Leather worker Tracey Keating will shutter her Coral Bay shop at the end of June and work out of her home studio.
After 17 years of crafting one-of-a-kind leather backpacks, purses, belts, passport covers, pot holders and more out of her little shop in Coral Bay, Tracey Keating is moving Awl Made Here to her home studio.
Keating’s fans, however, should not fear as the artist is not packing away her awl. Keating will still be available for all custom leather needs, will continue to keep her website updated and is excited about expanding her merchandise.
“I had the shop for 17 years and leases were coming up this year,” Keating said. “I asked myself what I would do if I didn’t renew my lease and I thought it would give me a chance to focus on the art side of leather instead of making things to fill the shop.”
“I want to get more into tooling and mask making and the more artistic side of leatherwork,” she said.
Keating first opened Awl Made Here next door to Skinny Legs back in 1994 when the artist and burgeoning leather worker decided it might be fun to turn her passion into a living.
“I was working in a different store here near Skinnys that was closing back in 1994,” said Keating. “I thought it would be fun to have a leather shop here. So I asked Doug Sica about it, but he said they just shook hands with someone else.”
“But he said, ‘what if we throw up some walls right here,” Keating said. “It was even better that way because the shop was small and would be easier for me to keep full.”
Although Keating was no expert in the leather field at the time, she was encouraged by Skinny Legs owners Sica and Moe Chabuz, she explained.
“I had made one bag and a few pouches for friends, but I had some tools and I loved doing it,” said Keating. “Doug and Moe were so encouraging. I was only in my 20s, but they said, ‘Tracey give it a try.’”
After the four walls were erected, Keating took the space and slowly started filling the shelves with wallets and purses and backpacks. With careful study and a dedication to her craft, she quickly became the expert leather worker she is today.
“Back when I opened, I had like one belt and a wallet,” said Keating. “I kept playing with things. I would take old bags and purses apart and get ideas about how to do corners and straps.”
While it took a few years for Keating to become the accomplished leather worker she is today, she was an artist her whole life.
“I was always artistic,” she said. “I always knew I would do something with my hands, I just didn’t know I would be working with leather. I thought I would use a more traditional medium, but I love working with leather.”
Although she will no longer be selling her wares at the Coral Bay store, Keating will supply some stores with her pieces and is looking forward to focusing on custom work.
“My website is going well and I still really love doing the custom work for people,” she said. “I like when someone tells me what they like and together we come up with a design. I love talking to the customer about their vision and what they are looking for and then making something they are psyched about.”
Keating will close Awl Made Here on Friday, June 24, so be sure to stop by before to take advantage of her sale. Starting Tuesday, June 13, all leatherwork at Awl Made Here will be 50 percent off. Keating is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m.
After June 24, just call Keating at 777-5757 (the number in the 2011 St. John Phonebook is wrong, so ignore it) or check out www.awlmadehere.com.