By Jim Linnell
Many people may think that Elktracks Studio is synonymous with Jim Linnell, however the reality is that it takes a team of passionate leatherworkers to make it all happen. Annie Libertini has reached entirely new audiences with her additions to the instructional library. George Hurst still regularly publishes patterns on the page. Michael Magnus oversees the digital marketing efforts and his second-grade daughter, Caragh, is a contributor as well.
Yes, Caragh is very adorable, but don’t let that distract you from the unparalleled level of ambition from this young lady. I’m proud to say that her work with Elktracks is among her accomplishments, however, Caragh has perhaps accomplished more in her youth than some could hope to accomplish in a lifetime.
At age four, Caragh started a philanthropy called Pictures Helping People, where she has sold her pictures, paintings and leather projects to raise money for different charities. Over the last three years, she has sold her art to raise over $6,000 to donate art supplies for schools, deliver books to underserved communities, provide meals at Thanksgiving, gift toys at Christmas and so much more. Her story has been shared by national television networks, local radio stations and even appeared in a best-selling book.
Why? Because she has a good story. Because she inspires people to do better. To do more. And that’s why her supporters don’t hesitate to spend $25 on a coaster or donate $100 for a painting that they proudly display and share her story with those that inquire about it.
She has used her art – leatherworking – to accomplish anything and everything that her big heart motivates her to do, and people are more than willing to follow her lead.
Too often, we focus exclusively on trying to profit from our passion and ignore the opportunity to potentially use it to support those in need. Without a doubt, managing your business is important, however helping others can actually gain new exposure while helping raise funds for local charities such as the Salvation Army, American Legion and more. What could we accomplish on behalf of the craft if we took Caragh’s lead and shared that same philanthropic spirit?
A few years back the Lone Star Leather Crafters Christmas party was hosted at my shop and we had a white elephant gift exchange. Among the packages to be won (and stolen), were a few old Craftools circulating around. Caragh opened a flower center and was very protective of it; no one dared steal it. When the game was done, there was a tug at my shirt because she “needed” to try it out immediately. In a room full of accomplished leatherworkers, at a party for one of the largest guilds in the world, the one person who “needed” to do leatherwork was the then six-year-old. It was a humbling thing to see and a reminder of how exciting this craft can be.
As a leatherworker, Caragh could be the envy of many, having worked at the benches of George Hurst, Alicia Framption, Samuel Lee of Prince Armory, and regularly hammering away at my bench with her bright pink maul. Her leather art is part of collections all over the world, all the way to Tasmania. I myself have a few of her pieces, which are cherished parts of the collection at Elktracks Studio. Earlier this year, she went live on Facebook, offering a leatherworking tutorial for kids, by kids. It earned over 26,000 views. Caragh was even recognized for “Best Show and Tells” for her regular demonstrations at school. She is championing leathercraft.
Are you? Because if she can do it, you can do it. I can do it. We can do it.
Caragh is an extraordinary girl, however, her story does not have to be unique. I often hear people refer to leatherwork as a dying art, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s thriving! As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors and friends, we have a responsibility to our youth to convince them to put down their screens and go make something. Leather projects offer tangible memories of time spent together, and I hope that we hear many more stories like hers for years to come.
I’m proud to call Caragh my friend.