Leatherworking is popular in Grant County.

On Jan. 4, the leather department at Painted Sky Center for the Arts held its first class ever — and the classes are filling up the day they are offered.

“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive response and the classes fill up within the first day classes are available,” Clair Kehrberg, the lead for the leather department, said. “We did have a waitlist for both the belt making and coasters class so we will offer those two classes again.”

Kehrberg said their first class was a beginning tooling class where students learned the basics of leather, tools and how to use them, before making drink coasters with different leather patterns.

Kehrberg said the experience has been great for everybody in the department and the center.

Other leather classes provided by the center focus on making belts, earrings and hat patches. Leon Pielstick, a retired veterinarian who started leather crafting and tooling at 10, taught several beginning classes, and Heidi Brook taught as well.

Kehrberg said the leather classes provide a rewarding experience with projects students can enjoy or gift to others.

“With everything that’s going on in the world, people are looking for a positive experience,” Kehrberg said. “We’ve really seen with our classes the camaraderie between students doing something fun and new, and it’s been really good for people.”

Painted Sky Center for the Arts provides the basic tools and items to complete leather projects. This gives people a chance to participate without incurring the huge expenses associated with leatherwork, according to Kehrberg.

“You can show up and use our tools and get your feet wet or get back into it to see if you want to make the investment in your own tools,” Kehrberg said.

Seeing the students have fun, talk with each other and put creativity into a project has made it worth it for her, she said.

More beginning tooling classes and more types of leather classes are planned, and the center is seeking additional tools and instructors. Kehrberg said anyone interested should contact her or center Director Kim Randleas.

“As we get more tools and some sewing machines, we’ll be able to offer more classes,” Kehrberg said. “If anybody has tools to donate or would like to make a monetary donation, that would be fantastic as the program grows.”

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Rudy Diaz is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at rudy@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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