Adam Zrebiec, a local barber at Good Hair Co. and a talented leather-crafter, has seamlessly merged his two livelihoods under one dynamic brand: Barber & Craft. When he’s not cutting hair, he’s labouring leather materials into backpacks, laptop sleeves, coasters, belts, wallets, and more. Each product is thoughtfully designed and carefully crafted – by hand, no less.
“In university, I took an ‘alternative media’ course and I had to take on a slow-media endeavour for the final project. That’s when I somehow fell upon leatherwork, bought a starter kit online and began teaching myself the trade. I’ve been at it for three or four years since then,” Zrebiec said.
“When I graduated, I didn’t feel inclined to pursue what a lot of people would think of as a traditional career. Instead, I followed my niche interests and over time, I discovered my professional identity as both a barber and a leather-worker.”
Part of what Zrebiec enjoys about these two realms of style is discovering the interesting ways in which his passions overlap.
“These are two crafts that are as old as time. The similarities between them are really apparent in terms of the method, the tools, and the approach I take to each of them. Hair and leather are both organic materials that I use steel to cut and different substances to style,” Zrebiec said.
“I definitely have an affinity for intricate work, doing things with my hands. Every element requires full focus. One small error in your cut can ruin the whole piece [or style] you’re working on … you really have to take your time and pay close attention to each one,” he explained.
Zrebiec pointed out that this is especially true for leather goods since the materials are not cheap to replace. And while every piece takes time, some take much longer than others depending on their unique dimensions and detailing. Zrebiec often experiments with different design elements such as broguing, braiding, tooling, and stamping – sometimes imprinting the product with his own illustrations, making it all-the-more unique.
“I’m always testing out new techniques and materials because I still have so much to learn. I often work with chrome leather, but I’ve always been attracted to a nice natural vegetable tan. It’s tanned with natural substances, so it is a lot more receptive to the elements. It wears really beautifully and is easy to press designs into,” Zrebiec said.
Zrebiec’s appreciation for leather stems largely from a place of sentimentality, as well as sustainability.
“These types of products actually get better with age. The daily use begins to add character from the moment you start breaking it in. How you use it determines the shape and patina, whether it reflects the outline of your cards or the subtle oils of your skin – it’s all a very natural process,” Zrebiec said.
“My outlook on leather is from an angle that embraces it as a biological substance that once was a living creature. I approach this material with respect and an appreciation of its wonderful applications, which have been utilized by the earliest of civilizations.”
Over the past year, Barber & Craft has appeared at maker’s markets around town including those at Abe Erb and Arabella Park, as well as at Waterloo’s Stitch & Kitch event. Today, his products are available online at barberandcraft.com, or by request via Instagram @barberandcraft. You can also sneak a peek at his display table inside the shop at Good Hair Co.
“I’m always open to chatting with a customer about their vision for a product. It helps me evolve and try new things. For example, right now I’m working on a guitar strap, a glasses case and a leather-strapped plant hanger,” Zrebiec said.
“My next steps are to invest in some industrial machinery to make my process more efficient and to expand my operations. I have endless ideas and I’m eager to be more active with the business – especially in this community,” he added.