

A: Being truly handmade means using my hands to feel the leather, ensuring it's the right texture for the product I'm making. From there, I cut the panels, bevel the edges, round them over, and hand burnish to create a shiny edge. I use hand tools to punch holes for stitch lines and hand-stitch everything. One thing I love about handmaking is that after making a wallet enough times, it becomes almost mindless. My hands just work, adjusting and perceiving what's going on without much thought. The process flows smoothly as my hands instinctively move to the next step and tool. 


Q: Once you step into your workshop, how do you disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in the creative process?  

A: It's really hard to fully disconnect from the outside world when running a one-man operation. I have to stay on top of emails, direct messages, and social media for sales inquiries, so unfortunately, my phone is always nearby. However, when I'm working, the way I truly disconnect is by getting lost in listening to an audiobook or a podcast. I don’t listen to much music while I work because I find that the pace of the music can dictate how fast I work. With a good audiobook, I can get lost for hours, just cruising through making a few wallets without even thinking about it. 


Q: Can you share any challenges or obstacles you've faced while preserving an old-world craft in a rapidly changing marketplace, and how you've overcome them?  

A: I guess the biggest challenge would be overcoming the fear of not being able to produce things fast enough and trying to figure out how to be okay with just making a few wallets a day instead of aiming for mass production. I could make more wallets in a day, but I would have to cut corners to do that. I'd have to speed things up, and I enjoy the process of making. I don’t want it to become unenjoyable because of feeling overwhelmed and overworked, so I set my limits. It’s taken me a couple of years to be okay with having a turnaround time of a couple of months. Fortunately, my customers understand that it’s just a one-man operation, and they’re okay with knowing that it will be made with care and attention. When I do make it, it'll have my full attention, and the money they're spending is something I value because I know how hard they worked to earn it. I feel obligated to put my full heart, soul, and attention into each wallet I make, and that’s why the waiting list is so long. 

You might also like...