Thursday, June 26, 2008

Isaac Getz Effigy Pouch with Four Copies by Steven Lalioff

Isaac's Bag in the Center.

Steven's Four Copies.

Steven's Copy.

Isaac's Pouch.

Every great once and awhile, I see a piece of antique leatherwork that excites me as though I were an apprentice again. That old excitement came again last year for me at the CLA show in Lexington when Don Getz showed me his grandfathers hunting bag.

Ever since he was a boy, Don Getz knew that this pouch was the work of his grandfather, Isaac Getz. Isaac was born in 1842 and that according to family history, Isaac made the pouch shortly before leaving for the war in 1863. When Don was a kid, the old pouch hung behind the attic door in the same house built by Isaac in the town of Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania. (On the very peg where Isaac hung it last I wonder?).

I consider the design of this double bag to be the apex of hunting pouch folk-art. When I first examined this bag I realized that the maker, Isaac, must have been trained as a shoemaker due to the exceptional craftsmanship of the construction. According to Getz family history, Isaac was known as a shoe cobbler. Most likely, Isaac was taught by his father, Henry Getz, as he too is recorded as being a shoemaker or repairman. However, the skill and technique evident in this old pouch tells me that Isaac was more than just a cobbler. Evidence that Isaac was trained as a shoe-maker is that each leather piece of the pouch was made by folding the leather in half in order to make the parts symmetrical, no other leather trade used this pattern method to my knowledge. This patternless method also suggests to me that this was the first bag of its kind and not a production design. Also, the embossed decoration of the fox effigy was preformed using embossing wheels and a peg spreading stamp, the very kind of tools used by shoemakers during the mid 19th century. Isaac designed the fox head freehand...and what a good freehand he had.

When reproducing a pouch, it takes a little guess work to match the contour and size of a turned bag. My first attempt to copy this bag was close but off a few degrees, so I adjusted the pattern and now have 3 bags that I feel are close to the original. One bag for Don, one for me and one will be go to the benefit auction next year (2009) at the CLA show in Lexington, in appreciation that such a gathering place has been made for us. S.L.

Photos by Karen Ambercrombie.

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