LEATHER SMITH

CHELSEA STERLING

Desert Mama- Who is Chelsea and where can we find her? Tell us about
yourself:

Chelsea- Howdy! I’m Chelsea, the owner of Sterling Trading Company. I was born and raised in California.

Before settling down in Colorado you could usually find me on the road with my fiancé, camping around California and spending time in the mountains whenever we could get away from the city. Now that we’ve got a baby boy, life is slower and we’ve settled down in Southern Colorado.

You can find me at my Brick and Mortar Sterling Trading Post in Pueblo, Co. When I’m not working, I’m tucked away in our mountain home cooking yummy meals and drinkin’ a cold Coors Light. If you ever find yourself down south in Co, pop by our gift shop & order somethin’ custom.

DM- When and what made you get into this type of craft?

C- About six years ago I was on a solo road trip from LA to San Francisco. I was in an antique store with a friend when I stumbled upon a full leather tooling kit from the 70’s. It was $90 and at that time $90 felt like my last dollars but I had enough to get the kit, and drive home so I bought it and didn’t look back! The excitement I got when I found the kit was new and exciting. I found it in a time when I was desperately searching for some direction, so naturally I dropped out of college and started toolin’ around.

DM- Who taught you how to do this?

C- I’m about as self taught as it gets. The kit I bought had old pattern books in it that I scoured before jumping into the craft. A lot of my work is trial and error. Leather tooling is unique in a way where once you start carving on that leather, there’s no turning back. There were lots of mistakes made along the way. But I’ve practiced and honed in on my craft and I get closer to my goals everyday.

DM- What is your source of inspiration and what do you like to convey with your art?

C- The beauty of leather tooling is that it can truly last forever when it’s taken care of. I find a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, my love for country & western art and music, as well as my love for all things vintage. I strive to make your next vintage handbag or wallet. I picture my pieces being tucked away for years and re-discovered by family members who are able to bring them back to life 30 years from now.

With leather tooling specifically I’ve worked really hard to create a new style that’s never been done before by combining more modern images or ideas with the traditional ideas and practices of leather tooling. I strive to keep my goods unique, and neutral. I hope that anyone from any walk of life can come to my page and see something they can’t live without.

DM- Show us what you think is your best work by now and tell us why you love it:

C- This is a hard one! I’ve really challenged myself by deciding to attempt to paint mini portraits of my favorite country music stars haha so I’d have to say my Waylon and Willie wallets.

I have zero background with painting, and have only gotten better with practice so I’ll always be proud of these pieces.

DM- The part you love the most of what you do, and the least part:

C- My favorite part is the creative side! If I could sit in my studio and create all day long, every single day, I’d die happy. But I have two businesses to run and that’s the worst part.

Having to stop creating to get up and pack orders, update websites, taxes ect. I manage to juggle it all but one day I’d like to get back to creating full time.

DM- How do you combine your family life with your life as an enterprising woman? Do you find time for all?

C- Somehow miraculously I do find time for it all. There’s not much time for things outside of being a momma and a business owner but I’ve worked hard to acclimate my son to our life, opposed to changing my life to fit him into it.

My son has been sitting by my side in the studio since he was a week old. Family is number one, my business comes after that. That definitely comes with it’s own set of challenges but I make it work. Having a brick and mortar that is family run makes it easier.

When you come to the shop, you get us all. Jakes in the front running the shop, my son and I are in the back gettin’ to work and our dog is looking for a belly rub.

DM- Where and how would you like to see yourself 10 years from now?

C- Retired? Just kidding. In 10 years I’d hope to have at least one or two more store fronts. Maybe I’ll own a warehouse and have a couple employees too.

It would be my dream to bring the studio back to the house so maybe I have a home studio as well as a studio elsewhere so I can focus on family and watch my son learn the family craft
haha!

DM- Your happiest childhood memory:

C- My family had an 87 Suburban, that thing was a damn tank and it’s what I learned to drive in. When I was in elementary school we were able to have sleepovers in it while it was parked in the driveway. We used to get five kids sleeping in there!

DM- What is the most important thing in life for you?

C- Family, good food, the mountains, and long walks.

DM- You only have two days left, what would you do?

C- Camp under the stars with my kid, my dude and our dog.

DM- For what right would you fight for?

C- Reproductive rights & equality.

DM- A success and a failure:

C- Hm! Another hard one! My shop is a success! Opening a store is a lot of work. More work than I imagined.

Failure seems harsh, there’s been mistakes… Like working 7 days a week. I won’t do that
again. But with every failure or mistake, I learn. So is it a failure if you’ve been able to learn from it?

RECOMMENDATIONS

– A phrase: Work, bitch!

– A film: Five Easy Pieces.

– A song: Honey (I Miss You) Tammy Wynette.

– A drink: An ice cold Coors Light.

– A book: Shit… Ain’t no time for readin’

– A city:  Joshua Tree!

WHAT DOES CHELSEA PREFER?

  • Ten years in a coma / Ten years in jail
  • City life / Country life 
  • Talking to animals / Talking to the dead
  • Having more time / Having more money 
  • Constantly winter / Constantly summer
  • Having a family with 5 kids / Not having kids at all
  • Waking up in a desert / In a boat in the middle of the Ocean
  • Only eating salty food / Only eating sweet
  • Being dominant / Being submissive
  • Something organized / Something improvised
  • Visiting the past / Visiting the future
  • Being unable to see / Being unable to hear
  • Reality/ Fiction
  • Never leaving your city / Not being able to return 
  • Continuing with your life / Restarting your life 
  • Knowing what you will die of / Knowing what day you will 
  • Music concert / Theater play
  • Motorcycle trip / Car trip