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Fred Eisen Leather and Artknives – Creating fine leather goods

by Christine Wolkin

Fred Eisen, owner of Fred Eisen Leather and Art Knives in New Hope, has been in the leather business for nearly his whole life, designing and making some of the finest leather bags, briefcases, purses, belts, apparel, and accessories available anywhere in the country.

“I started doing leatherwork as a hobby when I was 12 and it ended up paying for college,” says the Brooklyn native, who studied art, design and architecture at Southern Illinois University.

Fred opened a store in Brooklyn Heights in 1978 on Montague Street, where he worked until 1990 and had a fantastic following, working with many Manhattan shops.

In 1989 he moved his shop to New Hope and has been there ever since.

“I’ve always liked New Hope, when I was a kid I used to come in the summer. It has a real positive energy,” says Fred.

Fred is self-motivated and self-taught.

As a kid, Fred began to craft equestrian products, studying the history of leatherwork and fashion and working many jobs over the summers honing his skill. 

With a focus on beauty, function, and durability, Fred’s leather designs are timeless.

“Wonderful leather shop with an extensive array of unique items…from the artisan knives, to handmade necklaces, bracelets and sought after leather jackets, boots and hats. Fred is an absolute pleasure to speak with. He is so talented and his vast knowledge makes the perusal of his boutique that much better. Definitely stop in and check out the shop!” said Elke Kalogiannis.

“I bought a belt when I was visiting my girlfriend in the U.S. last year. It’s the best one I’ve ever had and it’s still perfect,” says Ian Roberts, another satisfied customer. “The staff in the shop were extremely friendly and the place was filled with really expertly crafted goodies and I wanted them all.”

For years Fred has collected knives and made custom leather knife sheaths for fine bladesmiths and collectors from around the world. 

This inspired a whole new artknives.com website, which features knives that are available to customers.

“My fascination with knives began with tools for doing leatherwork. Being a leather craftsman for 40 plus years and having delved into the history of leatherwork and the tools of the trade has provided a natural progression into knives. At an early age people and knife makers asked me to make knife sheaths for them, thus providing another step into the world of knives,” says Fred.

Fred Eisen Leather also features the work of other fine leather and other craftsmen and designers.

“Being a contemporary American craftsman has influenced me to support other contemporary craftsman. It is hard to find any other craft with the artistic and functional integrity of our contemporary generations of blade smiths and knife makers,” says Fred.

The shop’s current hours are seven days a week from 11:00am through 6:00pm, with extended weekend hours from late spring through December. The shop is located at 85 South Main Street in New Hope.
For more information, call 215-862-5988 or visit https://fredeisenleather.com/ or www.artknives.com.

PHOTO CAP: Fred Eisen (right) in his shop with belt maker Lea Nelson.