Go Westward Leather Company Young Men

by Gil Melott SOURCE hombres MRKT
Photo Credit: Westward Leather Company

Ben Fife | Spokane, Washington | founder Westward Leather Company | is a really chill dude. He creates timeless hand-made leather designs that have a soul.

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Ben is a modern day master craftsman, with a reverence for the past and a killer instinct for the next. Oh, and he's just as home on a motorcycle as he is in his workshop at Westward Leather Company.

When was the last time you were totally in the zone?
I was born in the zone...Ha!  To be honest, the easy answer would be the last time I was playing pool with some buddies on our way through Canada, because activities like that, when you "can’t miss" so to speak - kind of define that phrase.

But “the zone” for me is more often something different.  Like when I came home from work the other night after bartending; it was about 1:30 in the morning and I went into my shop to wind down.  I plugged in the self-titled track on Maggot Brain, melted back into my chair, and Boom!  It felt like I was tapped into some current running through the veins of the earth as I was being tuned in to something much bigger than myself.  This is a place, or “zone”, that I find myself often, sometimes more honest and clear than others.  Often it’s music as the vehicle for me...music and nature.  Whether I’m zoned in or zoned out, I couldn’t say.  But it feels like a gift, so I’m thankful for those moments. 

Give me five nouns that follow your name.
man, earth, soul, hands, music
*It’s the adjectives I’m worried about.

What did you do before starting your biz?
Oh, man, so many things.  These last few years though it was a Bear Guide in Alaska, a historic property in Hawaii, and a fly-fishing/duck hunting lodge in the Bahamas.  I’m fortunate because I am married to an amazing woman who is a fellow adventurer - who was as much an instigator of this lifestyle as I was.  We can’t afford to just travel, but working while traveling allowed us some amazing opportunities, and wild experiences.

Why handmade leather goods?
I’ve always loved working with my hands.  It’s the most grounded.  And though I’m not opposed to using machines, I think handmade is usually the most enduring.  For myself, I am much more confident in guaranteeing a solely handmade product, because I have had a relationship with every aspect of the the process, from design to construction.  And, I like how this process ties us back to centuries of craftsmen and women that have come before us.  That’s where “Westward” name is rooted.

I'm interested to learn more about the barn you built with your Dad.
My parents have worked hard their whole life, and are some of the most talented and creative people I know. They’ve always wanted to live out in the country, but things never panned out that way.  My old man has been doing all things carpentry as long as I can remember.  After I was done with school, I built custom homes for awhile, so when the chance came to help build this incredible barn/workshop, I was stoked. I felt like I had skills to offer as a grown man that had matured from all the knowledge my dad had bestowed on me when I was young.  I was able to give something tangible back to my parents for a change. 

The most amazing thing though, was working alongside my father, building his design, which I knew would give him a space where his gifts as a craftsman could flourish.  He’s the man.

If you could travel anywhere in the US, where would you go?  Preferred method of travel?
Damn it, this is a tough one, there is so much I haven’t seen!  I’d say the Appalachian Trail, the whole thing, on foot.  John Muir knew what he was doing in regard to traveling from point A to point B.  But Canoe, Train, Airstream, Motorcycle…those are all creepin’ for the top spot to somewhere.

The perfect day starts with…
A sunrise.

Why do you work hard?
Compared to so many old timers, I feel like I would be counted a lazy man.  I think we were designed to work hard though, and it feels good to work hard.  The hands are an amazing thing, just look at them!  To see the fruits of your labor at the end of the day is one of the most rewarding moments a person can count on. 

With that in mind, I’m a huge proponent of trade work.  Restoring and passing that mentality down to the next generation is good motivation to work hard.