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Leather and Eye

Jasmine Gil

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When I was 13 years old, I discovered leather-working inside a bag of colorful scraps and a handmade leather vest stitched by my uncle in Mexico. I was in complete awe of that vest. I asked my mom to teach me how to make something with the 30-year-old leather pieces brought over from her home in Guadalajara, and from it we crafted a school bag that I'd carry around for years.

I never stopped leather-working, and it has grown and changed over the years with me. Just as I was influenced by the bold, bright colors of traditional tattoos and the stunning light and brushstrokes of impressionist art, so was my leather-working. And when I discovered other art forms like painting and crochet, those found a place in my leather-working, too.

Leather-working is just as much a reflection of my family. From my mom, I learned the patience and intricacy of sewing and embroidery. My dad, a carpenter, taught me how to build things with strength and durability—things you can bond and grow old with. And my oldest brother, a talented painter and illustrator, provided the example of an artist I could always look up to.

As a first-generation American, leather-working provides a connection to my Mexican heritage. My instinct growing up was to hide my differences, but as I got older, I found inspiration in the vibrant and proud colors of traditional Mexican art that were never afraid to stand out.

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