Wax On, Wax Off

An interest in leatherwork leads to a creative hobby-turned-business.

Melanie Liles stands in her kitchen, mixing a batch of beeswax, paraffin and mineral oil. It’s her own personal recipe for the concoction she uses to wax the canvas aprons, tote bags and lunch kits that are part of her line, Ochre. “The wax is good for protecting the bag, gives it a nice smell and texture. It’s not too overpowering and it smells more natural than a chemical product,” says Liles. Her homemade wax also helps bags keep their shapes and increases her products’ durability and longevity.

The 31-year-old Edmontonian, who dedicates her spare time to carefully crafting leather and wax canvas goods, began dabbling in leatherwork four years ago. She taught herself how to cut and stitch coasters and leather cardholders that double as money clips by watching YouTube videos and experimenting with different techniques.

For her leatherwork, she uses vegetable-tanned leather in a process that requires a lot of repetition. Her work, full of delicate details, such as birds subtly stamped into the leather, is garnering attention in the Edmonton area. She’s done custom orders for wax canvas aprons from places such as Nomad (the food truck’s owners also requested aprons for the staff at their new restaurant, Woodwork). And, Liles continues to do custom orders, while also selling her wares at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair, Plum Home + Design and the Art Gallery of St. Albert, among others.

The University of Alberta grad also has a jewellery line, Plum Tipsy, and teaches art and French part-time at Parkview School.

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