Interview 1: Isaac Paul of Pigeon Tree Crafting

by | March 23, 2020 | Interviews, Makers

This is a truly exciting first for me and for The Arcuate. When you are new and nobody really knows who you are as a writer, it’s fairly difficult to get taken seriously enough when asking for an interview to actually secure one. Maybe this came about because I am a patron of Pigeon Tree Crafting or maybe it is because Isaac Paul truly cares about the people and community that supports him. I’d stake my little established reputation on the latter. Isaac has been kind and engaging with me from the time I was a newbie customer, just trying to find a high quality belt to match my (then) tiny collection of raw selvedge, to the truly addicted denimhead I’ve become.

For me, Isaac’s style is one I aspire to. He throws off a vibe that is akin to Ryan Gossling’s look in Drive (2011), just without the shiny polyester scorpion jacket. I still don’t know if I love or hate that jacket. Any way. Isaac’s own style preferences are reflected in the leather goods he makes, which are to say, at the very least, stunning.

With a a nice mix of leathers from revered tanneries and a truly awesome buckle/closure device, the belts alone are worth the visit to Isaac’s website, though his wares are not limited simply to belts. Spend a few minutes perusing his online store and you will find a wide range of wallets, leather accessories and even goods for your pooch. A review of my Pigeon Tree Crafting goods will follow this interview, but suffice it to say, I am a big fan.

I caught up with Isaac (two A’s y’all) and he agreed to participate in our 15 in 15 interview. The format is simple, 15 questions that can be answered/read in 15 minutes or less, including some wild card questions. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed getting to know the man behind Pigeon Tree Crafting, Isaac Paul, a little bit better.

Isaac Paul of Pigeon Tree Crafting
Isaac Paul of Pigeon Tree Crafting

The Arcuate: Hey Isaac, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and being our first interview here at The Arcuate. I know there is a little information about Pigeon Tree Crafting on your website, but could you tell me three little known facts about you and PTC?

Isaac Paul: I think one of the most interesting tidbits would be that Pigeon Tree Crafting started out in 2011 as an independent production company. I used to work in film and I wanted a brand to create my own content under. I created several short films and music videos.

I am completely self-taught with no background in leatherworking. I’ve always been creative and if I am at all able to, prefer to do things myself, so it came pretty easily.

And finally, I used to have fleeting day dreams about working in the clothing industry, but quickly dismissed those thoughts as I had no interest in working retail, and had no background in clothing design.

TA: How did leathercraft become part of your life and why did it make such a big impact on you? What was your first venture into the art?

IP: I had recently quit my day job in the film industry to try and create my own content streaming platform; after a year of being unemployed, I started playing around with leather to make some money on the side until what I thought would be the next step in my career took off. Little did I know that the side hustle would very quickly turn into my career.

Pigeon Tree Crafting glasses case, card wallet and mid-wallet bifold
Pigeon Tree Crafting glasses case, card wallet and mid-wallet bifold

TA: Is Pigeon Tree your full-time gig or do you have other side hustles, if so, what is your day job?

IP: I am very proud to say that Pigeon Tree is my full-time gig. I work every day, whether I am in the shop, responding to e-mails or putting time in on social media.

TA: That’s pretty incredible to be able to take what is essentially a hobby and make it your career. Is there anything that helped drive the transition from leathercraft as a hobby to leathercraft as a career?

IP: I’ve always felt that we create our own reality. As I was venturing into the world of leathercraft and realized people were loving my work, I too realized that I loved my work. It was an easy decision to go full-steam ahead with Pigeon Tree Crafting.

TA: As a customer of yours, I know firsthand how special each of your leather pieces are. However, what do you think truly makes each item you make so unique?

IP: First off, thank you!!! The strongest motivator behind my work is creating products that I love. I don’t care what’s trending at any given moment, I’ve always kind of moved to the beat of my own drum. I think people can see that.

TA: Speaking of unique, let’s talk about your quick-release buckle on your leather belts. What a thing of beauty! How did it come to pass/what inspired you wanted to use a closure device like that and how was it designed?

IP: So the quick release buckle has actually existed for around two hundred years. It was originally used by firefighters to use to buckle the firehose. I lay no claim in creating the mechanism; I just appreciate it immensely. The quick release buckle is as much a part of my brand as my work with indigo is, and I put a lot of time into thinking about how I can make it more my own, rather than just using a buckle that others can use all the same. It was with that thought that the inspiration struck to create the double prong quick release buckle, which I am proud to say I’ve procured the US Patent on!

