Learn about Gina’s history in creativity and craftsmanship
The talented and self-taught leather artist Gina Adam was born in a small town in western Germany where she resided for 36 years before moving to Saxony, eastern Germany, 15 years ago.
Gina has been doing artistry and handcrafts almost her entire life. As a child, she used to draw a lot and tried her skills in clay sculpting and wood carving. She also picked up oil painting in her early teens and kept at it for quite a while but decided to let go when she realized she couldn’t stand the smell of turpentine anymore.
Gina says she’s always liked to create things with her hands. She took a class and learned how to sew with a machine to make her own clothes also as a teenager.
Being highly interested in the culture and spiritual ways of Native Americans she dove into the subject when she was in her twenties by holding lectures about their past and present way of life, learning their traditional bead work, making Native American jewelry and traditional clothes of elk and moose hide for interested customers.
At this time Gina had a small shop set up in her house where she had people come over by appointment if they wanted to get something custom-made by her, she even marketed and sold her work at several Biker and Country & Western fairs. Direct selling, reaching customers and communicating via Internet and social media was far off at these times!
Being a cowgirl, horse owner and western rider from her youth on, it was inevitable to get in touch with high quality, heavy duty leather items and she tells us that she has always admired the nicely handcrafted and tooled old-timer saddles and tack, colorful and extraordinary looking cowboy boots and other related items. She even taught herself how to repair and individualize her tack.
Over 20 years ago she bought her first professional sewing machine; a desk mounted Pfaff 262, equipped with two motors and thus capable of sewing thicker leather.
Gina started making chaps for farriers and western riders, custom leather patched and laced jeans for bikers, vests, skirts, ponchos, etc. using expensive and high quality non-chrome tanned leather.
Around 10 years ago, Gina picked up (and got hooked on) traditional archery. She started this journey by exploring the very basics; making bows and arrows the traditional way and using nature’s materials just like our ancestors did. But what brought her to start making all these beautiful, great looking and quality leather work we know of her today?
Anna Master of Gemsforall interviewed Gina for us!
How and when did it all begin, what helped you to become what you are now?
People know me as a designated traditional archer. I found most of the common archery equipment that could be bought here pretty dysfunctional, ugly looking and of poor quality. So I started making my own to match my needs and demands. And from there it was only a few steps until I started my first attempts in leather tooling, to be able to personalize the goods I was making and I got carried away.
Is leather work and leather tooling your “one and only” love or have you tried anything else?
Well, I’ve taken sneak-peeks at almost every kind of artistic work but after a long journey through skills and talents I found leather to be my real “true love”. Leather is such a wonderful and warm material which opens such a wide range of possibilities for creating something beautiful, yet lasting and individual. And I can use all the talents and skills that were given to me by the great spirit!
What inspires you to create such beautiful artwork? Looking at your work I would say you live somewhere deep in the forest listening to the song of birds, trees and creeks. Am I right?
Yes, I have always been a person very close to Mother Nature and all what’s in it. It’s my source of inspiration, spirituality and for clearing my mind, which is essential for creativity! I am blessed to live pretty much “in the outskirts of town”, in a sparsely populated area with lots of space and wildlife, even eagles and wolves. That’s really inspiring!
I believe everybody knows your exclusive leather feathers, they are so charming! What bird inspired you to make those feathers the first time?
I love birds, especially birds of prey; they were always an inspiration for me, a synonym of freedom and a wide, open, clear and sharp view. I love their beautiful feathering. That’s why I also always use feathers of a red kite in my product photography. Naturally I had to try creating raptor feathers out of leather, since it’s my chosen and beloved material to work with!
Do you have a favorite product of yours? If so, what is it? And, is there a story behind it?
Well, I like to create beautiful leather items for good and practical use…difficult to pick THE favorite item I like making most. I like doing rather small projects, like archery arm bracers, for example. There is not really a lot of time involved making the “raw piece” and they still can be individualized nicely with a special tooling and finish. I like to move forward and keep my mind and eyes busy, which is not so easy when doing larger projects.
Have you ever thought of making tutorials for your projects or have you already made some?
Actually, not really, since I’ve always found it so time consuming. Photographing, editing and commenting of the different working steps definitely gets in the way of my work flow. So I couldn’t find the time for this yet.
I find it wonderful and gracious of other leather workers to share so many good and valuable instructional videos on the internet. Though I must admit that I rarely ever watch any :).
Looking back at your own learning process, what advice would you give to someone who wants to become a leather crafter? Is there anything you would like to tell them?
“Go out and just do it”! Use your own ideas, skills and creativity and be patient…it’s no shame walking the path of trial and error! Never give up and don’t compare your early work to the work of others who have been doing the craft for quite some years already! And you don’t need a fancy and expensive tool collection right from the start when you don’t even know if you’ll stick to it! Begin with basic materials and equipment to learn how to eventually “work around” difficulties. You are going to be a tool and equipment nerd pretty soon anyway! Seek for helpful advice if you get stuck and practice, practice, practice! Leatherwork isn’t a money maker, so that shouldn’t be your main motivation or you might get disappointed real quick.
Do you take part in competitions or exhibitions? Have you got a shop or gallery where people could see more of your excellent creations?
Unlike in the US, we unfortunately don’t have competitions, exhibitions and craft shows here in Germany. I sure would attend if we had them. There are some artisan fairs here and there, but those aren’t really in the league where I want to exhibit my artwork.
I present my work on Facebook and also through my b2zone depict where a variety of my work can be viewed in high resolution and full screen modus, almost as if you could touch it with your hands!
Gina, thank you so much for sharing this sneak-peek into your craftswomen’s world!