It all started because of a little sister. Brothers Damon and Nick Vracin were living in different states, thousands of miles apart and were scarcely in each other’s company. They came home for a rare holiday and were each gifted with what would become their trademark creation; leather cuffs. Their little sister with her simple gift idea, sparked what has now become a twelve-year journey with over 10,000 hand-made creations.
But these early cuffs weren’t like the work of art these two brothers currently create in their Bend-based studio, these fell apart. “It was the snaps that first broke loose,” Damon begins “and then the studs came loose. I went and looked for a replacement and all I could find were dainty glam or punk rock pieces. I wanted something different. So I started making them.”
Brother Nick too began experimenting with leather after graduating with a fine arts degree, wanting to get creative. And so, the first pieces were born.
Nick picks up a newly crafted thick cuff, made from buffalo and tinged with maroon. He just finished etching it few moments before, all by hand, his eye for detail clearly evident.
He states “we didn’t have money for machines or any decent tools when we first started, so we learned to do everything by hand.” Damon pipes in laughing, “we’re still one of the few in this trade that hand-stamp their own snaps. It’s kind of a lost art. 10,000 snaps later and we’re pros.”
He points to the work bench full of assorted tools of descending sizes, continuing, “because we work by hand, we can create custom pieces on the spot. We love going to a festival and taking someone’s idea and producing it right there in front of them. We want to keep things affordable too.”
He notes, “so many artists create pieces with high price tags so things just collect dust on the shelf. Instead, we have pieces flying out the door because they are unique but priced right.”
The brothers both eventually found a base in Bend and came together under the name Nomad Leather, an ode to the wandering ways of the Aboriginal tribes in Australia who have inspired them. Both spent time and gained inspiration for their designs from their traditional artwork and they share a bit of their journey in their pieces.
“I wouldn’t say someone picking up one of our cuffs sees an Aboriginal inspired piece of artwork.” Nick states,”but there is definitely an influence of it in the way that I do my dots and lines.”He points to the array of cuffs scoured with these unique and interesting designs.
Nomad Leather’s repertoire has quickly expanded to include belts adorned with vintage buckles, fringed purses, jewelry, dog collars and a recent creative bestseller for the Pacific Northwest…the leather growler holder – a perfect and easy reward to take on any bike or hike trip.
“We thought, what could we do for a town that loves beer and bikes?” Damon quips. “It’s been a hit, and now we make its companion for wine bottles.”
This is the kind of strategic thinking that has allowed the brothers to constantly keep evolving and growing successfully as a business. No easy feat for creative artists who are surrounded by such a steep local talent pool.
Clearly, the brothers enjoy the creative crafting process in their Bend studio, evident in the frequent midnight long sessions they have three to four times a week crafting up new ideas. “We’re really looking forward to what else we can come up with,” Damon says. “We’re excited to do something new, with an old trade.”
You can find Nomad Leather’s newest creations at their Bend Midtown Studio on Fourth Street by appointment or at their Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/nomadleather.