FOR A LONG YEAR, I worked on my first book, The Sketchnote Handbook.
I spent 3 months writing my proposal and negotiating the contract, 7 months writing, sketching, illustrating, scripting and shooting the book and video. It was the hardest, most demanding project I've ever done.
When it was complete, I wanted to get something special for myself as a reward and a reminder — I chose a beautifully hand-crafted custom leather briefcase from Mitchell Leather in Milwaukee's Third Ward.
A few weeks ago I picked up my completed compact briefcase, and am thrilled with the quality, the detail and of course the wonderful leather scent!
Specs & Construction
For the majority of the briefcase, I chose Horween leathers: Cognac Dublin, a medium brown leather that's tough, yet supple and classy, and for the darker highlight, Horween Brown Chromexel (CXL), also tough and beautiful. For the internal liner I chose a lighter weight tan leather, and the finishing touch — nickel-plated brass hardware for contrast.
Construction took about 7 months — David Mitchell's skills are so in demand, he's running a backlog for these briefcases and other leather items. You can read about David and his shop, or watch this excellent short video about him, created by my friend, Brian Artka:
The Selection & Building Process
The process began with my order. I spent time with David, selecting my leathers and hardware and telling him how I would be using the case. This case would become my daily carry-all, with enough room for my main items and that's all. I have a tendency to carry more than I need, so this was a way to limit my daily items. I have a Timbuktu backpack for heavy loads when needed.
Daily items included: a 13" MacBook Pro (or Air), power supply, a full-size iPad, one large Moleskine notebook, one or two pocket Moleskine Sketchbooks for sketchnoting events, pens and pencils, space for cords and adapters and enough room for a book, magazine or a folder of papers for projects.
The Mitchell Compact Briefcase was a perfect fit for all of the items I need to carry and nothing more.
Once I had the model, leathers, hardware choices and details settled, David took a deposit and put me on the waiting list.
In August, about 7 months later, I was curious, so I paid a visit to Mitchell Leather. David happened to be starting my case, so we went up to the factory and showed me the raw pieces, getting prepped for construction.
A week later, he sent more images as he finished the case. Here are David's photos of the case in progress:
The final piece turned out great — colors, leather weight, and of course, that leather scent really sealed the deal.
If you'd like to see all of the photos from the construction process, check out the complete Mitchell Briefcase Flickr set.
Having the case for a few weeks now, I'm finding it's a perfect size for what I really need and nothing more. By getting the size just right, the case has kept my load light and manageable.
My challenge: to accept the normal wear, tear and markings on the leather that will give the case personality and character. Starting with a perfect case makes this hard, but as I see the case getting worked in, I'm loving it even more.