Fine Leatherwork by St. Johns Supply Co.

St. Johns Supply Co. provides fine leatherwork to the Livingston, Montana market
Maker With Dog

Pickering in his retail space with Willy the dog. | Photo by Brian Pickering

In 2016, Brian Pickering bought a brand-name leather wallet that, after three months, fell apart. He thought to himself, “I bet I can make a better wallet than this.” So he bought some tools, went on a camping trip, and “the rest is history,” he says. St. Johns Supply Co., named for the neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, where it was founded, now produces some of the highest-quality leather products in the West. From the durable design and fine stitching to the richness of the material itself, Pickering’s work looks great and stands the test of time.

Maker Tools

Pickering chooses the right edging tool for the job at hand. | Photo by Townsend Collective

While he makes it sound easy, the journey to excellence was anything but. After that camping trip, Pickering came down from the Wallowa Mountains with his now-signature cast-iron handle cover and a few wallet designs, and started small, placing pieces with local businesses. “I was persistent,” says Pickering. “Craftsmen-oriented stores would take my wallets on consignment.”

Maker Sew

After cutting the shape out with the clicker press, Pickering carefully stitches the piece together, as with this leather journal.  | Photo by Townsend Collective

He had no machines at the time. Everything was hand-cut and hand-stitched. A completely self-taught artisan, Pickering learned his craft through long hours of hard work, careful observation and a commitment to quality.

Maker Stool

Some tools and St. Johns Supply Co.’s signature camping stools on display. | Photo by Brian Pickering

He deconstructed classic leather products to see how they were made and experimented to see what he could improve. Old leatherwork, like vintage Coach bags, are his primary influence. “You could always tell the quality of those,” says Pickering. “Basic, timeless classics. That’s what I gear my bag line toward. Functional, but with style.”

Maker Store

St. Johns Supply Co. recently moved to the corner of East Callender St. and North B St. in Livingston, doubling his store’s footprint and dramatically increasing foot traffic. | Photo by Brian Pickering

In 2017, he moved his business to Wyoming and bought his first sewing machine. Today, he employs one person, Chase DeForest, a talented leatherworker and boot maker, on a part-time as-needed basis. Pickering now cuts his patterns with a clicker press before stitching the pieces together, either using his antique 1950s Ferdinand harness stitcher or his more modern Juki sewing machine for finer work. Finally, he takes it to the burnishing machine to smooth the leather’s edges.

Maker Bags

Pickering’s Mini Pearl bag hanging above door bells, key hooks and a makeup bag. | Photo by Brian Pickering

His craftsmanship and attention to detail are consistent across all steps of the process. Pickering uses only the highest-grade leather, either top-grain or full-grain depending on the product’s requirements.

Categories: Artists & Artisans