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A Family Leatherwork Legacy

Camp Shaw Outfitters | Derek & Tamara Shaw | Fairview, AB

Derek and Tamara Shaw

Derek and Tamara Shaw have been creating custom leatherwork together for five years, but the inspiration for their business, Camp Shaw Outfitters, goes back much further.

As a child, Derek watched his dad dabble in leatherwork. It was the beginning of what has become a lifelong passion for him.

“I remember watching my dad build himself a pair of batwing chaps right here on our kitchen counter, and I still have those chaps,” said Derek.

Tamara can now be found at the same kitchen counter carving intricate designs into one of her many custom-made pieces. Her inspiration came from watching Derek work on his own tack. Wanting to create alongside her husband, they teamed up on the leatherwork, and their business has exploded ever since.

“It all happened organically,” said Tamara. “My grandpa bought an old Pearson sewing machine at an auction and randomly put it in our tack shed. We didn’t know if it could sew leather, but it ended up working.”

The sewing machine sped up production and accelerated their business’ growth—despite the fact they thought it was just a hobby at first. It didn’t occur to them their product would be sought after, and their business would boom.

Originally, the pair made items for family and friends, but a waiting list of custom orders accumulated. To keep up with demand, they upgraded their equipment and dove headfirst into the business.

“We used the Pearson sewing machine as well as a 1940s Singer for about six months, but the interest for our products kept building,” said Tamara. “So, we decided to buy a modern industrial machine and haven’t looked back since.”

The couple’s custom creations range from belts, bags and livestock tack to their newest offering, custom saddles.

“A saddle can take anywhere from 50-100 hours to finish, so it’s definitely one of the bigger projects we do,” said Derek. “It’s worth the time though. A custom saddle that’s well taken care of will last a lifetime and beyond.”

The name Camp Shaw is rooted in family values and is courtesy of the couple’s nieces and nephews, who playfully named their experiences visiting the family as coming up to “Camp Shaw.”

“When they come up, we go on the river. We go camping and horse riding, and we all have a really good time,” said Derek. “They named our place Camp Shaw, and it seemed like the perfect fit.”

The couple’s own three children have gotten involved and are already starting to learn the leatherwork trade. Their older two kids create their own items such as binders and pencil cases for school, and their youngest loves to play with the stamps.

“We hope in the future the kids will want to get involved in the business as well,” said Tamara. “It’s really exciting to think about what the future of Camp Shaw could look like.”

Working in the community with local children is a favourite pastime for the Shaws. They frequently teach workshops for 4-H groups and elementary school classes. Sharing the skills of leatherwork is something they hope to offer more regularly in the future.

“We plan to make time in our schedule to host a few workshops a year for different groups. We love working with kids. We have a lot of fun sharing leatherwork with them,” said Tamara.

As Christmas approaches, the couple saw a surge in demand starting in early fall.

Intentionally leaving space in their schedules for custom gifts, now is the time to order loved ones something special and unique from Camp Shaw to put under your tree.

“Generally, our waitlist operates from two weeks to two months, but that depends on the order,” said Tamara. “A really intricate belt might take 8 hours whereas a personalized men’s shave bag or a rifle sling might only take a few hours.”

Camp Shaw’s quality and craftsmanship are unmatched. Using only the best cuts of leather, the couple sources their materials from various places in Alberta and Italy.

“Cheaper cuts of leather have too many imperfections and end up costing more in overhead and frustration,” said Derek. “We can create more products out of a higher quality piece, and we make sure every inch of it gets used.”

To discuss custom work, please contact Camp Shaw Outfitters through their Facebook or Instagram pages.

Article by Kelly Pippin | Photography submitted

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