Name: Ethan Carter
Biz name/website: Ethan Carter Designs
Hometown/Current town: Boston, MA
Ethan Carter is a self-taught maker who’s best known for his exceptional leather designs. Only three years in as a content creator, Ethan has already made an impact in the Maker community with his hit projects, like the leather ping pong paddle video he just created for the #RocklerHobbyChallenge on YouTube. Whether he’s creating a dog bed hammock using Maker Pipe connectors or a leather wallet out of vintage boxing gloves, Ethan has a project for anyone getting into leather work or woodworking design.
How did you first get started in making/woodworking?
I’ve always been a tinkerer. Growing up my dad had a shop in the basement so I’ve always had this creative side and have been making things for years. But I really didn't know anything about content creation or the Maker community until early 2018. My radio stopped working in my car so I started listening to podcasts, and I stumbled across a podcast episode about Instagram and the Maker community. They discussed what a maker was and I had an epiphany of I'm a maker.
I never knew what to call it before, because I didn't consider myself a fine craftsman, but I love to make things and learn how to make things. From there making became a much bigger hobby and the content creation part came about, which I also fell in love with.
What type of jobs/careers did you have before becoming a Content Creator?
Actually, I still do. Being a content creator is my side hustle. I currently work at Gorton’s Seafood as a customer marketing manager for them. I manage customers from all around the country and work with our sales team to sell products into retailers. I’ve been with the company since I graduated college in 2006 and it's a great company.
That is the day-to-day job, but it's very different from content creating, which is kind of why I love this so much. It kind of balances both aspects of interest in my life. Part of me would love to do this full time at some point, but if not, I'm happy still being a part-time content creator and maker.
What medium do you work with most?
I do a little bit of everything. I started working with woodworking, but I'm known for my leather working, but probably not the kind of leather working that people traditionally think of. I do make traditional products (leather wallets, belts, etc.), but my favorite thing to do is to kind of incorporate leather into other projects or in ways that you might not always think of.
Do you have a favorite piece and why is that special to you?
One of my favorite projects I made was a wood and leather toolbox. The sides are made out of wood, and the body of the box itself is made out of leather. It's fun trying to figure out ways to use leather and incorporate it into a project in a way that someone hasn't thought of. I came up with a hashtag a while back called Unnecessary Leather, and use that to make silly projects for Instagram and have fun with it.The toolbox is probably one of my favorite pieces in terms that it really encapsulates that thought process of combining two mediums into one.
Another one of my favorite projects is actually my first YouTube video where I made a bentwood modern mantle clock. I really like the project, because it was a truly unique design that I came up with. It didn't really come from anybody else's designs or inspired by anyone else's designs. It's kind of a funky piece and even if it's not your taste necessarily, it's a striking and interesting piece that really makes you stop and look at it. I was really proud of that one, and like I said, there's a bit of a sentimental value because it was my first video.
When did you realize you wanted to work with leather?
I think it was around November of 2018. I've got a super small shop in my basement and literally can touch both walls at the same time with my arms. When it started to get too cold to bring the table saw out into the driveway anymore. I was looking for something to do that I could do in my small shop in the winter, so I bought some inexpensive leather working tools and made my first wallet. I had never done anything with leather before that and by no means was I expecting this to become kind of my thing or do this long term. I thought it was going to be a project or two, and then go back to woodworking, but I kind of fell in love with it. Also my audience seemed to really respond to it. And being a content creator, that is important.
One of my biggest goals is to encourage people to get into leatherworking. I think some people are intimidated by the really high-end, fine leatherworking, and I think leather can be used in so many different ways. So the #UnnecessaryLeather is kind of silly and tongue in cheek, but helps introduce people into leather making and shows that it's not that hard to get into. It's a reasonable medium in terms of expense and knowledge to get into and that's also why I kind of gravitated towards that. I still love it and seeing people's reactions to it (designs). It led to working with leather in a different way than others were. It kind of became my thing, even though I kind of stumbled into it, and I just doubled down on it and kept making more and more leather projects.
