Desert Mama- Who is Leslie and where can we find her? 

Leslie- Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains and living in the Rockies. I spent many years rambling but now you can usually find me on the ranch in Colorado or Montana.

I am a leather worker, a painter and a metalsmith. 

I left my Appalachian mountain home when I was 18, since then I’ve travelled the world and lived in many beautiful places including Texas, California and Arizona but I decided a long time ago there’s no better life than the country life.

So here I am living on a beautiful cattle ranch learning the ropes and following in my great grandmother’s footsteps

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

L- I was working as a model in LA and I loved fashion but I really wanted to create my own unique clothing and accessories and I wanted to do something more hands on so that’s how I became interested in leatherwork. That was around 2007 I think and leather immediately became my main focus.   

DM- Who taught you how to do this?

L- Henry Duarte was my first teacher and mentor and then I started a business with my best friends Rachel and Ang and from that point on I was self taught and worked hard to improve my skills and creative visions.

DM- What inspires you, and what other artists currently working do you admire?

L- I am inspired by nature, my heritage and a strong need for self expression and individuality, I am inspired by antique leather goods. I love heirlooms and things made to last. I really admire the simple craftsmanship and minimal tools used to create ancient clothing, bags, footwear and harnesses. I love the attention to detail.

I also always listen to music when i am working and I am very inspired by the 1960s and 70s, country, bluegrass and rock and roll music i grew up with, as well as vintage motorcycle and rock and roll culture but honestly i do not have many contemporary inspirations for leatherwork as I do not wish for my work to be influenced by others.

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

L- I usually design new styles for myself to wear so I love all of my handcrafted leather pieces however, This Snakeskin and Elkhide Fringe Jacket stands out as one of my all time favorites. It’s also one of the only custom pieces I have kept for myself all these years and refuse to sell or give away.

I also love the La Grange Deerskin Leather Pants and the Westwind Fringe Bag.

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

L- I love the freedom… The worst part is having to do computer work and stay organized

DM- What do you think is the key to success?

L- Be a force to be reckoned with. Always believe in yourself and never give up. Stay authentic.

DM- We have also seen you design jewelry, tell us about this too:

L- Yes, I began designing jewelry, metalsmithing and collecting turquoise in 2011 when I lived in Tucson Arizona. I made a small collection of one of a kind rings and pendants that was a huge success and now that I am settled into my new workspace I am looking forward to revisiting my passion for jewelry as well as painting!

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

L- In 10 years I see myself on a beautiful ranch in the wilderness living a simple life close to nature and full of love. Painting, handcrafting and designing. Growing food and caring for lots of animals. Giving back to my community and sharing all the wisdom I have gathered over the years perhaps by teaching classes or writing a book one day.

DM- Your happiest childhood memory:

L- As a child I spent a lot of time outdoors exploring the Appalachian mountains and my happiest memories are in nature… Hiking up to Old Rag or Seneca Rocks, swimming in the creeks, waterfalls and mountain lakes, racing horses down the canal towpath and camping out in the summertime.

DM- Your best quality and your worst defect:

L- Best- I am very loyal, I welcome everyone with open arms and I will give the shirt off my back to a stranger.

Worst- I can be stubborn and I won’t back down in a fight. I stick to my guns and I have my own way of doing things

DM- What makes you angry:

L- Fake people and too many rules.

DM- What do you do for fun?

L- I love riding horses, exploring the land, listening to music and hanging out on the ranch with my dog and boyfriend.

I love to grow my own food and watch the sunrise and set every day. I love to pass hours just watching the sky or looking at the stars and dreaming

DM- A success and a failure:

L- Success- Making a living off my creativity and inspiring others with my art

Failure- I don’t believe in failure… It’s all learning experience and obstacles.


– A phrase: Ow ow ooooow!!!

– A film: Billy Jack or the Last Unicorn

– A song: Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn.

– A drink: Black coffee, mountain spring water or red wine.

– A book: The Foxfire Books

– A city:  The middle of nowhere… As far away from a city as possible.


  • 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
  • Only eating salty food/ Only eating sweet food
  • Waking up in a desert / In a boat in the middle of the Ocean
  • Light on / Light off
  • Something organized / Something improvised
  • Visiting the past / Visiting the future
  • Being unable to see / Being unable to hear
  • Reality / Fiction
  • Motorcycle trip / Car trip 
  • 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
  • Being dominant / Being submissive

Photography: 1st- @the_wolf_of_pearl_street / 4th- @nicolemlakar / 6th- @marissa.shevins