Nicholas Jenson was born in 1977 in America’s rural west. He realized early in life that the built environment around him was made up of relatively few materials which, when organized and processed, became any number of things. Wood and fiberglass became a kayak or a sailplane, boulders became a retaining wall, and leather could be a radiator gasket or a handbag.
A frugal upbringing taught him the importance of practical design and durability. “Buy the best and only cry once” was the unofficial motto of his family and it applied to everything from shoelaces to kitchen utensils.
On his 10th birthday, his family presented him with an old western saddle from the basement of his great grandmother. It wasn’t particularly practical for a boy without a horse, but as an object it was fascinating; a beautiful combination of leathers and stitching of various textures and colors. Nicholas thought about how different his saddle must have looked when it was new. It must have been pale and stiff. Years of weather and use had transformed it into something so different. This was what Nicholas loved about leather. It was unstable and ever changing but always beautiful.
Years later Nicholas left home for Italy. In the shops and streets of Milan he saw leather used in a different way –luxurious and imaginative uses. Intrigued by the endless possibilities, Nicholas bought some hand tools and a bright green cowhide and began cutting and stitching, eventually finding his own style. His minimal designs and precise workmanship allow the leather to be the focus. He's unusually conscious of how a bag will wear and change with time and his patterning and designs seem to be based on this as well as how it looks new. You may like a piece now but you will probably love it later.
“It takes a long time to make a bag that feels the way I want it to and it’s even more challenging to make something that satisfies the eye and will break in and wear beautifully. Sometimes it feels like a curse to have such high standards but if it makes me a better craftsman I suppose it’s a worthwhile curse. I take as much time as I need to make sure the finished piece satisfies me and the bags are just getting better and better. The more I create, the more I learn and the more I learn, the more I want to create. I just wish I had more hands.”