Celebrating his 15th year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival!
You may have seen his work around the festival grounds in the hands of fest goers, strapped onto belts, or thrown into the air in search of a top off. You cannot travel more than ten steps without seeing one of his handcrafted leather mugs. With intricate designs and quality craftsmanship, Erik Kask has created a name for himself within the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Carried on from a legacy many know and love.
Growing up in New Ulm not far from the eccentric festival grounds Erik was able to visit the Minnesota Renaissance Festival often. He loved seeing the numerous leather shops to see what everyone was creating, learning about new items and ideas that the makers before him explored. This is where he came to know Harold ‘Mac’ McMillan, the owner of Thistle Leather and original maker of the infamous Leather Mug. Erik had the opportunity to work with Master Mac one day in his shop, where Mac showed him how to work with the old sewing machine that was in his possession. As Mac answered his eager questions, Erik’s hobby slowly grew into a lifestyle.
Spending 4 hours with Master Mac that day was only the beginning. It wasn’t until the widow Trish McMillan reached out to Erik two months her husband’s passing; and offered him the opportunity that would take him away from his teaching career and propel him to the life of leather. Erik helped Trish make leather mugs for the next three years and helped her sell at the festival.
After Erik helped Trish he was ready to set off on his own. He studied the art of leather work, finding mentors in his early years, and soon bought his own place at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Claiming his spot and beginning the Elandah Leather business.
In his own words his shop is in the best neighborhood at the festival. “I would walk bare footed over glass for any one of my neighbors” he said, then after some thought added “maybe stocking-footed”. In his shop you can always find an extra stool to sit on and have a good chat with Erik and his daughter Samantha who helps her father pick up some of the load. As a talented artist she helps paint the designs onto the leather pieces. Erik has many patrons who stop by every year, either to buy a mug to start or continue their collection or to chat and catch up on what’s happened in the past year. “Sometimes my shop feels like the bar in Cheers! I am truly blessed to have met so many fine people over the years.”
In his booth, Erik also maintains a full service workshop where he is able to create hundreds of small custom pieces on the spot for people as well as do a lot of repair work. Helping patrons repair mugs, leather pouches, corsets, or the occasional pair of sandals.
Anyone who has been to the Renaissance Festival has felt the spirit that no one can properly describe. This may be from a long standing tradition where the Morris Dancers come out late into the night and bless the festival grounds. Erik is one of many permanent vendors out at the festival who is allowed to stay in his shop overnight during the season and has been fortunate enough to witness this ritual. “That is my single favorite thing to see” during the festival season.
One thing Erik has noticed about the Renaissance Festival is that roughly 90% of the people do not dress up. Therefore, he has mug designs that his customers will be interested in and will use throughout the year. Among the designs you can find in his shop are: western/rodeo designs, biker themed designs, patriotic mugs, wildlife mugs, all 5 military branches can be found as well as the firefighter and law enforcement emblems. When it comes to making the mug designs Erik tries to challenge himself in creating something different as well as something people will like.
Erik does accept custom work and loves doing it, however; when he does accept a custom work job it takes time. Erik wants to make sure he knows the customer or the person the mug is going to go to in order to make it truly a one of a kind piece. When starting a new custom piece more time goes into the actual planning of the design and execution of the design then actually making the mug. “The custom piece will be truly one of a king and of a quality that they can’t get anywhere else.” Erik always guarantees his work for his life. If you ever have trouble with your mug, he will fix it. That is his Lifetime Guarantee.
You can visit Erik during our 2018 festival season in his shop, located down in the Narrows right across from the Grove Stage. To learn more about Erik check out his website http://www.elandahleather.com/ where you can read about his early years in his bio and make a purchase before the start of the season. You can also keep up with Erik by checking out his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/elandahleather/