I have encountered only a few traditional craftspeople in Toronto so whenever I do, it gives me hope for our fair city. I’ve known Steve Gircys for a few months and am impressed by his commitment to quality, to improving his craft and to classic leather design. I’ve featured his company, Oak & Honey before – with a lovely document folio – and I’m happy to share another leather creation. While we were working on the folio, Steve offered to make me a watch strap as he knew my love of swapping straps. Plus, he wanted to start a new line in shell cordovan.
I decided to get a strap for my new Seiko SKX007 dive watch. It is a modern classic, rugged and imperfect. I’m kind of in love with it right now. Looking at some leather samples Steve had on hand, I decided on a mid to dark brown, to dress up the watch a bit. I asked for beige stitching to bring out the markers on the dial and black burnishing to connect to the dial and bezel.
On a recent trip to Japan, Steve picked up a fair amount of shell cordovan from Shinki Hikaku including their brown, which is on the darker side. He crafted it as I’d requested and I think it looks great on the watch. The cordovan starts out quite stiff and even squeaky with a deep, rich lustre. Since there’s a layer of cordovan on the inside of the strap, when I’ve worn it on rather hot days, it is impervious to moisture. So this is one leather strap I can wear in the heat without fear.
While visiting Steve at his home workshop, he showed me another recent creation, his first double-gusset satchel in 7oz and 4oz Wickett & Craig English bridle in their tan/honey colour. The bag is fully hand stitched with orange polyester thread. The inside has two large compartments and two smaller pockets. The shoulder pad is lined with soft pigskin for comfort and grip. The fastening, with a brass lock as well as belt straps, is sort of like having a belt and braces, but it’s what the customer wanted. And it ends up looking elegantly rugged.
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The small design elements Steve has introduced, like the subtle shape of the belt fasteners, add an overall finesse to the bag. What I really like, of course, is that this bag looks more refined than rugged. The finishing is good, bringing together much of the work Steve has done on smaller leathergoods like his wallets and cases. A large, complicated bag like this is a design and crafting challenge, with so many different elements to consider. That’s why I think it symbolises that Steve has reached a new level in his craft.