The first time I met Odin was at a craft fair where my wife and I ran a booth. We would take turns running the booth while the other would go search for other vendors that we liked. Usually, we would spend more than we made but we always felt the common mission: shop small. On one of my walks around the market, I was drawn to Odin’s booth because I have always appreciated hand leather goods. I bought a wallet and struck up a conversation with (I did not know at the time) Odin’s wife. I walked away with the strong sense of community and that I had helped support the makers getting by on craftsmanship. I felt fulfilled by the great conversation with the person selling it.
Photographer Steven Visneau visits Odin Leather Goods in Texas.
Odin and his wife.
About a year after that market I was going through a time in my work where I wanted to focus on projects that made me feel that same satisfying feeling as when I bought the wallet. I wanted to build a portfolio based on creatives working in a craft-based field. The first person I thought to photograph was Odin.
That same person who I would be reminded of every day when I would reach for my wallet with a rich patina that which was now one of my favorite possessions. We arranged for me to come to his workspace, his home garage at the time, with no real direction other than to capture him creating his goods. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a grand smile, strong handshake and open mind to what we were doing that morning. We immediately struck up conversations about our work, running a small business, family, music, and of course our love for hats.
As we shot that morning the conversation never subsided. I was there for almost three hours just shooting, chatting and watching someone who I had just met but seemingly had a world of things in common with. I left our shoot with what become the beginning of a new direction in my work along with a connection to someone who I knew that would remain in my circle of friends. Since then I have run into Odin at markets, bought more of his creations (a belt that I wear every day), introduced him to buyers that have carried his goods, and have admired his progress in his business along the way.
When asked to photograph him again years later for this Stetson Story I jumped at the chance to reunite creatively with the person whose inspiration was behind a lot of my current work. This time we shot in his new workshop that he has moved into just a few streets off a historic town square. As expected upon arrival I was greeted with that same warm smile, a big hug and immediate conversation about work, life, family, his grandfather’s vintage Stetson and running a now growing small business.
We took a moment to recognize how this has all come full circle in our work. His AMAZING wife that I met long ago, also joined us that day as she is now an integral part of this family run trade and we chatted about family, shows we watch (This is Us our fave) and how they are gearing up for their first venture into a brick and mortar shop this Fall.
During our shoot, I was just as enthralled with watching the process from receiving a shipment of leather to the creation of a beautiful handmade product, as I was the first time I had photographed him. I left that day thinking that same thought of how or better yet why our paths had crossed in the first place. Was it working in the same circles of creative field’s, was it our similar love of handmade items, was it music, style, city, etc., I’m sure. Although, I do think that paths cross, blend, and continue on together on some unknown journey making fate, chance, timing an integral part of the equation. No matter the reason, be it pragmatic or sublime, I’m honored to have met, worked with, and become friends with such an esteemed human being. See ya again soon Odin!