|part 8| emily criscuolo of |Black Wolff Leather|
BY SHANNON CRAIG
Ours is a culture of immediacy, of repetitious give-and-take and #OOTD style.
Likes for likes, follow backs, re-gestures, and rolling commentary leave little room for self-driven motivations and independence from the hive mind, but earlier this year Emily Criscuolo tore away.
“I just recently took the plunge and quit my visual stylist job to see where my craft can take me,” the creative mind behind Black Wolff Leather confides to Foul South. “I’m a huge fan of wearable art and handmade instead of mass produced; handbags are such a personal accessory. I never wanted to carry the same bag as everyone else.”
Drawing inspiration from her grandmother, Maria Wolff, and her coat of arms, San Diego-native Criscuolo hand forges everything from handbags and vests to wallets and fringed neckwear. “Self-taught means trial and error,” she explains, “and handmade means no machines. It’s a time-consuming art since I only use hand tools, but I think that it’s what makes my brand different.”
And Criscuolo’s desire to veer from the norm doesn’t just show up in her pieces—though North American deerskin studded with snake vertebrae and fresh-from-the Earth semi-precious stones makes it abundantly clear. Her independence, her drive to create exceptional personal experiences is evident in her choices: where to live, how to work, and where to give back.
“I have a mini farm,” she says excitedly. “We moved to Lakeside to spread out and extend our family with farm animals!” In addition to raising chickens, goats, and mind-blowingly smart pigs, Criscuolo sells her work online and at shows, and gives a cut of all Black Wolff Leather dollars to an organization she cares for deeply.
“I am a member of the California Wolf Center and I donate 20 percent of proceeds from my sales to support their program and help wolves reclaim their place among California native wildlife.”
In defense of the well-worn statement, that life imitates art and the opposite, Black Wolff Leather is evidence that—often—it’s the beauty of the natural world that adorns the body and breadth of a beautiful life. Generating delicate lines of crisp softened leather, and wispy, breeze-catching strips of buttery deerskin from the hardened hides, Criscuolo marries subtle with strong, natural with abstract. Convention and mass appeal be damned, Criscuolo is fine with chasing the spark of something else.
“I’m a starving artist, not a huge money maker,” she asserts. “I do it because I love it, and I hope someone else does too.”