SKETCHBOOK STORIES

A little peek inside the sketchbook and mind of artist, Kristie Vargo

What is Horween?

 Horween leather selections currently available for Bliss books

Horween leather selections currently available for Bliss books

As an artist I am very particular about the materials I use. I want them to not only look great but also be of artisan quality. And I LOVE using items that have a long history of their own. When looking at my leather books, you have undoubtedly seen the name Horween associated with certain color options so I thought I would tell you who they are.

Horween Leather Company was founded in 1905 right here in Chicago and is one of the oldest continuously running tanneries in the United States...and the only one remaining in my fine city. Isidore Horween, immigrated from Ukraine in 1893 and spent 12 years working in one of the over 2 dozen tanneries in Chicago before setting up shop on Division Street. It was the prime location as the city was a major center of the meatpacking industry; tanneries were built close to the source of their raw materials. Horween originally focused on producing leather strips to sharpen straight razors, however, within a few years of opening, the safety razor was developed and the need waned. It was time to focus on other products. 

 Rose, Ralph, Arnold and Isidore Horween

Rose, Ralph, Arnold and Isidore Horween

Since moving to their still current Elston Avenue location in 1920, Horween has supplied leather for a varied list of clients. In 1938, they became the official leather supplier of the US Marine Corps water resistant footwear during World War II. They provide leather to Rawlings, Wilson and Spalding for baseball gloves, all NFL footballs, and NBA basketballs. Horween can also be found on the feet of those wearing shoes by Timberland, Alden, Brooks Brothers, Johnston & Murphy, J.Crew and many others. 

About 85% of the leather at Horween Leather Company is made from cowhide. The company’s workers take raw hides, which arrive salted to prevent deterioration, trim them, and remove their hair with chemicals in an extremely large washing drum. The leather is then treated with salt and pickled for 24 hours, so that it reaches a desired pH level. It is then bated, tanned, and finished.
— Barbara Rolek (October 27, 2003). "Horween's leather bound by tradition", Chicago Tribune

Needless to say, using storied Horween leather for my items was an easy decision. Although I purchase it from a supplier in Oregon, Maverick Leather Company, due to my smaller quantity needs, I have deep pride in knowing it was made right here in my hometown. When you purchase one of my leather books and select a Horween leather - which is nearly all I offer - you can be assured of the high quality and extreme expertise that went into making the materials that make your book...which makes it extra special. 

Meet the people at Horween