By Chris “Slickbald” Andre
Growing up in a small home on five acres of land, far from the road and a bit isolated, Chris “Slickbald” Andre was destined for creativity. It didn’t hurt that his mother had a box of Tandy tools and began doodling with patterns from Make it with Leather Doodle Pages to pass the time. Being a curious boy, Chris wanted to make something, too.
Around the age of nine he attended 4-H, where he worked on leathercraft projects. His success at county and state fairs motivated him to continue. As he got older, he started creating out of necessity. He made a cue case, weight belt and gifts for relatives. It was during this time that Chris dreamed of becoming a full-time leather craftsman.
At age 13, Chris joined a smallbore rifle team. This kindled his love for shooting, so in 1985, it came as no surprise when he joined the United States Marines and became a marksmanship instructor. “This was my first teaching gig,” remembers Chris. After serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a Sergeant of Marines, he was honorably discharged in 1991.
“At the ripe old age of 32, I realized I was going “horseshoe bald.” I didn’t like paying full price for half a haircut, so off it came!” laughs Chris. Slick bald is an official haircut in the USMC regulations. He simply combined this into one word and Slickbald was born. With support from his wife, Terri, Chris set out to open his own leather business; and in 2002, filed documents for Hedonistic Developments LLC, dba Slickbald Customs.
Up to this point Chris was completely self-taught. He was unaware of the resources available to help propel his career to the next level, until he discovered his family friend Dusty Johnson, who was a farrier and silversmith, was also a saddle maker. In December 2008, he was able to attend his saddle school.
His learning didn’t stop there. For the next few years Chris attended industry trade shows where he was able to learn from the masters. In the fall of 2011, he attended Jesse Smith’s Western Floral Carving class. “Working one-on-one with Jesse truly changed my leather life,” said Chris. One day he learned the Porter carving style, the next Visalia, then Sheridan, Northwest and Al Shelton. “I learned the differences, the ‘rules’ and a bit how to break them. It was a turning point for my carving,” Chris stated.
While attending industry trade shows, he realized a lack of holster making supplies, so he decided to open Maker’s Leather Supply (MLS). MLS was a distributor of Rings Blue Guns. Using his previous experience in custom engineering shops and ability to write training materials, he published 14 instructional pattern packs and kits for holsters and sheaths to sell. Chris began attending every trade show he could to promote the business and, fortunately, it was very well received.
Chris’ natural ability in the leathercraft industry started attracting attention. He was creating instructional pattern packs, writing articles for Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal, winning industry contests, teaching classes and running a successful holster supply company. “I had a lot of irons in the fire, something had to give,” said Chris. In 2014, he decided to sell Maker’s Leather Supply.
Chris found himself with more time to do what he really loved – teach. He now travels all over the world, sharing the knowledge he has learned through the years with others hungry to learn the art of leathercrafting.
“I am mostly self-taught. I struggled with a lack of knowledge and resources…and written instructions were not for me. I struggled, would stop, start up and struggle some more. Having since found a path to knowledge, I feel compelled to share anything I can to help others not struggle with something they love. If I can make the light come on, it makes me happy.”