Fusing traditional fiber arts with fashion.
Coye Balok, owner of Kestrel Leather, is a talented, local entrepreneur. Though his chosen medium is leather, he stumbled upon a unique niche when he decided to incorporate Navajo fiber art into his leatherwork.
We caught up with Coye recently to find out more about his business and his fusion of handwoven Navajo textiles and leather.
How long have you been working with leather?
I have been working with leather for about 10 years, full-time for 4. It started as a hobby.
I was working in an unrelated industry at the time. When I decided to transition to a different line of work, I had some extra cash on hand and my wife knew that I had been eyeing a sewing machine for leather working. She encouraged me to invest in a nice one, which sped things up a lot, as well as ramping up the learning curve to a vertical pitch.
What do you enjoy about working with leather?
Leather is different than fabric. It is less forgiving. I have to be more exact with how I work with it and what I do. I like that challenge. Internally, I am competing with myself, trying to get better with each piece produced.
I particularly enjoy working with oil tanned cow leather, because it is soft and supple, but still flexible. It is almost weatherproof. It also has character, with the color changing slightly as it ages. Overall, it is the most durable of the leathers I work with.
What inspired you to open your shop?
Opening a shop was a necessity. I was working in my garage, but as my skills improved, I was getting busier and busier. To be more productive, and focus, I needed a location away from home.
Opening a shop also makes it easier for my customers and friends to find me when they feel like it. It is more convenient for everyone. The shop has been open since 2019 and I have been in my current location at 725 E. Coal Ave. since 2021. The new space is a good fit. Great location at the crux of E. Coal and Route 66, with lots of room to grow. I have no plans to move again.
What are your most popular products?
I make a lot of different accessories, like shaving/toiletry bags, wallets, and purses. However, the most popular products are the women’s tote purses. The men’s wallets are also quite popular. However, I introduced a new tote design in 2021 using small Navajo rugs. Every design is unique, handwoven by our local Navajo weavers. The rugs have a story...character. I try to respect that by stitching the totes together without cutting the rug. They are rapidly eclipsing everything else in terms of popularity and I am honored to help introduce the work of Gallup's fiber arts community to a larger audience.
Coye has a variety of wallets, purses, backpacks, totes, duffel bags & more. Stop by Kestrel Leather at 725. E. Coal Ave. to see his latest creations or check out what he has to offer online at KestrelLeather.com.
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