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Artemas Quibble

Modern leather goods inspired by ancient techniques

by Karen Day in Design on 22 February 2012

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A self-taught woodworker, Jason Ross' foray into leather goods happened by chance. While working on a furniture project in a friend's woodshop, Ross noticed a band saw running on a leather belt and was so impressed it still worked that he "immediately contacted the company and bought scraps by the pound," he says. The natural artisan taught himself how to manipulate his newfound medium and began integrating leather into his woodworking.

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Today Ross peddles his expertly crafted leather accessories under the moniker Artemas Quibble, a name that suggests his continued interest in ancient objects and techniques. Working out of his studio in Brooklyn, Ross and his team create each belt, bag and jewelry item by hand for his own label as well as for his collaboration with Donna Karan.

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"I enjoy reading how archaeologists think through the purpose of things and materials," Ross explains. Gleaning insight from his favorite archaeology website, Ross learns from the methods of thinking and draws conclusions from fragmented evidence. These informed interpretations provide a foundation of authenticity for a mien blending the primitive with the modern. "I generally look for an aesthetically pleasing decorative or functional element that can't be traced to one culture or another," he notes.

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Ross' understanding of material also stems from his father—the inventor of the first plastic push-pin for Moore Push-Pin—who taught him about memory in materials. This guidance helped Ross develop one of his ingenious techniques, based on a "rivet-less" closure system in which a piece of leather is looped around itself or a piece of hardware and strung through a hole to hold it firmly in place without any give, even as the hide wears over time.

The idea really clicked when Ross began deconstructing an African hunting bag given to him by Graham Cassie, on which, he says, "leather thongs were stitched through holes to hold the various panels of the bag together." He explains, "I could not, in most cases pull the old straps through the holes. The holes had been stretched and seemed to lock around the leather. I was forced to cut the straps in order to deconstruct the leather." Ross uses the ancient concept to lock leather to leather as a way of holding hardware, which he also forges in his workshop.

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A former Calvin Klein model, Ross' interest in accessories seems like a natural progression, but his obsession with his craft goes beyond a connection to fashion. "I think that I appreciate beauty in discarded objects and remake those things, perhaps there is a connection to reading about excavations and discovery," he says. The pieces he creates truly reflect his thoughtful nature and talent for combining the past with the future.

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Select Artemas Quibble items sells online, as well as at Urban Zen and ABC Carpet & Home in NYC. See more images in the slideshow below.

Photos by Ruediger Glatz.

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