First, I'll start by saying I don't make belts.
Belt making, in my opinion, is what I call leather work.
Leather work is not the same as bag making.
Leather work, or leather craft, ends with a single piece of leather that is worked to perfection. The piece itself, alone, is the reflection of the workers skill.
With bags, the end result is a bag with some leather on it.
Usually, there are so many leather elements that they sometimes get lost in the overall aesthetic of the bag.
I try not to incorporate too many leather elements, which can cause the bag to look "leather-heavy".
Usually, when I use leather, I try to showcase the leather element for a strong visual.
The fabric needs to speak and have presence.
Finding balance between the two is not always easy.
In an ideal world, I would spend 100% of the time working the leather the way it should be done. The other 100% of the time would be making the actual bag.
Think of it this way, you pay $40-$80 for a handmade belt. The amount of work going into that belt is the same as a leather strap on a randonneur bag. Except there are 4- 9 leather elements on a randonneur bag.
What I love about making a leather belt is that it combines several skills into one final simple product. I love the groove work, bevelling, punching, embossing, and the final edge work.
Different edge treatments yield different finishes.
Lately, I like using dye, then cream, then wax, burnish it up smooth, then finish it with a Japanese glaze.
It still amazes me that each belt I make will last a lifetime, that's a long time.
At some point, I'd like to spend time with a master leather worker.
Until then, back to bags!
Usually, if I'm lucky, I don't think about what I'm doing when I'm making a bag. I just keep pushing until it's done. What I've learned is that sometimes it's best to not think. Thinking usually causes doubt and hesitation and that leads to fear and insecurity. So I'm usually best when I don't think. However, I'm known to overthink, so you see how my life is a constant struggle with myself.
Back when I was studying martial arts quite a bit, I was asking my master about some boxing techniques we were working on. I wanted to understand the technique so I could do it correctly and went on and on with my questioning.
My master stood there, arms crossed, with a deep concerned expression on his face, as if processing data. Then he said in broken stereo-typical old chinese man talk "less think, more do".
And that's pretty much how I get things done.
I divide my work day into sections.
1. Brain time
2. Do time
Also, I used to worry about what I do. Now, after a bunch of years doing it, I don't worry. Mainly because I know I can do it and whatever it is, it will probably turn out pretty good. I guess that's what happens?
I guess the downside is that things aren't as shocking or surprising or exciting as it was in the beginning. But I'm quite happy with not having the anxiety I used to have the first few years.
It's a good trade off.