Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Rossberg.
Hi Tony, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
In 1961, my uncle, Curtis, broke his neck in a diving accident. He was in the hospital for 13 months and leather working became part of his physical therapy. His movement was very limited but with the help of a splint on one hand and 2×4 block tied to his other he was able to tool leather. My grandmother and dad starting (7 years old at the time) would cut leather and put patterns on and grandma had a very steady hand with the swivel knife. My uncle did amazing things tooling and painting with the splint and a 2×4 strapped to him. on softer leather if he was able he would also punch holes for lacing. Once the tooling and painting was done my grandmother and dad would be lacing pieces together and clear coating. My uncle did leather work for 30 years from his wheelchair until a staph infection lead to his arm being amputated. the leather just kind of ended. My uncle passed away when I was in kindergarten and my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer the same year and fought it for 6 years before she too passed. Leather got put on a back burner for about 10 years until my dad started making a few things here and there. He started teaching me about 4 years ago starting with small things like stamp work, key chains or bracelets. I always love trying new things and I’ve learned more modern techniques to work the leather. i started getting our work into gun shows and craft shows. Our family’s work has been available at the blackduck woodcarvers festival the last few years and this summer will be the second year at the blackduck farmers market every Wednesday. I’m really excited for this August as it will be our the first time my family’s leather will be at Sturgis. I have 2 daughters and I hope one day they pick up where ever I leave off
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are always struggles. I’m married with 2 daughters ages 4 and 6 I also have two jobs outside of leather. Juggling time is tough. A big struggle I dealt with was just how much has changed in the leather industry and the expectations. Back in the time of my uncle there was so much more focus on being functional you could leave corners raw, lace knots didn’t need to be hidden small details weren’t a big deal and that was how I was taught. Whereas now, perfection and fashionable are the only words I can think to describe the demand. Burnishing and wet molding among other things are things I had to learn on my own. Making sure every detail of every inch is in its proper place. It’s been a welcome challenge and has pushed me to perfect the art without a lot of the expensive tools that would make the job easier because finances is a bit of a struggle as well. Room is a big struggle, a lot of the leather and tools are at my dad’s house in one room. it gets very cluttered and tough to make sure leather doesn’t get scratched or stain doesn’t go where I don’t want it to with such tight quarters. I have to vacuum the living room every time I start a project as the floor is the biggest space to layout the leather to cut the hallway is lined with bags holding patterns and templates.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Can do anything outside of boots shoes and saddles. I just don’t have the tools or the time to make those three things. I can make knife cases, pistol caddies, belts, vests, motorcycle seats and saddlebags, rifle cases. other things I’ve done are axe and hatchet covers, pliers holsters, custom cooler tops, purses, chaps, spurs, rifle slings and a ton more. Custom orders are welcome. I’ve had some orders that were pretty nuts but got them done and have turned out great.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Leatherwise, there are only a few times I’ve watched a YouTube video for help but nothing I follow regularly. Springfield leather has some great how to DVDs that are really informative.
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