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While the use of leather can be traced back to the Stone Age, it’s a material that’s considered by many to be completely timeless. Because leather goods are typically of the highest quality, it’s also a fairly lucrative industry, generating more than $53 billion every year. And after haggling over a fine leather handbag, one Alabama photographer decided she wanted a piece of the pie — or rather, biscuit.
Becky Stayner was working as a professional food photographer when she first entertained the idea of getting into the leather goods business. She struck up conversation — and later, a deal — with a leather worker after being captivated by a bag in a store. Stayner agreed to snap a portrait of the shop owner’s daughter in exchange for leather working lessons.
Stayner started simply at first with a two-handled bucket bag. “I started practicing in the evenings and on weekends, learning how to work with leather,” she says, “and the Biscuit Leather Company just grew organically from there.”
She uses vegetable-tanned and -dyed leathers for her bags, belts, clutches, and other leather accessories. She notes that “the tanned materials have a natural beauty and foundation, and many are honey-colored like a biscuit — which is where the company’s name comes from.” After the materials are cut and stitched, they’re rubbed with a secret wax that makes her bags look just like freshly risen and buttered baked goods.
Stayner’s love of food and photography expertise translates well into her latest endeavor; her artistic eye and hands-on abilities have both been paramount to her success. While her bags are on the more expensive end for accessories — the price range for her line is $300 to $500 a bag — she’s still managed to carve out a name for herself in the leather industry.
But Stayner’s continuously looking for new ways to help other artists and small business owners, too. She highlights the importance of crafting and creating here at home, both figuratively and literally.
“With the exodus of textile workers to foreign countries, there are fewer men and women who have the proper skills required to sew by hand.” Stayner is sharing both her sewing and business startup know-how through a nonprofit organization she helped to devise, called the BLC Workshop. The BLC Workshop helps to inform others on how to start a home-based business of their own.
Stayner hopes to assist others in business formation and honing leather working skills for the foreseeable future. She says, “I hope to teach more people the craft and I want to do this a long time — because I think age makes people, like leather bags, better.”
One thing’s for sure: a high-quality leather bag, much like that perfect biscuit, takes time, experience, and special care to get just right. And those who love them will argue that when you find a good one, it’s worth the wait.