Back by popular demand for a third round of Limited Edition Artist Collaboration slides: Jason Palmeri. Our most popular and prolific Artist Collaborator yet. We almost got the chance to kick it with Jason at Willie Nelson’s ranch last year for his iconic Luck Reunion – a music festival in his backyard.
But since we couldn’t commune in person, Jason and his wife, Neanna, threw a virtual party of their own. You all may remember Jason’s IG Live aptly named, “Turn & Burn,” where Jason burned Texas-inspired limited edition Slides and sipped Tequila while Neanna played records, danced, and made us all wish we could have been there IRL.
Michael met Jason at the discovered Jason Trans Pecos Festival where Jason was showcasing his leather burning talents on bags, boots and western ephemera. It occurred to Michael that Jason’s photo-realistic illustrations would be the perfect application to the canvas of hand-tanned water buffalo leather. And the rest is history.
Read our interview with our friend and collaborator, Jason, - whom we cannot wait to hang out with in his new Coarsegold, California home that backs up to Yosemite National Park.
First thing you ever leather-burned?
First thing I ever burned was a leather sheath. I bought a vintage buck knife while my wife, Neanna, and I were vintage shopping upstate NY. The knife was really beautiful but the sheath was boring. I wasn’t thinking about leather burning, but I ran across a cheap leather burning tool in a craft store and decided I’d try it. I’ve often used illustrations in my otherwise abstract paintings so it kind of just came naturally. Sadly, that buck knife and leather sheath were stolen last year. Hopefully whoever took it is using it for good and not for evil.
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Neanna is from Texas and we spend a lot of time in Southern Utah and Arizona. We’ve sort of been on a never ending nomadic road trip since we met. There’s something about the high deserts in those places that really speaks to me, maybe it’s because I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland then spent almost 15 years in NYC. The colors, the shapes, the landscape, they don’t exist anywhere that I had known growing up. Spending time out in the desert has unlocked a whole new way of looking at the world for me, and that has extended to all of my art.
Weirdest image you’ve ever leather-burned?
A few years ago someone commissioned me to burn an old timey Spanish ship being taken down into the sea by a giant octopus. He wanted it done on a small leather smoker’s pouch as a gift for his dad. It wasn’t weird per-se, but definitely one of the more memorable and interesting requests. It was a lot of fun.
We know you like to listen to music while you burn, and have even put together playlists for some of the live burning sessions you’ve done for us. What are some of your favorite musicians right now?
Lately I’ve been listening to Charlie Parr on repeat. I really love his live album “I Dreamed I Saw Paul Bunyan Last Night”. Also Nathaniel Rateliff. I’d never heard of him before last year. Neanna and I were doing a lot of work at Willie Nelson’s ranch for Luck Reunion last spring and he was one of the musicians that was supposed to play. The festival was canceled due to Covid days before it was supposed to take place, huge bummer not just because we didn’t get to see all our hard work in action, but mainly because the line-up was so incredible. In a matter of days they managed to throw together a live stream version, and that’s how I discovered Nathaniel Rateliff. He really blew me away, he sings with so much emotion and his music is so beautiful in a knife-twisting-in-the-heart kind of way. The Deslondes song “Heavenly Home”, The Staple Singers song “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, Waylon Jennings “I’ve Been a Long Time Leaving”, Colter Wall’s “Thinking on a Woman” and “John Beyers” (he was also supposed to play at Luck Reunion) also get a lot of play time. It’s hard to narrow down, but those are some of my favorites right now.
If you could leather-burn something for ONE person (celebrity, icon, inspiration) - who would it be and what would the design be?
Easy. John Prine. We got to see him perform at King’s Theater in Brooklyn a few years ago, it was an incredible show. He was supposed to be the headliner for Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion last year and I burned every inch of a guitar strap that I was hoping to give him. The design was sort of a totem to the West, it started with mountains and a sunset, with a rattlesnake striking upwards as an eagle is flying down with it’s talons extended. Above the eagle is a coyote lunging towards the snake, the coyote’s body is sort of half wrapped around a seated wolf that’s howling at the moon. Above the moon is the bust of a horse and above the horse is a buffalo head. The end.