You recently were featured as a Tool Tech at Make48’s event at MakerspaceCT. What did you think about your first event in Hartford, Connecticut?
It was a blast. I really had a great time and enjoyed everything about it. As I was saying before, I think there's something so inspiring when you get so many like-minded and passionate people together. And it was amazing to watch the teams brainstorm, design, and then build a project all within 48 hours. It was just kind of amazing to see that whole process crammed into such a short amount of time. And to your point, also getting to work with the other tool techs.
It was just so much fun and we all had a great time. And within that I also found other tool techs that also showed me how much I still don't know. To be honest, I find that super inspiring and motivating to keep learning and growing, seeing all their skill sets that I don't have.
If you were on a team for a Make48 event, name 3 other makers who would be on your team and why? (and what would your team name be?)
I’ll pick the makers from the Hartford event. They were all so amazingly talented, as I said before, and I truly thought that we all brought something different to the table. Different skill sets, different ways of thinking about things. The other thing is, I know that I can work with them nonstop for 48 hours, and not go crazy. So that would be an added bonus as well! I'll keep it simple and pick them. I'm probably the worst, most unoriginal team naming person ever. So I would definitely delegate that to someone else. I mean, you look at my channel and my brand name. It's basically my name. So that just goes to show you how uncreative I am when it comes to naming things.
Is there a technique that you want to learn more about?
The list is extensive, if not ever growing. I want to learn all the things, but I think if I was to put something at the top of my list, I've always wanted to learn how to weld and do metalwork. I feel it opens up so many more options in terms of design and builds that I could do, and it's just really cool. Similar to how I feel about woodworking and leatherworking, but it feels like magic when you can take metal and make something out of it. It's kind of always amazed me. So I think that would probably be one of the skill sets and mediums I would put to the top. Watching Lucas at the Hartford event weld was so cool. If I had a bigger shop at my house I would probably just get a welder and learn from YouTube, but since I don't really have the space, it probably would make sense to at least start at a makerspace.
What has being a maker meant to you?
We talk about the maker community all the time and how supportive it is, but it's true. It's such an inspiring and supportive community, and I've learned so much from everyone. And truly, I've made some of my best friends from it. It's been such a rewarding community to be a part of, and it's meant the world to me. It really has changed my life, meeting all these people and having this be a huge aspect of my life now.
Where is the best place to catch up with Ethan Carter Designs?
Visit me on Instagram and at my YouTube channel. I also co-host a weekly podcast called Because We Make with Vincent Ferrari that’s available on all platforms. We discuss how to improve your making and creativity business, building your brand with guests from across the maker community.
One tool you couldn’t do without:
Probably my pricking irons (used to punch the stitch holes in leather). I use those with almost every project I do so those would probably be one of the hardest tools to give up. But one of my new latest tool obsessions is actually something I experienced at the Make48 event and also was one of the sponsors. I used the OLFA rotary cutters, and that thing is just the best. I mean I've used rotary cutters forever, but this one was just absolutely amazing. The folks at OLFA were nice enough to send me one after the event, and I've been using that non stop. That's probably my latest obsession tool, but the pricking irons are probably the one tool I couldn't live without.
Maker who inspires you:
Oh, man, there's so many as you can imagine. If you looked at my YouTube subscription page, you’d probably fall over because I've subscribed to way too many. One of my all time favorites, not just content creator, is David Picciuto of Make Something TV. He also does a podcast with Jimmy DiResta and Bob Clagett called Making It.
I just love his work and how many different passions he has. He's almost always juggling different ones, and watching him bring those passions into content is always really inspiring as well. And he has a great dry sense of humor, which always gets me. He's definitely been one of my all time favorites, but like I said, I could list people for days that inspire me.
And lastly, what’s the longest you’ve stayed up to finish a project?
I am not a late night person and actually, I'm one of those weirdos that never pulled an all-nighter in college, so probably the Make48 event was the latest I've ever stayed up doing a project. I was pretty tired at the end of each of those days. Tired but fulfilled.