(Jack) “Peter” of all trades
As Peter Rogers approached retirement four years ago, he said the idea ‘scared the Dickens’ out of him.
“What will I do,” he thought. “Will the saving funds last? Maybe I should consider a part-time casual job? Will the boredom drive me to become a vegetable couch potato?”
Not that there was ever any real danger of that. After speaking with Peter for a while, it is clear he is not the type to sit still for too long.
Originally an electrician by trade, Peter tells me he worked as a sales rep, selling liquor right across NSW before joining Jeff Hort Engineering (now Hort Enterprises) as a safety superintendent.
Since retiring, Peter has developed a love for leathercraft and approached us at Orange City Life as he thought it might encourage other people to see what they could achieve if they set their mind to it.
So how did Peter find his way into leathercraft?
“Well, I'm a knife maker —I make knives,” said Peter, by way of explanation.
“Just after I retired — my son, who’s a bit of a fishing/camping sort of fellow, he showed me one of his knifes and I looked at it and thought, ‘that wouldn’t cut a ripe banana.’ He said, ‘well, if you can do better...’ So, I learnt how to make knives.”
You taught yourself metalwork after retiring as well as leatherwork, I ask?
“Well, I used to be a blacksmith 20, 30 years ago,” said Peter, who apparently picked up the skill after somebody he knew wanted a metal framed coffee table.
“I've made dining tables, coffee tables, hallway tables — I did all sorts of things.
Then somebody one day said they’d love a wardrobe. I thought, ‘that’s pretty easy’ and I put the blacksmithing stuff aside and got into some woodworking,” he adds.
But, back to the leatherworking.
“So, I started making knives and then I thought, ‘well, I might need a sheath to put them in.’
Peter bought a couple bits of scrap leather and got to work on sheaths for his knives. Then, he decided to make a few belts and that has since led him to make handbags.
“It really is ridiculous, but I love them,” said Peter. “I like the satisfaction of finishing and it’s something that looks good. To me I get great pride in doing it. I really do. Even if I never sell one in my life.”
So far, Peter has meticulously turned out dozens of handbags and scores of belts. He is yet to sell any and almost seems reluctant to let them go, although the idea of money for more hides appears to win out in the end.
“Would I like to sell one? Would I like to sell my dog? Do I have to?” he asks with a slightly pained expression. “Maybe I'm just a leathermaker and not a businessman.”
The handbags Peter shows me are the result of years of work and a lot of thought. In fact, he seems to enjoy the process of learning new skills just as much as the end result.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘How did you learn all this?’ Well, I said, my scrap pile is about ten times that size and that's all it is. It’s a matter of making a mistake and thinking I should have sewed it the other way… Sometimes I'll go to bed and you wake up with an answer somewhere along the line — your mind never stops! You put a question in it and, it might be a year down the road, but it will come up with an answer eventually. I don’t get much sleep, but I come up with a lot of answers,” said Peter.
“It is just a hobby that I enjoy. I sit in the shed and bang away making roses and patterns and whatever else. I love it. I don’t know why. I should have just taken up stamp collecting or something.”
With the knife-making and leatherwork you’d think Peter would have little time for anything else, but there is another project he is passionate about.
“Well, I also write dictionaries…What I do is concentrate on lost, forgotten, archaic, rare words in the English language and I have got one book so far and I'm in the process of making the second one,” he said.
“It is important in retirement to keep doing something intellectual as well as physical… If I didn’t have something to do, I would drive my wife mad or I'd become an alcoholic — I also brew my own beer, something else on the side — I think it is important to keep the mind ticking
“I don't watch TV. I can sit there and look at a movie, but the mind keeps going all the time and then I'll be like ‘hang on a second, I've just got to go to the shed and do a bit’.”