Leather crafter succeeds in
KALAMO TOWNSHIP — Step over the scraps of felt,
leather and fur and you'll find Chip Lorimer's leather-crafting lair.
Wearing a thick apron and with his long hair tied
back, Lorimer, 47, swabbed stain onto a pirate belt.
The craftsman said his hobby became his business
about seven years ago, selling handmade specialty leather items online and
at renaissance fairs. Some items are based on authentic designs, while
others are just for fun.
He will be at the Silver Leaf Renaissance Faire
this year at Kimball Pines Park in Emmett Township.
Did women historically have push-up bras in
"Generally, you didn't have too many warrior
princesses anyway. And what kind of armor is this with the belly open? I
mean, this was heavily inspired by a Xena outfit on the TV show."
"I am so busy. ... The economy sucks, so I
hear. I'm doing OK."
How did you get into leather crafting?
"Back in the early '80s, very early '80s, I
found myself deciding that I did not like computer science as a career. I
liked it more as a hobby. Found myself liking music a lot more. Picked up
the drumsticks ... and joined a rock band. We wanted to do the leather and
stud thing that was kind of prominent back then for some bands."
So you made it because you wanted to wear it?
"My dad had been tinkering around with
leather crafting in the basement. ... He taught me how to make a belt, and
I made my belt, and everybody loved it. ... Other bandmates said they
wanted some little wristbands ... so I whipped up some of those and I
started getting underground attention."
What are you making now?
"Right now I'm staining a belt, what I
normally sell as a pirate belt: a wider belt with a big buckle."
How long would it take to finish it?
"I have timed a lot of that stuff out
because it's a prominent figure in pricing. ... I could probably whip this
out in about 45 minutes to an hour."
How much is done by hand?
"There's a lot of leather crafters out there
that use every modern convenience they can, and I kind of embrace the
old-world style of doing it. Each one of these little holes I punched by
hand. Tap, tap, tap, tap. And I cut this out by hand. I edged it by hand.
I do everything by hand. That's one of my selling features."
Do you have your own cows?
"No. Tanning the leather is an entirely
different process altogether."
How did you get into renaissance fair leather
"(I saw) a lot of people out there wearing
their big leather armor and things like this that they'll drop a shiny
penny for, and ladies wearing their bodices, all kinds of things. Pouches
and belts and bags and mugs and things like that, but I noticed a big lack
of stuff for the women. And I thought, 'Well, I wonder if I can make
What do you like about the fairs?
"Lot of ways to play dress-up and make
believe, to some degree, that you just don't get to do in real life. ... I
just feel a lot of kindred spirits there."
You said you have a fair persona.
"I have actually two, which is kind of rare.
Most people seem to have, like, seven or 10, which drives me batty because
sometimes you can't, 'Which one are you today?' My most prominent
character right now, which is actually sought out on occasion, I guess, so
I'm told anyway, is the Pirate Black Roger."
What's he like?
"A fine lad he be. ... He's commonly
described as the lovable drunken scoundrel. ... He's actually one of the
pirate lords of the Great Lakes."
So is your work actually play?
"There's nothing more gratifying, I think,
than to see one of these things (warrior princess outfits) walking away
from me. ... She dropped a big coin on it, but she's just so happy and
look at the fun she's going to have and the guys bowing down in the
streets — it's happened."
Elizabeth Huff can be reached at 966-0684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.