Aaron Konzelman is hard to miss. The lead singer of The Union Revival and creator of the leather goods boutique Hammer and Hand wears a denim jacket, multiple necklaces and wide-brimmed brown leather hat. A well-groomed beard hangs to his collarbone and a simple leather bracelet wraps around his right wrist. A tattoo snakes around the other wrist, and decorating his hands are five rings of varying widths and metals, each of them one of his own works of art.
Konzelman, a 34-year-old singer-songwriter and master leather craftsman, grew up on an 800-acre ranch north of Waco. He was raised on music and started his first band when he was 12. Later, he got a degree in audio engineering at McClennan Community College and has written and produced music for multiple artists in Nashville. He also tours around Dallas, Waco and Austin with The Union Revival, an Americana-style band he started with his wife.
Konzelman is not only a musician, however. He is also a master craftsman and owns his own workshop at Anthem Studios Artisan Market in downtown Waco, where he creates handmade leather and metal goods.
“Everyone in my family on both sides have always been makers. They’ve always created things with their hands,” Konzelman said. “We had a shop where we would make all of our own stuff. My dad’s philosophy was, if you don’t have the money to buy it, just go out in the garage and learn how to make it.”
This mantra of self-sufficiency was what got Konzelman started in the leather-making business.
“I needed a wallet so, in the fashion that my dad taught me, I just went and bought some scrap leather from a boot shop and figured out how to make a wallet,” Konzelman said. “Somebody saw it and asked for one, then someone came in and asked for a purse. It turned into me doing it as a hobby.”
Last year that hobby turned into a small business which Konzelman ran out of his garage. For the next year, he gained customers through word of mouth and his Instagram account.
Eventually, however, Konzelman outgrew his garage.
“I couldn’t make things fast enough in the space that I had,” Konzelman said.
He found Anthem Studios and moved his business, which he named Hammer and Hand, into a workshop there in August of last year.
“It’s been awesome. I love having relationships with people—talking, conversing, collaborating,” Konzelman said.
His table of leather goods in Anthem Studios is a mixture of dark, rich browns and lighter tans with the occasional vibrant cherry-red leather mixed in. A bucket holds a collection of metal keys stamped with words like “gypsy,” “adventure” and “wander.” The whole table is framed against a slightly faded American flag.
Blanca Torres, the assistant director of Anthem Studios, said that one of the unique qualities in Konzelman’s work is his dedication to custom designs.
“I got to see him start off as it just being a hobby, and now it’s grown so much,” Torres said. “He’s always wanting to improve his handmade goods. You can tell he’s very passionate and excited about what he’s doing.”
Konzelman uses leather in a variety of ways, creating wallets, purses, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and even Mason jar holders. Some of his pieces are specialized for specific purposes, such as the Tech Utility Roll, which has clasps to hold coiled cords and a pouch for larger items, like adapters.
Each piece is sewn with waxed nylon cord and tanned and finished by hand. Konzelman’s design prototypes can end up being the only product of their kind in existence. This makes much of what he sells artistically unique.
“My heart is really in the design,” Konzelman said.
He has designed custom bags, purses and even wedding rings, Konzelman said.
There is, however, a ruggedness to each of Konzelman’s pieces that he said is purposeful. It stems from yet another family practice: observance of a Japanese tradition called wabi-sabi.
“The tenet of wabi-sabi is that beauty is in imperfection,” Konzelman said. “Beauty is in age.”
Konzelman said that is the fundamental idea behind the design of every piece he makes: a desire to show beauty through imperfection and to let his pieces tell stories that will last a lifetime.
While he has added metal products to his line, his focus remains primarily on leather products.
“Leather to me is—I like things that last a lifetime,” Konzelman said. “I don’t like cheap things. I have a pair of boots that I bought when I was 18 and I still wear them. I like things that last, so I wanted to make products that people could pass down to their kids.”