Loving leather

Artist donates a portion of proceeds to flood recovery

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It was while traveling that Charles Preston Cavanaugh, 40, of Cedar Rapids, discovered a hobby that he’s transformed into a business. Today he’s owner and designer for Rise Above Leathers by Preston.

Using Grade A domestic leather from the Midwest, Cavanaugh makes belts, guitar straps, watch bands, cuffs, dog collars, tank bibs for bikes, pool cue bags and conceal and carry holsters. The name of his company is a nod to helping his community.

“During the summer of 2008, while sandbagging around Mercy Hospital in waist deep river water, I realized that my volunteer time alone was not going to be enough to help my hometown recover,” he says. “That experience planted the seed for the birth of Rise Above Leathers in early 2009, and a portion of proceeds from every piece I make and sell is donated back to the ongoing rebuilding/revitalization efforts in the Greater Cedar Rapids Community.”

Q: How and when did you get started?

A: Throughout travels over the last several years, I started venturing out at night and absorbing a lot of the music and artisan scenes. Between New York, Philly, the Rust Belt, Seattle and L.A., the climate for trends was so open and volatile, and the reception usually preceded Iowa by two years or more. I wanted to create a standard that mashed the riskiness of big city style with the grit of the Midwest. So on one trip, I bought a book on the history of leather crafting, and read it cover to cover.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration?

A: Mostly from music and the creative process that goes with it. I always have music blaring in my studio when I am working. Being around my fiancé (Nashville recording artist Tammy Jason) has given me a first hand account of the songwriting process where a passing thought becomes words melded together to form lyrics, then music is added to tell a complete story. Creativity for my leatherwork all starts with a triggering idea, and the final shape, design and color the piece takes is what makes it unique to fit an individual’s personality.

Q: When you become rich and famous for your work, then what will you do?

A: The ultimate for me would be to have a rustic storefront in a historic building where people cannot only shop for items I’ve made, but also be part of the design process for custom pieces. It would be an open plan where my workbench is the centerpiece of the store.

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