Update: We’ve got a selection of fine wares by Cause and Effect available again on Gilt MAN this Friday, 1/13. Mark those calendars, and read on to learn more about Billy, his work, and the psychosocial benefits of bootleg booze.
Most belts don’t start out as a strip of leather sitting at the bottom of a river, and most buckles have had exactly zero contact with a manhole cover before they reach you. But then, most belts aren’t made by Billy Moore, the unorthodox craftsman behind handmade accessories line Cause and Effect. We’re lucky enough to have an exclusive collection of Billy’s rough-hewn belts, bracelets, and more up for grabs on Gilt MAN this Friday, so we decided to drop him a line to talk about life in Tennessee, indigo-dyed leather, and one very important moonshiner by the name of Popcorn.
How’d you find yourself in Tennessee? I believe you’re originally a Northern boy, if I remember correctly.
I came here because I was looking for a place to make a fresh start and clear my head.
Seems like it worked pretty damn well. So, what led you to start making belts?
I’ve been doing metal work for the last 16 or so years, and I became extremely close to a family in Tennessee that makes belts, so I started making buckles for them. From there I started messing around with leather and found a style that suited me, and then started crafting belts and buckles one at a time on my own.
Is there anything behind the name “Cause and Effect,” or did you just like the ring of it?
The name is important to me. It’s a reminder that we can make this world better in small ways ourselves. From little things like holding the door, helping someone struggling to load their groceries, to helping with bigger things like food banks and homeless shelters. We never know when our small actions will inspire someone to do something on their own.
Can you tell us about how you source your materials?
Getting things from the USA is paramount—from a social responsibility standpoint, and for quality as well. No one does leather better than Chicago’s Horween tannery. It may be expensive, but there’s nothing else like it.
Let’s talk about how you treat the leather and metal you use. I know it’s painstaking, and I know that you’ve got a few different methods you employ, from soaking in a river and then drying in the sun, to painting and sanding, to beating the hell out of everything with a hammer. Care to fill us in on the process?
For me the creative process is fueled by my surroundings. Texture and color, whether from the mountains or the inner city, are key for me. I love using abrasive river rocks to distress belts and buckles, but it’s also inspiring to use asphalt and manhole covers.
The collection you’ve put together for Gilt MAN Finds: Let’s hear about it.
The Gilt collection is the most fun I have ever had in the studio. For metals, I used copper, brass, nickel, and sterling. On the leather front, I used naked (Ed’s note: “Untreated,” is another way to say it) vegetable tanned leather, and I hand dyed the indigo leather four times to achieve a color so dark it had shades of blue black and purple. This collection has so many pieces that I love, but my favorites would be the shell cordovan and sterling hospital bracelets, and the double wrap bracelets that utilize vintage turquoise.
Every time I run into you, I wind up drinking some really killer moonshine. And we’re talking the real deal: Strong stuff that comes in unlabeled mason jars. Why the predilection for it? And how do you manage to get your hands on it?
Ah, the moonshine. It’s the greatest ice breaker in the world. You can be total strangers, but after you share a few swigs of 150 proof shine with someone, you become fast friends. I used to get my beverage from a gentleman named Popcorn. He did a History Channel special on the making of moonshine, and there’s even a movie about him. He passed on, unfortunately, so my supply now comes from a new source.
When I first met you a year and a half ago, you didn’t even have a website—just an email address that folks could write to and request a belt. Now, you’ve got yourself a fancy new site, and I’m seeing your gear pop up more and more places. How are things going for Cause and Effect, and what’s up next for you?
New for me? Hmmm. Well, I’m vowing to actually read and answer my email for once. And that website, well some friends actually took it upon themselves to create it for me. Thanks Fran and Joe. I promise I’ll actually check it for orders.