Visual Art People

LEARNING THROUGH LEATHER: Gramps Creative Carves Deeper Meaning From Art

from wooden spoons to leather sheaths and more, nomad-turned-local shares lessons learned through creating

McKenna Scherer |

BENEATH THE SURFACE. Art teaches you a lot more about life than you may think, something Grant Schroeder (Gramps Creative) continues to discover. (Submitted photos of Gramps Creative pieces)
BENEATH THE SURFACE. Art teaches you a lot more about life than you may think, something Grant Schroeder (Gramps Creative) continues to discover. (Submitted photos of Gramps Creative pieces. Left to right: backpack, wallet, journal)

The longer I live in Eau Claire and get to chatting with folks for this job, the more I hear from people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life that they basically just fell into our slice of Wisconsin on a whim, because of family, or by chance. Grant Schroeder, a nomad-turned-artist (who may yet turn nomad again), ended up in Eau Claire due to a combination of those three reasons.

Before settling into the crooks of the Chippewa Valley, Schroeder grew up in the Twin Cities area and ventured even further north to Canada for college. After that, he was a professional wanderer, frequently crossing state lines when the wind blew a new direction from Colorado to California, to Utah and Arizona. Then he found a love for woodworking and leather.

“I feel like I always bent towards creativity, but I first made something out of leather in fall 2019,” he said. After a summer spent in Yosemite – “which was wild,” he recalled – Schroeder was curious about programs like Outward Bound, which focuses on outdoor learning and leadership.


and I like watching someone realize their capabilities. There's something about that that's so enriching.



Schroeder was surrounded by seasoned artists and folks who were making something with their own hands for the very first time: People were making backpacks out of sticks and carving spoons from wood, the latter snagging his attention. In fact, he became so entranced by the process – carving and whittling wood and the kind of surprising insight it provided to life – that it kind of became his shtick.

“People started to (say) ‘Oh, if you have Grant on staff you’re probably going to learn how to make a really cool spoon,’ ” he said. Enthralled with the process himself, it was natural to teach others how to carve spoons too, and it would later inform his art logo: A design featuring a fistful of spoons, inspired by a real photo of Schroeder holding some that were gifted to him by his students.

Gramps Creative, his art pseudonym, is self-described “new-school vintage,” largely featuring handcrafted leather works including wallets, backpacks, journals, and more, as well as his beloved wooden spoons.

As a full-time artist based in Eau Claire thanks to family who also call our city home, Schroeder has taught wood-carving in folk schools and workshops around the Midwest, and has vended at local artist markets including Eau Claire Makers’ Markets.

Similar to his own beginnings in art, he said many of his projects start organically. Folks will ask him if he can make something specific for them – currently, he’s working on a leather sheath for tarot cards, something he likely wouldn’t have made on his own – and often offers to teach them instead.

“It’s more impactful for me to be able to share the joy of creativity with other people, and I like watching someone realize their capabilities,” he explained. “There’s something about that that’s so enriching.”

More unique custom projects he’s worked on include a leather Green Bay Packers helmet as a stick shift cover; sheaths for knives or hatchets; leather suspenders, and more. Personally, he’s in the throes of wallet making right now.

Sourcing leather from local shops with a few favorites in the Twin Cities area or utilizing refuse, Schroeder said people can request and purchase his work by reaching out on Instagram or email, or finding him at arts markets. Pricing depends on the product, and is something he’s still figuring out as an artist, he said: Backpacks, made entirely by hand, range between $100 and $200; wallets can go from around $70 to $150; and journals fall in the $40 to $60 range.

While Gramps Creative could grow into more (Schroeder shared some “secret ambitions” of his with me about wanting to create more physical spaces for artists to together, among other things), Schroeder will continue woodworking and exploring what he can create from leather, and what he can teach others.

“I heard stories about how the strongest trees are the ones up on the tree line, beaten against by the wind their whole life, and how it’s actually important for trees to be tested by wind so when they come to bear fruit their branches are strong,” Schroeder said. “That (translates to) relationships and people, like a metaphor about the entire human experience.”

Find Gramps Creative on Instagram and area arts markets • Reach out with inquiries at