TA: You also have a wide variety of leather from tanneries in widespread regions, which I think is pretty special. Why do you work with these specific tanneries and which is your favorite leather to work with?

IP: I like to create products with a similar mindset of how I like to cook. I like to use simple, but amazing ingredients, so that the core elements of the dish can really be appreciated for what they are. Using quality hardware and quality unique leathers is of the utmost importance to me. Currently, Tärnsjö is my favorite leather to work with; it’s just such a pleasure to look at and to handle! I had to travel to Sweden to create a contact to help me import this beautiful leather.

Belts, Belts Belts, Pigeon Tree Crafting offers a variety of leathers and hardware finishes
Belts, Belts Belts, Pigeon Tree Crafting offers a variety of leathers and hardware finishes!

TA: I am very much looking forward to receiving my own Tärnsjö belt from you when it is completed and providing a full review of my Pigeon Tree Crafting Collection afterwards. You also have a handful of indigo dyed pieces you make, where does that connection come from and what is it like to work with leather and indigo to make products like yours?

IP: Indigo was something that I had a fascination with due to my interest in raw denim and workwear. I always wanted to experiment with it, so when I started working in leather, it was a no brainer. It has taken many, many hours of experimentation to get indigo and leather to behave in the way that I want it to.

TA: What is next for Pigeon Tree Crafting; do you have new products, collaborations or design ideas?

IP: I’m currently so backed up from holiday orders and a coinciding cross-country move that I am really just focused on playing catch-up so that my graciously patient customers can all get their orders! After that, I would like to get into more designing and collaborations; I’ve really enjoyed creating boots with Santalum and would love to do more work like that.

TA: You’re really active within the Raw/Selvedge community, do you feel that there is a strong connection between that world and handcrafted leather goods and why do you think that is?

IP: Yes, I am, and yes, I absolutely do! I don’t think Pigeon Tree Crafting would have ever come to be if it weren’t for the raw denim community. Raw denim is only a very small part of my fashion interest. Jeans are great, but they aren’t stereotypically the piece of clothing that catch the eyes of others. To me, that honor would belong to shirts, jackets, boots and accessories. You can easily get away with wearing one pair of jeans for a month and no one would notice, but you can’t do that with a jacket or shirt for example.

TA: Would you consider yourself a denimhead?

IP: I’ve pretty much worn nothing but jeans my entire life, so I believe I was born a denimhead.

TA: What was your first pair of raw/selvedge and do you still have them?

IP: Rising Sun Jean Co. Straight Razors! Yes, I do still have them; they look awesome! Coffee stains, tattoo ink, tears and fades galore.

TA: What’s the longest you’ve gone without washing a pair of jeans and how abused did your friends and family have to make you feel before you caved?

IP: I had plans to wear my first pair of raw denim for 6 months minimum, but unfortunately I spilled coffee on them after just a couple wears. Since then, I never put too much care into the whole waterless ideology of raw denim. I tend to wash most of my jeans every few months, with the longest bout being maybe 6 months, but I rotate heavily between pairs now, so none of my jeans really end up being very dirty.

TA: What is the most embarrassing song on your phone right now, but still listen to?

IP: Haha! Let’s just say that I don’t have any music that I would feel compelled to roll my car window up while listening to it. Music is as much my identity as my clothing style is, I say embrace your looks, in all their colors.

TA: That’s a bit of a question dodge, Mr. Paul, but we will allow it as we tend to agree. There are no guilty pleasures. You like something or you don’t. OK, finally, we like to end with a bit of a game called “Two truths and a lie,” where our interviewees give us three possible facts about themselves but one is a lie. Don’t tell us which are true, and which is a lie. We will guess and follow up a week after we post!

Isaac Paul:

  • I’m 6’2.
  • I’ve bowled a perfect game.
  • Jon Voight (Actor) is my Godfather.

TA: Wow, Isaac! Coming out the gates with what feels like it could be a fantastic lie, but I’m going to make the controversial bet and say Jon Voight is your Godfather and that you are in fact 6’2″. No perfect game for you? We will post the answer at the end of the week! Thank you so much for your time and, readers, if you are still with us, please be sure to check out Pigeon Tree Crafting on Facebook and at their online store!

About the Author

Grant Schildhouse

Grant Schildhouse

Grant, our Editor in Chief, is a denim enthusiast and writer; The Arcuate is his attempt to combine these loves in one place. He wants to tell some of the stories behind those who make and wear denim with a passion. His journey into the world of denim continues, and he hopes you'll co-journey with him, allowing him to be your fireside storyteller.