Several years ago I sat on a tiny stool in a small leather shop in the Marrakesh souq, watching as a craftsman sewed. He kept offering me glasses of tea and I kept watching and listening – utterly fascinated. When, several hours later, I looked at the tray full of empty tea glasses... I realized that I was hooked.
Thinker. Builder. Adventurer.
Strong terms, no doubt, yet ones that surely apply to globe-hopping artisan Jeff Amrhein.
Besides his meticulous leather work, is it also because he's a professional photographer who once undertook a sprawling 39-month trek to 40-plus countries over three continents?
Or is it the fact that he once built a seaworthy 18.5 foot kayak -- from scratch, by hand -- and has since solo-journeyed many thousands of miles across the waters of the Americas?
And yes: that's merely the tip of Jeff's proverbial thinker/builder/adventurer iceberg. Not surprisingly, Hand and Hide's aesthetic is firmly rooted in his vast travels.
"The region is limited-access, which allows only 20 visitors per day. Overall, your chances will be much better in winter than other times of year, especially spring and fall, which are the peak seasons. The weather for my trip was cold (around 25 degrees in the morning and maybe 40 by mid-afternoon) but clear and gorgeous."
Soaking up inspiration worldwide.
Take the time Jeff was wandering around North Africa, Asia and the Middle East, when fully a third of his backpack was stuffed with leather scraps, tools and powdered dyes. "I sought out local artisans, learning from anyone who was willing to share", Jeff says. "When I returned home, my travels ended... but my passion for leather craft remained."
Today, home is the great Pacific Northwest. Though he misses "summer thunderstorms and fireflies" in the small Ohio town where he grew up, Portland has definitely won a place in Jeff's heart. "It's a great city to visit", he says with the enthusiasm of the converted, "but an even better one to live."
Asked to put some local flavor where his mouth is, he tells us "One of my favorite bars is just a few blocks from where I live - Apex. Double Dragon, across the street, has the best Bahn Mi in town."
(Ed. note: We rate this delicious claim "True".)
Working out of a small studio steps from his backdoor, Jeff's favorite part of the production process is the prototyping stage. By the time he starts putting his ideas into action, he "already has a good idea of what the final product will look like."
The result, more often than not, is something that works like a charm right from the start. "Other times", he adds with a smile, "I have to go back to the drawing board."
One thing's for certain: given Jeff's insatiable appetite for travel… that drawing board of his will only continue to grow more fascinating.