Chip Bragg

Alpine Observer - - News -

What is your job?

I have a stand at the Mt Beauty Com­mu­nity Mar­ket where I sell plaited and solid leather belts. A lot of peo­ple find it hard to get proper leather belts that will last. I also make leather braces, dog col­lars, straps for stringed in­stru­ments, but­tons, key rings and lit­tle leather bracelets that are very pop­u­lar. I mostly use kan­ga­roo leather, plus some Amer­i­can steer hide and I am go­ing to get some bi­son and wa­ter buf­falo hide.

What made you de­cide to do this?

I was sent to board­ing school at the age of ten, and the se­nior mas­ter taught leather­work to any of the stu­dents who wanted to learn. We made watch straps, rid­ing crops, belts – all sorts of things. I re­ally en­joyed it, but I stopped do­ing it for years.

What got you back into it?

I got in­ter­ested again when I was work­ing as a stock­man as far west in Queens­land as you can go, on the edge of the Simp­son Desert. We used green­hide to make ropes, and I thought about mak­ing a stock­whip but I thought it would take too long to learn how to make a proper work­ing stock­whip that I could ac­tu­ally use. I’d have to make a lot of them be­fore I got it right. I was three years up there west of the Ge­orgina. Af­ter that I came back to Bethanga to work on the fam­ily farm, and the leather work was put on hold again. Later the prop­erty was sold and I went to work in Wodonga and started do­ing it again. I made things for the fam­ily but I never thought of sell­ing them un­til re­cently.

What do you love about your craft?

It’s much bet­ter than watch­ing tele­vi­sion and it helps keep my arthritic fingers mov­ing. Part of the fun is try­ing new pat­terns. Some of them are very in­tri­cate. I have books of pat­terns and I get some off the in­ter­net. The most fun is go­ing to blue­grass and folk fes­ti­vals, I love the mu­sic and there are lots of peo­ple in­ter­ested in buy­ing straps for their in­stru­ments. I used to sell lots of gui­tar straps but now it’s more for man­dolins and ban­jos. I have just fin­ished mak­ing a very dec­o­ra­tive wool-lined banjo cra­dle for a mu­si­cian I met at a fes­ti­val. I have a lot of things to show, but it’s of­ten not ex­actly what peo­ple want, so I take down their de­scrip­tions, make the ar­ti­cle and send it off. I’ve sent leather ar­ti­cles to Canada, the US and New Zealand as well as all over Aus­tralia.

Are you go­ing to con­tinue?

I be­lieve so. As long as my hands can take the pres­sure.

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