Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Leatherworker keeps traditions alive

 

Star photo by Stephanie Thompson

Simone Keevert demonstrates how to put a braid wrap into hair. This is just one of many items she makes out of leather.

Sometimes finding out about one's past can lead to a hobby they never thought about before.

For Green River resident Simone Keevert, this is a reality.

Keevert was adopted as a child and she searched for her birth parents for years. Eventually, she found her brother and discovered she was part of a Native American tribe. After more research, Keevert found out she was a part of the Delaware Cherokee tribe out of Toronto, Canada.

"I thought 'wow what a rich culture,"' Keevert said.

Keevert learned even more about her cultural background when she was working as a DJ at a radio station. There she met the station's board operator Chief Yonv Edwards, a member of the Unified Free Cherokee Nation. He told her about a band of the Unified Cherokee Nation she could join. Tribes are broken into bands, Keevert explained.

It is through this connection that Keevert started to learn the art of leatherwork. The first piece Keevert made was a hand bag for a lady in Australia. It was quite the process.

"I want it to be exactly what they want," Keevert said. "I work closely with the customer."

Keevert asks the customer what kind of leather they want, what kind of snaps or closures they would like, how big the piece should be, if they want fringe or beadwork added to the product.

Keevert orders various animal hides in any color the customer wants.

"I take a piece of leather and make it what you want," she said.

Once the hide arrives, Keevert makes sure to perform a giving-thanks ceremony for the animal that provided the hide for her leather work.

"You have to give great respect to the animal that gave their life for it," she said. "If I get in a hurry and forget to do that, I fight for the whole project."

Following the tradition Keevert learned how to do is also important to her.

"I could use a sewing machine and punch out a bunch of them," she said.

However, that would not be following the traditions of her ancestors. 

"I'm in it to keep the traditions alive," she said.

Once Keevert has cut the leather into the shape and size she needs, she sets to work pounding holes into the leather. 

The holes are where Keevert will hand sew the pieces of the project together. Even the thread, or in this case leather string, used to sew is made by hand. Keevert spends a lot of time cutting strips of elk hide to make the sewing string.

"It takes a long time to make a piece," she said. 

Her latest piece of leatherwork was a riffle scabbard, which took eight months to complete. Keevert had to order about 25-square feet of leather to complete this project. She folded the leather in half, cut the sewing string for it and left enough leather to create a fringe. She also completed a braid around the entire scabbard.

The only time Keevert will use a sewing machine on her projects is when she needs to reinforce the stress points. A stress point is where the material will come under additional pressure, for a handbag it would be where the straps meet the leather.

Keevert enjoys the leatherwork for various reasons. For her it is often therapeutic. She can hand stitch the stress away.

At first Keevert sold her pieces at Bittercreek Trading, but when they went out of business, she created the website http://www.walkingcroworiginals.com. On this site, visitors will see her first handbag and her other creations.

She was proud to say, not only has she sold her leatherwork locally and in the United States, but around the world as well.

Those who would like to have one of Keevert's one-of-a-kind pieces will have to wait at least one and a half years. That's how far out she is booked. 

The leather Keevert doesn't use, doesn't go to waste.

"I donate a lot of leather to schools. I cut it out, punch holes in it and send thread," she said. 

The schools then take the leather kits she sends and use it to make different projects.

 

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