In a pair of custom made leather boots, each print and stitch is purposefully and strategically hand crafted. Each intricate detail is determined with precision. The process creates something extraordinarily out of the ordinary—eliciting beauty in every step and not just the final product. In this light, Clark Aflague’s story mirrors his work. His life has been nothing short of extraordinary as a shop owner, past Naval school director, and the kind of world traveler my passport dreams about.
The Reno native joined the military when he was 19 years old as part of the Naval Construction Battalions. With the Seabees, he spent a year working as a welder and volunteer firefighter in Antarctica. Yes, Antarctica. He made his time there count—working with new groups of people every day. “They had stargazers tracking satellites and the New Zealanders had a small base there; I helped out with a dog sled team, we had divers, a biolab, and geologists studying the ice. I dabbled into leather as I was there and kept trying to hone my craft in some sort of way.” After retiring from the service, this trade stuck with him above all the others.
Most of his work was sold on Etsy and eBay before he recently decided to open Cimarron Leather Studio in Raleigh last February. His friends were using the same forums without any physical space for their art and so the shop was created. The studio is awash with collaboration and is a tribute to craftsmanship. Everything has been made, reused, or transformed by an artist—from the custom-made boots to the oak shelves that held them. Even pieces of pieces, like the clasp of a bag, have had their own travels and stories. Clark told me about a customer who recently came in asking him to recreate the belt of his grandfather, and he managed to do so using the original buckle. With about 80% of his work being custom-made instead of off the shelf, the results have both sentimental and aesthetic value.
Cimarron Leather Studio opens at 12—“High Noon until the Cows Come Home” is what it says on the door. In the lavender colored shop on the corner of North Bloodworth and Lane, you’ll step into a different kind of Raleigh culture. You’ll see work that has been brought in from all over the country, put together by those who are ready and willing to share their own artistic influences with our city.