Weiser Manzano - CRAFTSMANZANO

Weiser Manzano is a transportation coordinator by day and leather craftsman by night. Based in San Francisco, Weiser’s interest in leather began with his collection of high quality leather wallets, was piqued with the question, “I wonder if I can make this” and grew with a desire to create a wallet 100% by hand. Through Weiser’s design work, high quality leather, and music and caffeine/alcohol, CRAFTSMANZANO wallets have a minimal design aesthetic and high style. Made to be worn in front pockets, the wallets’ streamline look is made with leather that ages and patinas uniquely with you. Weiser has recently launched the CRAFTSMANZANO website, with ready made wallets coming soon!

Website and social media

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What is your occupation?
In my 9-5 life I'm a Transportation Coordinator for San Francisco's largest employer where I help run their commuter programs (shuttle buses, bicycles, parking, etc.). The work I do falls under the umbrella of Transportation Demand Management (TDM). Yup, you probably don't know what that is and I don't blame you. My elevator speech for my TDM work is that I encourage commuters to do anything but drive alone to work so that traffic doesn't suck and the environment suffers less-- I'm a big advocate of sustainable transportation so this work gives me an outlet for that.

In my 5-9 life I am the 1-man shop behind CRAFTSMANZANO. I never really gave myself a title but my business card says, "Master Craftsman" so we can stick with that for now. CRAFTSMANZANO is a brand I made to house my handmade leatherwork. I mentioned my TDM job because I want the folks reading this to know that CRAFTSMANZANO isn't my full-time gig!

How did you create your career path? How did you get in to leather work?
My career in leatherwork hasn't been that long. Before getting into leather work, I was a big fan of high quality leather wallets. I've got a drawer filled with wallets I've collected from other awesome makers and crafters over the years. During a trip to Portland I visited a leather goods shop and I picked up one of their wallets. This wallet had me so stoked! I got back to our hotel room and was stuffing it with cards trying to break it in right away (which is ridiculous because the only thing that can break in a leather good is time). When we got back to the Bay I was admiring the wallet and thought, "I wonder if I can make this." I was overwhelmed at the thought of making a leather wallet because I didn't know how to use a sewing machine (I still don't). Not wanting to use a sewing machine, I googled if it was possible to hand-stitch a wallet and learned that it was! Learning that I could make a wallet 100% by hand, I went all in and took a few workshops to learn the basics. After that, I ordered a hide of leather from Wicket & Craig and did absolutely nothing with it for months.

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Fast forward to the months leading up to the 2017 holiday season, I finally gave myself a goal to make leather goods for family and friends as gifts. I captured my work on social media so I could see my progress over time. Folks I knew started following me and asking me if they could buy what I was making! Next thing you know, I had a queue of orders and local holiday fairs to make inventory for. 

What inspires you? What influences your designs?
My inspiration comes from other makers and crafters in the handmade leather game. There are lots of makers and crafters out there that I pull bits and pieces from to make it my own. I like to design pieces that I would buy... because why make it if I wouldn't buy it in a store myself?

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Why did you choose leather as your medium of design? What are your favorite aspects about working with leather?
I choose to work with leather because it tells a story of how the owner decides to carry it. I compare it to raw denim. When you've got a pair of raw denim, you earn those knee fades, honey combs, and whiskers by using it everyday--same with leather. When a leather good is used and carried often, it develops a patina. With leather, patina is when high quality leather starts to darken and shimmer with use. It happens when your leather is exposed to the sun, dirt, sweat, and the oils on your skin. It's kinda yucky if you think about it... but beautiful at the same time.

What is your design aesthetic?
I'm a gear junky because of the Everyday Carry (EDC) world. My style of EDC leans towards the minimal side. So when you see my wallets, you'll notice that I make a lot of simple front-pocket carry wallets. That said though, my wallets look simple but the techniques I use to get to a finished product are top notch and yields quality that will last you a lifetime. Side note, folks should start carrying in their front-pocket. It's safer on City streets and healthier for your back. 

What are some of the favorite designs you've created?
My favorite design has got to be my CATHEDRAL wallet. The CATHEDRAL was my first original design. The look of it was heavily influenced by my horrible hand stitching technique.  I was like, "how can I design a wallet with as little stitching as possible?" My stitching is pretty good now, but it really sucked at first. I named this wallet CATHEDRAL because it was the wallet I had in my pocket when I proposed to my wife at Cathedral Park in Portland, OR. 

A close second is the PIKE wallet. The PIKE is my attempt at making a classic 5-pocket wallet that draws inspiration from a leather craftsman in Seattle, WA. Took a lot of attempts to get this one just right.

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How do you get in the creative flow?
Music and caffeine/alcohol. I've got a vintage record player/speaker setup at home to help get those creative juices flowing. Music just sounds more complete and crisp off of vinyl. For day crafting, coffee is a must. Can't go wrong with a solid cappuccino. For night crafting... whiskey, wine, sake, or cider does the trick. 

Do you have any projects, designs, events coming up this year that you are excited about?
My website is finally up! www.craftsmanzano.com. Up until recently, I just had an Instagram and Facebook to showcase my work. In the near future, I'll publish a Products page for folks to purchase already-made goods. For now, ZANOcoven can sign up to my newsletter to find out when my waiting list has openings!

Photos courtesy of Weiser Manzano

Jeannine Roson