I am Joey Dello Russo, owner and master craftsman at Imperial Leather Works in Burleson, Texas. I make one-of-a-kind leather goods by sourcing the highest quality materials to create custom leather products that will last a lifetime. I have a degree in art and have always considered myself a craftsman/artist dabbling in many other mediums before finding my passion and love for all things leather. I live in Burleson, Texas with my wife, one-year old daughter and three dogs.
I began working with leather in September of 2017. I had gone to the Texas Trophy Hunter’s Show in Fort Worth and bought a few custom knives. I was in need of some nice sheaths for the blades and I started contacting local leather makers for quotes. I soon realized to truly get what I was looking for I would need to make them myself. After a trip to the local supplier and a few hundred dollars later I was on my way. I found myself watching hours of online videos to learn different techniques practicing on scraps I had on hand.
Like most beginners, I did everything by hand including pattern making, cutting leather and saddle stitching. I wanted to learn the great old school methods of leather working. Right before my daughter was born, I decided to make a hospital travel bag for my wife as a gift. I wanted it to be something she could keep forever. After finishing my wife’s bag, I decided to make one for myself. All the hand stitching on those two bags combined with the amount of custom orders I was receiving had me entertaining the idea of purchasing a sewing machine. I quickly discovered the learning curve on a sewing machine is steep and very unforgiving, so on a lot of my small custom items I still do everything by hand.
When it comes to naming most of my signature items, I draw inspiration from the people they were made/designed for. For example, the “William” Satchel was designed for and named after my Grandfather. He has always been a huge part of my life and I try to follow his example every day. He carried around a lot of items like medication, glasses, a Kindle, etc. and used an old beat up fanny pack for as long as I can remember. The bag I designed for him was tailored to fit all his personal items and be a cross body style with easy access to various compartments. The most difficult part of the process was creating a crossbody bag for a man that didn’t look like a purse. He has carried his custom bag for over a year now and the natural leather accents are getting such a nice patina.
For most of my tooled products I use Wickett & Craig natural vegetable tanned leather. For bags and travel cases, I use Acadia Leather out of Maine and Horween Leather out of Chicago depending on the customer’s request. Maker’s Leather Supply has been a huge help with my Cobra Sewing Machines, and I buy a lot of my leather and supplies through them as well. There are some exciting and new things in store for 2020 and I look forward to continuing to learn and fine tune my craft. It has been an amazing journey so far!
You can checkout my work at www.ImperialLeatherWorks.com, on Instagram @ImperialLeatherWorks and Facebook @ImperialLeatherWork and of course we are a member of the Shokunin Collaborative.