By Ben Olson
While strolling through Staci Schubert’s SXS Leather shop at 301 Cedar St., patrons are greeted by the aroma of leather. It is a soft, mysterious smell; a tangible property of the melding of rough and sexy, industrial and artisan. Schubert’s leather cuff bracelets are displays along one wall. A multi-faceted leather apron hangs from a dress form, looking like it came out of some uber-chic blacksmithery. Leather bags and keychains hang from handmade displays.
It’s safe to say there’s no shop in Sandpoint quite like it.
Schubert’s style is something of an enigma; a combination between rustic elegance, urban-chic and ‘70s nostalgia, with a veneer of grunge and gloss thrown in the mix.
Born in New York City, Schubert began her foray into art and design while attending the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
“I always wanted to be a fashion designer,” said Schubert. “But, at that time, I didn’t even know how to use a sewing machine.”
Schubert moved west to Laguna Beach and joined the corporate world in the mid-’90s, working at a large internet company.
“I was a corporate girl for a long time,” she said. “Everything hit bottom, so I decided not to pursue that anymore. I wanted to go back to something tactile.”
Schubert attended sewing classes at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif. and, because of her history with RISD, was eventually asked to teach there.
“While I was teaching, I found some leather remnants and started putting bags together,” said Schubert. She found her love of leather, but also formed a unique style that has stuck with her all these years.
“Lots of girls like being soft and sexy, but also like to find their edge,” she said. “I like to design my products to that ‘edge.’ That’s why I use leather and incorporate wood, metal and bone elements into my designs.”
When Schubert’s son turned 10, she realized she didn’t want to raise him in S. California anymore.
“I wanted to raise him in the woods and the lake,” she said. “So, in 2010, I moved here.”
Because of the extremely low profit margin and high amount of workmanship that goes into making leather bags, Schubert sought a new product line.
“Three years ago, I walked into MakerPoint Studios,” she said. “I ended up being their sixth member. I was that annoying person that was always asking if I could cut leather hides in the CNC machine. I had this huge leather hide from a supplier, got a membership and Mike [Peck] even made me a custom blade to retro fit into the CNC router.”
Through experimentation at MakerPoint, Schubert eventually scrapped the CNC router for a laser cutter, which gave a nice burnt edge to the cut leather. She worked through some designs and developed a unique 15-step process – which is actually copywrite protected – to make leather cuff bracelets.
“No one else in the world does what I do with these bracelets, as far as I know,” she said.
Using a high-quality European blend of leather, Schubert’s cuffs are definitely worth checking out and touching – and she developed 90 percent of them right at MakerPoint Studios. They feature a huge variety of designs that are flawlessly etched into the fine leather. Customers can even customize their bracelets directly with Schubert with family names, dates and other information.
“One popular design is this bracelet with a mountain theme,” she said. “People can actually put coordinates to their favorite alpine lakes they like to hike to.”
Schubert’s work is starting to get noticed. She’s selling her line in 15 different stores around the West, everywhere from Bend, Ore. to Seattle to Coeur d’Alene.
“My goal is to get into 50 stores,” she said. “I want to grow this, to get into as many nationwide showrooms as I can.”
Schubert’s online business is a great outlet for her, but she also has featured her work at the Sandpoint Farmers’ Market, the POAC Arts and Crafts Faire at the City Beach and other shows around the region.
Since opening up her SXS Leather studio/showroom in Sandpoint, Schubert has been able to purchase her own laser engraver. But, her love for the maker community is still strong.
“Eventually, I want to showcase makers and artists from all over,” she said. “I want them to have shows here and show their work here.”
Those interested in learning more should login to Schubert’s website – www.sxsleather.com where they can sign up for a newsletter that gets them a 15 percent discount on their purchase.
To check out Schubert’s store for yourself, head over to 301 Cedar St. (behind the Pend d’Oreille Winery building on Third Ave.) As this is a working studio, hours sometimes fluctuate, but regular hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays are 12 to 3 p.m. Also, for the holiday shopping season of November – December, Schubert is planning on staying open later until 5:30 p.m. Feel free to call (208) 627-3033 to make an appointment for shopping outside of regular hours.