Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Motorcycle Accident Introduces Chef to Leather-Making

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Made in St. Louis: Motorcycle Accident Introduces Chef to Leather-Making

Article excerpt

Chris Lee hadn't done any leatherwork since he was a kid when he took up the trade in 2016 after a life-changing motorcycle accident. "My only experience was lacing together one of those pre-cut fold-over coin purses at Boy Scout camp in the 1970s," he says. "That's it. When I was in the hospital, a friend of mine, a Renaissance man, also a rider, who works at Harley-Davidson, came to visit. He asked me if I saved my chaps. I had. Without the protection of those chaps, I would have lost my life. My friend made me a knife sheath from the leather. He preserved a part of my life. He led me to a new path."

The visit, and his friend's gift, inspired Lee, who had been a premier chef in St. Louis, to pick up leather tools. His business, Salt + Light Custom Leatherwork, turned loss into purpose and hardship into opportunity. The name, from Matthew 5:13-14, inspired his meaningful tagline: "Be the salt to preserve + the light to shine."

A new reality * Lee and his friend Thomas Trostel were driving motorcycles on Highway 141 early in November 2016 when a driver in a Toyota Camry crossed over the line and hit them. Trostel didn't survive. Lee's injuries included a cracked sternum and a collapsed lung. His elbow shattered, his clavicle broke at the shoulder, and he fractured his tibial plateau in four places near the knee. "When I came home from the hospital and after one month in rehab, I didn't have enough arm strength to cut two potatoes, but I needed to occupy my head and my hands. I was trapped in my body. Leatherwork helped me keep my head about me," he says.

Learning and connections * Although he'd had no leatherwork training, Lee drew on his life experiences, friends and YouTube to learn the trade. "As a kid, I loved and studied exploded views of objects, so making patterns made sense to me. It's something I instinctively knew how to do," he says. "The first thing I made was a journal cover, then a passport holder, a collar for Brutus, a belt and wallets I enjoy making wallets. These pieces were hand-tooled. Everything is hand-stitched. I watched YouTube videos and just kept making things. ... Industry (restaurant) friends, motorcycle friends they all visited me so many people. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.