Meet Jonny Fritz (@dadcountry), the artist behind the leather straps in our newest collaboration with Greta Van Fleet. Learn about Jonny’s process and what inspires his work.
How did you get into leatherworking?
I moved to Nashville from Philadelphia in 2008. I was obsessed with Waylon Jennings and his leather covered telecaster. I tracked down the old timer who made Waylon’s guitar and asked him if he’d make me one. He was really turned off by my ideas of covering a guitar in dog portraits and told me if I wanted one I’d have to make it myself. So, I went to the local leather shop, bought a bag of scraps and a few tools and just started off! I’m grateful to that old fart for accidentally passing the torch to the next generation of leather workers!
How does one of the guitar straps get made? How long does it take to make?
You start with raw, veg tanned leather. When it’s fresh from the tannery it’s very susceptible to any markings; especially once it’s wet. After you soak a lot of water into the grains you can begin tracing your design easily onto the surface. Then you carve the design, then tool it, then dye it, seal it and if using paint, you do that last.
What’s the trickiest part of working with leather?
The trickiest part is not screwing up. At any of the stages right until the end, you can do permanent damage to the surface so it can be a bit nerve-wracking trying to protect your work while making progress.
What was it like creating the straps?
I loved this project! It was a challenge to turn the t-shirt design into a leather design but I loved the problem solving aspect of this one and think they turned out great!
What’s the most rewarding part of leather working?
Making something that only looks better as it gets older in a time when things look like garbage six months after a new version comes out. I send away my work knowing that it looks “ok” but that ten years from now it’ll only get better and softer and darker and smoother! What else is like that!?
Is there anything that you do when you work? Drink coffee, listen to music, etc.
Yes actually! I watch The Ken Burns documentary The Civil War over and over again. I have it on VHS and truly watch it constantly while working. My girlfriend can’t come near my shop without rolling her eyes. She always tends to walk in on the most gruesome parts and hears quotes such as “flashes of lightning showed hogs feeding on the unfathered dead.”