"It's the little things that smoothes people's roads the most" - Mark Twain
AUBREY - Part 1
26 years old. Leathersmith. Nomad. Born in Arizona, but claim Oregon (unless I’m trying to impress you with my knowledge of cacti or bragging about Sedona.)
I moved to Bend, OR six years ago with no real plans. I just knew that people there were SUPER nice and it didn’t rain as much as other parts of the state, so I packed my life and left AZ. I started working for an awesome brewery, who trusted me without any training or degree to work on their marketing team. I owe so much of who I am to the guys that started this company- they filled me up with the confidence that I could tackle anything regardless of experience.
Meanwhile, I met the love of my life who was bartending for the same company at the time. Z had dreamy blue eyes, the biggest smile, and curly long surfer boy hair…swoon. He also had a way of making you feel like you were life long friends even though you had only briefly met. So obviously we spent months pretending like we were just friends as to not scare the other one off by how much we liked eachother. There are certain moments that flip your life upside down- falling for Z was one of them.
AUBREY - Part 2
Over the next couple of years Z and I built a life together, had a dog together, and climbed mountains together (literal & figurative.) I also took the confidence that I had gathered from my marketing job & tried something completely new- I became a Wilderness EMT, and a worked as a medical assistant for a while. I loved working in healthcare, but overall Z and I realized that we were just missing something. The path we were on didn’t feel right. So we listened to our hearts and decided to travel.
We bought one-way tickets to Bali. To adventure, to heal, and to surf (Z’s favorite thing.) Bali gifted us with all of that & much more. There was sand under our feet & we could feel it in our bones that this was our path.
A month later I was boarding a plane back to the US. Alone.
Z passed away in a surfing accident.
I guess you could argue that maybe we weren’t on the right path if that is where it led. But I don’t agree. He was living exactly the life his heart longed for when his time came. Surfing perfect waves right into heaven.
I don’t write any of this for sympathy. God crafted me with a strong heart & I honestly feel lucky, more than anything, to have been part of Z’s journey.
I write this because one day our time will come, and I really, really hope that we are doing exactly what our hearts longs for.
That’s where Huck Phinn comes in...
HUCK PHINN- Part 3
When I came back to the states I moved in with Z’s parents.
Guys, they are honestly the kindest people in the whole world. Who does that?!?? Even with broken hearts, they still took me in and made me part of the family.
I lived with them for a while and never wanted to leave. But, they did not sign up for an adult roommate. Haha So I asked myself what my next step was and I was reminded of a conversation that Z and I had before he passed.
He said “I want you to wake up in the morning and do what you are passionate about. I don’t want you to worry about money, you’ve always had to worry about that. What makes you stoked?!”
So I closed my eyes, prayed, and pictured what my life would look like if nothing held me back. I’d be traveling with Ike in a van and making leather. Weird. But the fire was lit.
So Pops and I got a little obsessed with craigslist... I originally started looking at vans to build out. We even drove for hours to go look at some. I am a firm believer of following your gut and listening to your bones, but none of them felt right.
I really started questioning if that was my path. How could I feel so unsettled about all of these perfectly good vans if my heart was telling me to live on the road?!
Then Pops said, “what about a little rv?” Oh heckkkk no. I did not want to live in an rv. They are huge and ghetto and I wanted none of that.
Sometimes parents know best, so he called on them anyway & dragged me to the Dolphin.
HUCK PHINN- Part 4
I can admit that I am a pretty stubborn lady. So, when pops kept suggesting that I look into smaller RVs instead of vans I was such a brat about it. RVs don’t have that same “free-spirit” vibe I was looking for. I was super set on a van.
BUT the moment we pulled up to check out the Toyota Dolphin I fell in love with it. It was so much more compact than I expected. I sat in the drivers seat, felt the shag seat covers underneath me, and got an overwhelming urge to start playing some Hall & Oates as I was instantly transported back in time.
If that wasn’t enough, the woman that was selling it was SO RAD. She was this tough as nails, 70 something year old lady who loved to work with her hands and build things. She had the Dolphin so that her and her dog would have a fly fishing, camping, adventure mobile. I was sold- I knew I had to carry on her legacy.
So, after a few days of negotiating a price… this girl came home with a 4 speed, 4 cylinder 1985 Toyota Dolphin that was well kept and adventure ready, but not quite ready to be called my home. I spent all of my spare time over the next few months renovating the interior with the help of my Pops. (If you are interested on the details of the renovation check out Tinyhometours youtube tour of mi casa.) Not only did I have to turn my vehicle into a home, but I also had to turn it into my workshop. I had about 130 sq. ft to create a dream of becoming a mobile leather smith.
LEATHERSMITH- Part 5
At what point can you start calling yourself an artist? Or in my case a leather smith? I feel like that title must come with some prerequisites, right?
-you have to be at least 60 years old
-have giant manly hands from years of work on a ranch
-own an old worn out hat that was passed down from your grandpappy
Although I am 26 going on 70, own a pretty cool hat, & did spend my summers at a ranch camp, I still really struggle with claiming this as my art.
It started a few years ago when I wanted to make Z a Christmas gift. He had a journal that he would write in, especially while traveling, so I thought I’d make something simple & craft a cover for him. I met a man in Bend who worked with leather, asked him what tools I needed, the cost of leather, & where to buy it all. Instead he said, “how about I just teach you how to make one, that way you can decide if it’s something worth investing into.” He gave me the materials and spent hours walking me through it. I remember finishing it and being so annoyed that I had to wait until Christmas to give it to Z- I was just so excited!
I was hooked, but broke, so for my birthday Z surprised me with all of the tools I needed to make leather goods on my own. I fell in love with working with my hands to create functional pieces of art. You better believe that anytime a birthday or holiday came up I was making something out of leather to practice my skills. (Sorry family, you are going to be decked out in full on chaps by the time I’m through.)
Fast forward to my dream of living in a van & making leather goods. There was a moment when I was creating my Instagram account and had to select a title for myself. Blogger? Nope. Public Figure? Nope. Zookeeper? Maybe. Artist? The doubts flooded in. This was my sink or swim moment. I clicked artist and now I’ve got to make this thing work. Because I’m stubborn. And I really like my hat.