Not so long ago, I wrote about a project I wanted to embark upon. But who am I kidding? It happened more than two years ago as I even wrote about it after I finished with my comprehensive examinations. I worked from home today because I had a follow-up medical check-up with my doctor in Marikina. I thought that I might as well drop by the leather supplies stores again since I was already in the area.
(Sorry for the bad quality photos, as I have mistakenly left my digital camera in the apartment. I had also forgotten my HMO card and it was almost a disaster. Good thing I have my account number listed on my phone.)
After I had my chest X-ray taken, I beelined to Marikina Public Market to first eat my lunch before I look for my leathercraft tools. First impression: I MISSED THIS PLACE. This area is where I spent my high school years and I felt happy seeing throngs of students fooling around the Freedom Park. It was very much alive as ever. Some of the old stores were still there, but I noticed that there was one big elaborate structure under construction behind the flower stalls. There also lots of tiangge stalls, mostly selling leather goods, and the giant shoe automobile was placed near the entrance. Make no mistake as it is a working piece of hilarity. I had once traveled beside it on my way home from the mall and people were pointing bemusedly at it. It was very hard not to miss.
While walking, I had a realization. There I was, beneath an overcast sky looking for leathercraft materials. About a decade and a half ago, I had once contemplated that I would choose leathercraft class if I were not selected for the star section. You see, back in the day in my ol’ high school (which is currently the city’s science high school), we had six sections per year. Our sections were initially assigned through an entrance exam and I fortunately got in the first section. For the second year, we were to be ranked again to determine our section. I am not too sure on how the students from second to sixth sections were decided, but I was certain that the first 26 girls and 26 boys were already sure for the first section on their second until fourth year — classmates from second year until we graduate. I am willing to bet that I had most probably ranked as the 26th boy, as I remember my Mathematics grades were not up to par and I was always at the brink of an “axe” (i.e. palakol, that is a line of 7). We were also supposed to maintain an average grade of 85%.
Anyway, for the students from the section two to sixth, they would be reshuffled again on their third year and each section would be assigned a different ‘shop’ to do until their fourth year. While the first section was given extra coursework on Science (Environmental Science, two Physics, two Chemistry), Mathematics (Analytic Geometry, Calculus, Advanced Algebra) and research, the other sections would have (for the boys) leathercraft, 2 sections for electricity, woodworking and welding. For the girls, they had two sections for home economics, dressmaking, culinary and another one I already forgot. I can’t fully remember how this was done, but if I am not mistaken, they had drawn lots to determine what their shop would be. As our section labor our way through Math & Science, the others spent about four hours doing those subjects.
Even before the end of our first year, I had already feared not being in the first section because I cannot imagine doing any of those non-Math & Science courses. But I was a worrywart by nature and I was already thinking that if I were to be kicked out of the section, I’d hopefully pick leathercraft. I did not see myself doing either electricity, woodworking nor welding. They were too masculine for me. =D So I had my eyes set on leathercraft if ever because I admired the grace, dexterity and craftmanship done by people from my city. Being in the first section did not exempt us from Home Economics classes though, and we still had stitching projects that I had sloppily executed.
The photo above with the digital clock with a shoe sculpture on top of it used to be a statue of a man washing a kid’s but after the latter took a dump. The statue is now located in front of the Marikina City Health Office. Meanwhile, the clock above was in front of Snow White. This is the place to go whenever you need anything for your usual craft needs. I needed big needles for saddle stitching and I was able to buy 4 needles at Php 8.00 each. I even got to briefly chat with the owner, and I commented that I used to frequent their store back in high school. According to him, they are already 60 years this year. Wow. Imagine how many student projects their store had already served.
For the important tools, it took me a long time to find this store in the market. I had my GPS on in my phone but I still wandered aimlessly looking for the store. I’ve spent nearly 30 minutes walking the streets and I even reached the Marikina bridge but to no avail. On my last try, I was finally able to find the store. Noticed that I’ve been trying not to disclose its name for the last four sentences? Well, it so happened that the first sales personnel was a prick. I’m not going to promote their store. Too bad because they have quite an assortment of tools and supplies, and unless I need to buy more tools, I won’t be going back there. Being totally green, I was carefully deciding and asking because I needed to make sure I’d get the right tools and materials. He was obviously too busy attending to another customer, but managed to give the price for the heavy-duty thread I’ve been looking for. When another personnel asked for what I need, she gave another price, so I said that the other guy said a lower price. When I clarified this, this prick went sarcastic and obnoxious towards me and it irked me so much, even if I were holding my tongue so as not to retort. Needless to say, I lectured him off about sarcasm and there was no need to give me an attitude when I was just asking. Who in the right mind would say “Baka iba ang kausap mo, wala akong sinasabing ganun” (Maybe you were talking to somebody else, I did not say such thing), complete with an annoying smirk. I was not in the right mood to receive such crassness, having walked for 30 minutes looking for their store. Good thing that the lady was way nicer and patiently answered my questions. I did my homework prior to buying, but it won’t hurt to ask for clarifications.
I got a couple of the basic tools that I needed, and I hoped to buy some leather for practice. This was the part I was not ready for, because I thought that you could buy at least three square foot of leather. Each of the leather swatches has a price behind it, and I was shocked to hear that you have to buy the whole piece. Walang tingi. The lowest price for an acceptable split leather I saw was Php 90/square foot. Then I was informed that it was around 25 square feet, and a quick calculation on my phone indicated that it was for Php 3,870. Oh dear, I was not prepared to pay for that, especially as I would be beginning to learn saddle stitching. I looked at the other stores, but I was disappointed that most of them were selling synthetic materials. All along I thought that they all have genuine leather for sale.
After a short deliberation, I have decided that for practice, I can just buy a secondhand leather belt from a thriftstore. I found a black leather belt for Php 30, whose stitch I can remove to practice on the holes. Mama had a laugh when she saw that I was really serious about this whole leathercraft thing, seeing that I even have a small hammer and heavy pair of scissors just for practice. There were no beeswax, though, so I’ll use cubes of paraffin wax instead. They also do not have diamond-shaped awls, but a standard round one.
After practicing on a belt, I will definitely be working on a whole piece of tanned leather. I need to look for a store to buy some, other than the one above. I currently have my eyes on the stores on the other side of the Marikina bridge that I’ve been seeing every weekend on my way back to Makati. Hopefully, the people there are more accommodating and personable. I can’t wait to open Al Stohlman’s books again and finally start using my tools and materials. I consider his book “The Art of Hand Sewing Leather” a bible because it was very detailed and inspiring, especially the explanation on saddle stitch. Too bad I do not have any stitching pony to use, but hopefully I could have one made to help in my stitching. My ultimate project would be to make a top handle tote, messenger and backpack in one!
I already found another store, which also sells genuine leather. Click here.