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Leather crafter succeeds in make-believe

Elizabeth Huff The Enquirer July 7, 2008

KALAMO TOWNSHIP Step over the scraps of felt, leather and fur and you'll find Chip Lorimer's leather-crafting lair.

Wearing a thick apron and with his long hair tied back, Lorimer, 47, swabbed stain onto a pirate belt.

The craftsman said his hobby became his business about seven years ago, selling handmade specialty leather items online and at renaissance fairs. Some items are based on authentic designs, while others are just for fun.

He will be at the Silver Leaf Renaissance Faire this year at Kimball Pines Park in Emmett Township.

Did women historically have push-up bras in their armor?

"Generally, you didn't have too many warrior princesses anyway. And what kind of armor is this with the belly open? I mean, this was heavily inspired by a Xena outfit on the TV show."

How's business?

"I am so busy. ... The economy sucks, so I hear. I'm doing OK."

How did you get into leather crafting?

"Back in the early '80s, very early '80s, I found myself deciding that I did not like computer science as a career. I liked it more as a hobby. Found myself liking music a lot more. Picked up the drumsticks ... and joined a rock band. We wanted to do the leather and stud thing that was kind of prominent back then for some bands."

So you made it because you wanted to wear it?

"My dad had been tinkering around with leather crafting in the basement. ... He taught me how to make a belt, and I made my belt, and everybody loved it. ... Other bandmates said they wanted some little wristbands ... so I whipped up some of those and I started getting underground attention."

What are you making now?

"Right now I'm staining a belt, what I normally sell as a pirate belt: a wider belt with a big buckle."

How long would it take to finish it?

"I have timed a lot of that stuff out because it's a prominent figure in pricing. ... I could probably whip this out in about 45 minutes to an hour."

How much is done by hand?

"There's a lot of leather crafters out there that use every modern convenience they can, and I kind of embrace the old-world style of doing it. Each one of these little holes I punched by hand. Tap, tap, tap, tap. And I cut this out by hand. I edged it by hand. I do everything by hand. That's one of my selling features."

Do you have your own cows?

"No. Tanning the leather is an entirely different process altogether."

How did you get into renaissance fair leather crafting?

"(I saw) a lot of people out there wearing their big leather armor and things like this that they'll drop a shiny penny for, and ladies wearing their bodices, all kinds of things. Pouches and belts and bags and mugs and things like that, but I noticed a big lack of stuff for the women. And I thought, 'Well, I wonder if I can make something.'"

What do you like about the fairs?

"Lot of ways to play dress-up and make believe, to some degree, that you just don't get to do in real life. ... I just feel a lot of kindred spirits there."

You said you have a fair persona.

"I have actually two, which is kind of rare. Most people seem to have, like, seven or 10, which drives me batty because sometimes you can't, 'Which one are you today?' My most prominent character right now, which is actually sought out on occasion, I guess, so I'm told anyway, is the Pirate Black Roger."

What's he like?

"A fine lad he be. ... He's commonly described as the lovable drunken scoundrel. ... He's actually one of the pirate lords of the Great Lakes."

So is your work actually play?

"There's nothing more gratifying, I think, than to see one of these things (warrior princess outfits) walking away from me. ... She dropped a big coin on it, but she's just so happy and look at the fun she's going to have and the guys bowing down in the streets it's happened."

Elizabeth Huff can be reached at 966-0684 or ehuff@battlecr.gannett.com.

Leather crafter Chip Lorimer works on a belt in his workshop.

Leather crafter Chip Lorimer works on a belt in his workshop. (Chad Ruhl/For the Enquirer)

Leather crafter Chip Lorimer dyes a belt in his workshop.

Leather crafter Chip Lorimer dyes a belt in his workshop. (Chad Ruhl/For the Enquirer)

 

The Lorimer file

  • Name: Chip Lorimer
  • Age: 47
  • Home: Kalamo Twp, Eaton County
  • Occupation: Leather Crafter

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