When St. Louis native Lauren Culbreth moved to Bowling Green, she brought with her many skills from her childhood — sewing, drawing and a love of natural materials. It wasn’t too long after moving that she began handcrafting leather goods and herbal remedies from her home.
Culbreth started leatherworking in 2012 when her boredom of the current styles of laptop cases led her to creating a case of her own. What first started as a hobby extended to her friends, family and eventually, eager customers.
“I think I’ve always been destined to be a maker of sorts,” she said.
Culbreth cuts, stitches and burnishes all her leather goods by hand, and all of her designs are original and often spontaneous. Some of her products include wallets, clutches, totes, bags, patches and wall hangings.
“Making your own stuff, it can be very empowering,” she said.
Culbreth said stitching is her favorite part of the process, but because she often creates the designs as she is stitching, she has a hard time knowing when to stop — she lets her creativity take control.
As she is mostly self-taught, Culbreth said the leatherworking community on Instagram is very helpful, but that she learns mainly from trial and error.
“Bowling Green is a great community for makers,” she said. “It’s very supportive, and the growing artist-scene is thriving.”
In many of her leather pieces, Culbreth combines raw edges with clean edges. She said she loves hunting for a natural edge and juxtaposing it with neat, clean lines.
“I’ve always liked working with my hands, because it combines visual art with function,” she said. “It’s a piece of art that I can wear.”
One goal of Culbreth’s is to eventually release collections of her leather goods, all based on having similar color schemes and designs.
Culbreth has just recently accepted a job at Painted Lady Trading, where some of her goods are displayed and for sale.
“It’s so rewarding to watch someone’s eyes light up at one of my pieces,” she said.
After three and a half years of leatherworking, Culbreth decided to go on a hiatus in 2016. She said she was burnt out from the pressures of custom orders, but she picked it back up in 2018.
“I get in my head a lot,” she said. “I can be really overly critical, so I have to pace myself.”
During her hiatus from leatherworking, Culbreth picked up a new skill of making homemade herbal skin care remedies. She said she found it a refreshing change from the intensive work of custom leather orders.
Culbreth said the remedies started as products for her own personal skin care, but as she formulated recipes and made products for friends and family, she branched it out to a business called Salveation.
The products are made with minimal ingredients, including organic essential oils and plant essences. She said those qualities are very important to her.
“I like to know what I’m putting on my body, and also that it’s sustainable,” she said.
A few of the products she sells include a multipurpose body balm, shea butter, vitamin E oil and lavender essential oil, perfumes, bath salts, beard balm, face masks and more.
“The foundations are very simple and teachable,” Culbreth said. “Herbalism is meant to be easily understood by the common person because it’s all about healing, and of course we want everyone to have access to helping themselves heal.”
Another goal of Culbreth’s is finding the time to create her own convertible messenger bag/backpack. She said she wants to focus on making something just for herself.
“I’ve already invested so much time, money and hard work into this craft that I think it’s worth continuing,” she said. “That’s the nature of being a creative individual.”
“I can’t keep a hobby a hobby,” Culbreth said. “Somehow, I always turn it into a hustle.”