“I wandered into a Tandy Leather store in Lubbock Texas and came out with a starter set of tools and some basic projects,” Harber recalls of the beginnings of his serious work with leather in the 1980s. He had grown up on a dairy and horse farm in Oklahoma, and had experience in repairing halters and other tack, so his interest in leather work was deep seated. “I discovered that I enjoyed the decorative side of leather work,” he notes. “It became a serious hobby.”
Ric was teaching economics at Texas Tech at the time and this field took him on assignments for USAID to countries around the world – Zambia, Madagascar, South Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, and Lebanon. “I played around with my hobby in the few places that I could get the leather,” he explains.
On retiring to Oklahoma in 2006, Ric resumed his passion for leather work. “My wife kicked it and me out of the house which prompted me to open a storefront and workshop in Tulsa.” They ultimately moved to Chatham County in 2020 where Ric has his extensive workshop and studio.
Ric creates a variety of useful items – purses, wallets, cuffs, earrings, belts, hat racks and wall hangings. “I even made a toilet seat cover,” he quips. He uses vegetable-tanned or chrome-tanned leather as well as exotic materials such as snake, elephant, alligator, caiman, stingray and lizard skins. His pieces range in price from $3.50 to $1200. He welcomes commissions. Of special note, are Charge Books that Ric creates that those reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard are required to have to document their journey and to contain words of wisdom from other Chiefs.
Ric has shown his work at national leather shows, fairs, and art festivals. He has published articles in the Leather Crafters and Saddle Makers Journal. He is currently working with Agricultural Extension for Chatham County to develop a 4H leather craft program.
Ric Harber makes his Chatham Artists Guild debut at the 2021 Studio Tour the first two weekends in December. Visitors will learn about his procedures in creating leather products. “I hope that folks who come to my shop will experience the sense of fun that I do with this art,” he stresses.