FREDERICK, MARYLAND —
Wheeler Stone, known as Doc, can spend hours working in his studio without getting tired or bored. He’s creating leather costumes and accessories for people who love to dress up as fictional characters from movies. He’s also designing and making various leather products for everyday life.
To him, leather-working is more of a hobby than a job.
“I get to make things different every day,” he says. “I get to create something from my brain. I pattern it, then create it and something actually exists. That’s really the best.
WATCH: Job is a dream come true for Doc Stone
Living a dream
Around three years ago, Stone quit his job as an emergency room nurse to become a maker.
He has good explanation for this move. He says, “The biggest thing about life is we can fail doing something you don’t enjoy. So, why not risk succeeding at something you do enjoy?”
Giving up his job security was a calculated risk he was willing to take.
“You know there is always that moment where you’re going like can I pay the rent this month? But I found that everything works out, like that last minute commission will come through. I think with any kind of entrepreneurship, it’s a risk.”
Becoming a full-time maker gave Stone the chance to express his passion for what's called steampunk.
“The main definition is have you seen the Wild, Wild West (TV series and movies)?,” he jokes. “But it’s a retro Victorian reality that if you had seen with the rise of steam-powered (engine) and brass and that kind of esthetic instead of the more industrial gas-powered engine thing where it's more gritty vs. like the invented gadgets and interesting things like that.”
Steampunk performer Inger Talbot dresses as Xena, the fictional character that first appeared in the 1990s on the TV show, "Xena: Warrior Princess."
“What's appealing to me about it is there is no limits to it,” she explains. “You can take anything and steampunk it. It’s an alternate time that never will be, never was. It’s Victorian gone crazy.”
When she attends steampunk festivals and events, she puts on her Xena’s armor.
Stone helps customize her look by adding new pieces.
“That’s actually a sheath for my sword so that I can be walking around and have it on my back as oppose to carrying it around and possibly impaling people because I’m really, really bad about swinging it around when it's in my hands,” Talbolt said.
Steampunk or contemporary, the process of leather-making is basically the same.
“It all comes out on paper first,” he says. “I draw it and I work out the details on paper. Then I go from there to actual paper patterning. I take a piece of paper, cut it out, pattern it around that and make sure that all the folds work. Then from there you go and cut the leather, dye the leather. Then sew it. Then put it all together.”
Stone prides himself on being a completely self-taught artist. His studio has a following on Facebook of around 5,000 fans.
Recently, he has launched an online retail store where he sells various high-end hand-made products.
“I have a 3-D printer, there are artists who use lasers to cut leather," Stone said. "I think if anything, it’s about integrating. It's just a tool. Computers are tools just as the same as my sewing machine, but it's always me doing the finishing touches on it.”
Stone says that’s what gives his products a distinctive spirit and personality — and gives him the pleasure he couldn’t find at any job other than maker.