Business

Belfast leatherworker Jason is keeping alive the family craft

Belfast leatherworker, Jason Karayiannis of Father's Father, pictured in his workshop
Gareth McKeown

A BELFAST-based leatherworker is taking inspiration from generations of family expertise to keep their legacy alive.

Jason Karayiannis is the founder of Father's Father, a small Belfast company, which makes a range of leather items such as travel wallets, card holders and belts

A design consultant by day, Jason has taken on the family business of leather crafting, which can be traced back at least four generations.

"Looking back, my childhood was filled with things made for me. My first school bag was a beautiful leather satchel made by my uncle," he told The Irish News.

"I grew up hearing a story my father would tell. When he was in his early twenties he went backpacking around his parents' home island (Samos, Greece), and whilst walking around one of the villages an old man stopped him and called him by name. Confused, my father asked him whether he knew him or not and the old guy pointed down to his shoes and stated that my great grandfather had made the shoes for him many many years before and they were still the best shoes he owned.

"It's the beauty of that story that really inspired me to start the brand, the history, the craft. That when made correctly, a simple leather product can last a lifetime. It's that heritage I wanted to honour. I want the goods I craft to be a legacy that will one day tell their own stories."

As much as Jason loves his 9-5, leather craft is in his DNA and his small workshop is his sanctuary, filled with machinery, tools and his beloved industrial sewing machine.

“During the day I create digital products, pushing what's possible. I take that same mentality working on leather, new techniques and processes."

"My workshop has taken several forms over the past few years, from the spare room in our first house to a 2,000 sq ft warehouse to fulfil several bigger orders. I've scaled down again to something a bit more manageable.

"We have grown rapidly and shrunk back down. We are at a happy medium right now, not too big - not too small. Frequently articles get shared on popular fashion / accessories sites and we get these amazing sales boosts from customers in New York to Japan," he said.

Looking ahead and Jason hopes that his "passion project" will continue to keep an age-old family craft alive and inspire a revival in local manufacturing.

"Father's Father is my passion project, my creative outlet, something I care hugely for and enjoy thoroughly. It's about keeping that sustainable, keeping that alive both as a business and a side project but also as a spark - the drive to keep going. I want to / need to make things, some of those will make their way online and hopefully people will enjoy using them as much as me. The future right now is about the long game, enjoying the journey, if people want to come along for the ride - I would love that."

:: This month Jason has been collaborating with Bushmills Irish Whiskey to share his story as part of the #BlackBushStories event series. ‘Black Bush and Leatherwork' took place last night in Belfast's Blaklist, with a leatherwork and whiskey masterclass provided for 50 guests. In collaboration with Bushmills, Jason has created a limited edition ‘Bushmills leather hip flask made from a single piece of full grain vegetable tanned leather. Ten of the limited edition hip flasks are available to win via blackbushstories.com , with the closing date for entries today, August 31.

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