Studio Visit: Tomahawk

Michael Elias is the one man show behind Tomahawk Portland making some stunning leather and canvas goods in his barn/studio tucked away in the Sunnyside neighborhood. We spent a thursday afternoon hanging out and watching him work on a backpack. He is truly an amazing skilled leather worker and has created a brand with quality and craftsmanship at the forefront. We also love his smaller leather goods like his Elliott wallet and the Paycheck guitar strap. Elias prioritizes sustainable leather practices sourcing his leather from Wickett & Craig only using leather that is vegetable tanned. He is also in a country band Denver and a proud father to son Westin. Tomahawk is currently for sale in Portland at Animal Traffic and The Mill.


1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?

Portland was a bit of an accident. My wife and I left Philadelphia in a van with no real direction. After a series of new friends, new experiences and random left turns we ended up here and stayed. Been here about 7 years. 

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland?

The drive to create is extremely high here. I love meeting a random guy or gal at the bar and finding out they make something amazing that I haven't seen before. It happens all the time here. Also there's some good coffee and music. 

3. How did your brand start?

I started messing around with bags and cycling caps around 2007. Just teaching myself to design a pattern and see it through to fruition. I worked for vanilla bicycles for a while and honed some hand and design  skills which really helped point me in the direction I'm in. Over the years it's just been trial and error... Striving to be the best I can. I'm still learning every day and don't think that will ever stop. 

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

I'd have to say time. I balance a couple other jobs, a band an most importantly a family. 

5. Who is your style icon?

As far as leathercraft is concerned, Larry from Entermodal inspires me the most. His attention to detail and quality is unmatched. He also pays a lot of attention to the environmental impact of the materials he uses which means a lot to me. My style, I feel, draws a little more from classic design that I put a little of myself into. 

6. What are your favorite things about Portland?

My barn and my friends. 

7. What neighborhood describes your style the best? 

I suppose where I live and work, in the sunnyside/Belmont area. 

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace? 

The atmosphere. I've been lucky enough to find find what I believe to be the best little studio in Portland. It's an old barn/carriage house that someone down the road converted into a workspace. Definitely an old and inspiring building. 

9. Tell us two truths and a lie! 

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

Oysters are good for what ails ya. 

I've learned all I need to learn. 

10. 5 things you can’t live without.

Pocket knife