Apr 26, 2017
By Val Larsen
On the square of the beautiful and historic town of Sonoma, sits a tiny shop, Large Leather, dedicated to the ancient art form of leather tooling. It is, historically, one of the earliest forms of recycling in the history of Mankind.
It was fascinating speaking with Jessica Zoutendijk, co-owner with Paul Terwilliger, about the history of the craft and the environmental aspects of the business. I had always assumed that Vegan leather was the way to go and didn’t often think about the fact that a high percentage of vegan items are made with petrochemicals and take a very long time to disintegrate. Items made from Leather are durable, beautiful and breathable, as well as recyclable.
Paul was born in California and in the early 70’s traveled to Europe, spent some time in India then traveled back to Europe, ending up in Amsterdam. There he taught himself the art of leather tooling and making leather goods. He first sold his wares at the famous Waterlooplein open market and eventually opened a shop.
Right around the corner from his shop was a restaurant that he often frequented. A young waitress, by the name of Jessica, caught his eye and he finally asked her out. After moving onto her houseboat, he taught her about the beauty of working with leather and inspired her to create her own designs. Jessica had experienced many things and had lived in many places in her young life and her new craft suited her perfectly. Eventually, their journey led them back to the states and west, to the coast where Paul grew up. They founded their shop in a supportive community in the town of Sonoma.
One of the unique aspects of their business is that they make 90% of the products they sell. The rest is made in the US. The equipment that they use has many similarities to what ancient leather artisans used, giving their products a quality and durability not found in traditionally made purses, belts, vests and other related items.
Visiting Large Leather is a delightfully tactile learning experience, that gives you a new insight into an ancient art form. Look for the large red and white leather sign facing the west side of the Plaza with hides hanging by the door.
Large leather, 481 A First Street West, Sonoma, CA 95476
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