In a small leather workshop in Belfast, Jason Karayiannis began simply with a goal to create long-lasting products amid an increasingly throwaway culture. The driving force behind his company, Father’s Father, Jason specialises in creating leather goods that represent quality and utility in the very purest sense.
Crafts depend on traditional skills being passed from person to person and Jason’s love affair with leather dates back at least three generations. Both his great-grandfathers were craftsmen - one a cobbler and the other a tanner - which is how Jason decided on the brand name ‘Father’s Father’.
Jason grew up listening to his father’s stories about his heritage and was inspired at a young age to take pride in products and the stories behind their creation. Perhaps that’s what drove the digital designer towards his day job. “I believe that brands connect with consumers on an emotional level through stories,” Jason says. “My day job is about creating digital experiences, but I love making things people physically interact with in my spare time.”
As much as Jason loves his 9-5, craft is in his DNA. He first began experimenting with leather when he was looking for a laptop sleeve some years ago and found it impossible to locate something that wasn’t mass produced and impersonal. At this stage, he did what any self-respecting tanner’s grandson would do and bought a full hide of leather to create his own.
It wasn’t long before Jason began to consider how he could push himself creatively. “There’s something unique about leather that I adore,” explains Jason. “It’s such a durable material and if made correctly, can be passed down from one generation to the next. And because it ages naturally, each piece tells its own wonderful story of the road it has travelled.”
"Find inspiration from unexpected places, experiment, try, fail and have fun doing it."
Jason’s 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.”
However, despite artisan becoming increasingly popular, Jason is still faced with industrial challenges. “It’s becoming harder and harder to source the materials, hardware and tools locally and that saddens me greatly,” explains Jason. “Once these skills disappear, it is going to be nigh-on-impossible to get them back, so it’s important to me to channel my creativity and heritage into keeping the craft alive.”
As people become more discerning and an appetite for buying less and buying better increases, Jason hopes local manufacturing will witness a revival. “We need to keep buying local. Working with leather allows me to create products that will last a generation, keeping locally produced materials and skills alive, and I hope more people buy into this mindset.”
To those interested in following in Jason’s footsteps and forging an artisan path of their own, Jason advises, “Find inspiration from unexpected places, experiment, try, fail and have fun doing it.”