Contmeporary Makers Blog: James, how long have you been making Hunting Pouches and how did you get started?
James Rogers: I first attempted making pouches in the late 1980’s. I guess I made more sorry ones than good ones but some are still holding up today. I was inspired to make my own pouches and other gear for my muzzleloading guns by my good friend and mentor Jim Hash. I did not think I had any capability to make the guns as a teen so I gravitated to the gear that was used with them. Jim talked me into entering a bag at Dixon’s Gun Fair in 1993. I entered a bag in which I had killed the deer, tanned the hide and made the buckle. It took third place. I still have it. My first inspiration to anything related to this hobby was in my childhood and from emulating my hero Daniel Boone (Fess Parker from the TV series) In my teens Mr, Hash introduced me to adults of like mind and now the guns were the real thing!
CMB: Did you study with any one or are you self-taught?
JR: I am pretty much self- taught through books and trial and error. In the 1990’s I started conversing with Eric Myall, an English trained leather worker who was employed by Colonial Williamsburg . It was through talking with him on- site various times and later through telephone conversations that I really got in to my present method of sewing and the use of pricking irons and stitching clams. I have also learned a lot from the wisdom, research and experiences of Chuck Burrows, a long time leather worker I met through some internet forums who freely shares information.
CMB: Have you studied many originals? You reference paintings and illustrations in the copy on your bags, do all your bag have historical reference?
This pouch's shape was taken from an illustration found in an 18th century book called Pteryplega. First published in England in 1727, the book is written as a poem and contains a plethora of information on the sport of shooting flying and the use of the fowling piece.
JR: I study as many old original hand sewn bags as I can. Unfortunately bags from the 18th century and earlier are almost non-existent. That’s why I also utilize period images and writings as much as I am able. I also closely study reports of dug remains of early leather articles from Europe and other areas. Utilizing all these resources helps paint a clearer picture for me of an already dim past. It is easier for me to utilize these sources due to the type of bags I make as compared to those who specialize in the more primitive styles. Most of the bags that I make do have some historical reference but I rarely try to make exact copies. Even my fantasy bags usually have some elemental historical features. Studying records of gun accoutrement type items such as bags and pouches coming into the colonies during the colonial period from Europe inspires me to attempt the professionally made items as opposed to the home cobbled style.
CMB: The buckles on your bags don’t look like any that I am familiar with. Do you make your own?
JR: On my custom bags, the buckles are of my own manufacture. They are hand made in brass or steel. Their designs are historically based on Euro made buckles that can be given fairly solid dates. Those same buckle designs also show up here in America in good number as well. I have been collecting original pieces as well as gun thumbpieces and other like parts for casting but to date my custom buckles have all been one of a kind and those who have them seem to appreciate that. I will be casting some designs for other bags I make just to have something different than what others are using plus it will still be something of my own manufacture.
CMB: Do you do your own forging?
JR: I do some forging to get an end product but I am a rank amateur. That’s another facet of this wonderful hobby I am looking to further explore if the good Lord is willing and the Creeks don’t rise. I just upgraded my railroad track anvil with a colonial anvil.
CMB: Do you make bags that are your own interpretation or do you just make historically correct bags?
This is my version of the pouch known as the Lemuel Lyman belt pouch as was featured in the Clash of Empires exhibit. The belt pouch has an internal divider that serves as a welt like the original. I have seen at least three more old pouches similar in construction to this pouch but they have no solid provenance to the French and Indian War time frame like this one. There are several 18th century references to divided shot pouches to separate shot from ball. It is reasonable to assume that shot and ball were probably the only intended articles for containment in a pouch of this size. That is quite contrary to the many accessories that find their way into our pouches today.
JR: The bags I make are definitely my own interpretation but I would still classify most of them as historically correct. That term in itself is subjective as it’s degree varies with each individual and his insight on the historical. For the more die hard purists, plain and simple is usually the best approach just due to the dimly lit past we search into. My main goal is to be able to work in both ends of the spectrum and be studied enough to clearly distinquish the historical from the fantastical so the end user will not be disappointed down the trail.
CMB: What was the inspiration for the “Hunts for Healing” bag? You imprinted into the leather by means of a hot iron and soot, is this an old technique for leather work?
JR: The “Hunts for Healing” pouch technique was actually inspired by another pouch I made in which the owner wanted text on the flap. I really did not want to paint it on so I combined the historical technique of leather design imprinting with woodburning. Not wanting the burn to create all of the darkness for fear of harming the flap, I tried using a hot iron with soot and it worked great. I do not really know if that technique was used for leather. It was totally out of my head in service of a particular need. Not having documentation for it I would not put it on a pouch that I thought historically correct. For this project and the one that inspired it I thought it blended very well.
CMB: Do you make anything besides Hunting Pouches?
JR: Since 2009 I have been making some firearms. My main concentration and area of study is on fowling pieces from the 1760’s and earlier. I also make powder horns, flasks and other various accoutrements relating to sporting arms of the 18th century.
CMB: Which shows and events do you attend during a year?
JR: I set up at the Southern Arms and Crafts Show in Williamsburg,VA and the CLA show in KY. I also try to attend the Virginia-Kentucky Rifle Show in Winchester, VA and any other as time permits.
This is a flat sewn pouch. There have been several examples found in Virginia that were made in this shape and manner. I call this a Virginia pouch for my reference only but it's simplicity can cover a very wide range of time periods and locations. This pouch was left in a natural color and oiled. There is an internal divider and all raw edges have been rounded, creased and burnished.
CMB: How can someone contact you?