Jennifer Parker, a custom leather fantasy and cosplay creator, found her unique place in the industry early on. Originally from the east coast, she moved to Los Angeles before she finally settled in Portland, OR where she has been for the last 12 years now. She uncovered her passion for leatherwork when she decided to do a Ciri cosplay from the Witcher 3. After some time looking at custom leather costume, she became fascinated enough to give it a try on her own. She immediately took to it as learning the new techniques felt instinctual. She has always been an artist so leatherwork was a perfect combination of her talents and interests. Along with her custom costumes, Jennifer has created dog collars, leashes, belts, bags, accessories, journal covers, clothing, ornaments and accessories for musical instruments. For right now, it is a rapidly growing and developing hobby, but she does have plans to further commit to her craft in the future.
How did you learn the craft?
“I am entirely self-taught, watching literally hundreds of YouTube videos, picking up tricks from published materials, social media, and the resourcefulness of the cosplay community. I learned the most from watching videos from master saddle makers. Most of the time, the videos were very old and of poor audio quality. Even though I couldn't always make out the verbal instruction, I learned by watching how they handle and treat the leather… with such care and intuition. It’s a craft learned almost entirely by touch because each piece responds so differently.”
How would you describe your work?
“My work is definitely fantastical when it comes to costume! Otherwise, although I appreciate other styles, I don’t prefer bright colors or pristine surfaces… I prefer antiqued, rugged, worn, and distressed finishes. Except for my edges. Those will always be on point! :)”
What is your favorite type of leather to work with?
“I just recently expanded to working with leathers other than cowhide. Since traditional cow is more common and relatively affordable to practice with, it easy to wind up working with it for a long time because you get to know it really well. I’ve used deer, bison, calf, and lamb. Each one behaves very differently and are unique to certain projects. Deer comes in fantastic colors and makes for versatile costume pieces. Bison has a rugged armored look without carrying the weight of veg tan… and lamb and calf are great for garment work when I need to mix with fabric and create articulating pieces and lots of movement.”
What is your favorite leather tool?
“I think everyone will say knives and awls, which is 100% accurate… but I’m going to call attention to the completely underrated stitching horse. I’ve spent hundreds of hours hand stitching and it has quite literally saved my hands, wrists, and back from utter demise! Since I am a huge fan of The Witcher, I have named mine “Roach,” after Geralt’s horse in the series.”
What sets you apart from other leatherworkers?
“There’s a reason custom leather costuming is very pricey—the materials, labor, and painstaking craftsmanship required is a huge but worthwhile investment. And there are very few individuals who can do it because it is inherently frustrating trying to engineer things that only graphic designers and film costumers understand or have seen. I hope to become part of this elite circle or artisans.”