This is the sixth in a series of interviews with people who have a keen interest in menswear, style, design, or generally cool stuff. Most of these people are doing something of great note that you should absolutely take a look at.
Somehow I managed to catch Teppei Teranishi of Truman Handcrafted and (rock group) Thrice fame when he wasn’t on the road, at a venue, or knee deep in some other variety of project. I didn’t want to pester the guy too much because he’s very busy and frankly, his work speaks for itself; extremely high-quality American-made products that are styled well and are unbelievably clean in their design. That being said this is the shortest interview done for the Inquiries & Responses series as well as the only unedited one to date.
Truman Handcrafted has this look about it and I can’t quite put my finger on it without becoming repetitive but the cleanliness of the designs really stand out to me. Nothing flashy and no ridiculous branding being shown off. The current lineup of goods includes a tote bag, iPad/laptop portfolios, an iPhone case, a variety of wallets and bracelets, and probably most impressive to me is the gorgeous journal cover. Additionally, by clicking to see the full article below you’ll get a little look at a briefcase prototype from Truman (the 1st photo). Everything’s handmade by Teppei in his home on Vashon Island, WA. where he gave us a little photo tour and answered a couple of questions. Click below to read the full interview and view the photos.
I wanted to note that Teppei has changed the name of his company to Teranishi Handcrafted. You can find his products online under that name henceforth.
AC: What got you into leather working, when did you start, and what is your favorite piece to make?
TT: I’ve always been into arts/crafts — working with my hands, making things, taking things apart, painting, drawing, etc.  I started experimenting with my wife’s sewing machine a few years ago making little things like bags and whatnot.  I actually got as far as making a button up shirt and a hunting (style) vest.  But anyway, I play in a band and am on the road half the year and during the downtime, I’ve always found crafty things to keep me occupied.  I picked up knitting and crocheting years and years ago as something to do to pass the time in the van and I’ve even tried bringing my sewing machine out with me.  Leathercrafting always seemed like a good option for the road and I found a Tandy near one of the venues and came back to the bus with a plastic bag full of tools and an armful of leather.  That was maybe 2+ years ago?  My perspective on time is horrible.  I also found that it fulfills my interest in product design as well, which honestly is half the fun for me.
As for favorite pieces, I’m not sure that I have a favorite to make but I can tell you my least favorite to make — my 7 Pocket Bifold is a pain in the ass.  I figured out a way to construct it so that the edges are just two layers all the way around but it makes things a lot harder.  I also hand skive all the pieces to minimize thickness in some bulky spots.  It’s just a lot of work.
AC: For hand stitching, you do an excellent job of maintaining uniformity throughout each piece. If you could, talk a little bit about the learning curve and what it took to get to how you’re doing this now.
TT: Wow, thanks man!  I’m really glad you picked up on that as that’s definitely something I’ve put a ton of effort into.  The learning curve was definitely steep and I’m still learning every day.  The first piece I made (a simple bifold) was a complete train wreck.  I might as well have made it blind-folded.  I think I’ve tried every tool/stitching technique and every combination thereof to find what I feel is the strongest and best looking stitch.  I’m still always experimenting and trying new things though. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist so I’m always looking for ways to improve.  Leather can be tough too because every leather reacts differently to different thread, awls, or even stitching technique.  There’s always a learning curve when you introduce a new leather.
AC: Where did the name Truman Handcrafted come from?
TT: I thought it had a good ring to it, but I also really like the connotation of true-man.  As a husband and a father of two boys, it’s something that’s very very important to me — to step up to the plate and be the best husband for my wife and the best father for my boys, and to model for them what it means to be a true man.  There’s some big shoes to fill there and it’s been just one huge learning process for me.  I’m sure it’s a life-long process and I’m definitely in it to win it!
AC: Why Vashon Island? I know that Thrice started in Southern California so what brought you to the Northwest? Talk a little bit about the island if you would.
TT: I’ve always loved the Pacific Northwest.  It’s so beautiful and lush.  So much green everywhere and the nature to development ratio is so much lower compared to Southern California where I moved from.  I’ve been around the entire country and back more times than I can remember and Seattle’s always been one of my favorite cities.  For some reason, I’d known about Vashon for several years now and was always fascinated by the idea of moving to a rural island.  My wife and I visited a couple times and fell in love with it.  It’s got a really unique dichotomy of rural and urban because Seattle is literally a 15 minute ferry ride away.  Most people either commute into the city or work from home so there’s a ton of artists, musicians, writers, craftspeople, etc.  Lots of creative people.  The lifestyle definitely leans to rural though and as a city boy, I’ve had a ton of learning to do.  Being outdoors is just a part of life here and people really live off the land.  It’s not uncommon for us to have over 50% of what’s on our plate to have come from either me catching it or it growing in our backyard.  I really love that.  I did the math the other day and the population density is less than 1% of the city of Orange, where I moved from.  That’s nuts.  I think for that reason, it’s an amazing family place and there’s a lot of young families here.  My wife, kids and I are all loving it.
You can find Truman Handcrafted products at their website by clicking here.
You can read the fourth interview in this series with Otis James, tie maker by clicking here.
You can read the third interview in this series with Jason Aweau of ‘Anchor Division’ by clicking here.
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