Curtis Sprague began leatherwork out of necessity for his job.
Curtis Sprague sews a gun holster in his garage workshop. He taught himself how to carve and stamp leather by watching YouTube videos.
When Broken Arrow resident Curtis Sprague began flying domestic and international missions for the Federal Air Marshal Service shortly after 9/11, he needed a very specific holster for his weapons.
Since he couldn’t find one available commercially, he made one out of leather.
“I needed a specific type of holster suitable for working in a unique aircraft environment,” and the holster took care of the problem, he says. He still has the prototype.
“It looks like I made it with my foot, but it was functional,” he says with a grin.
The holster became immensely popular with Sprague’s buddies.
“They would see mine, and ask where I got it,” he says. “I told them, ‘I made it.’ Then they all wanted one.”
After perfecting the leatherwork process, he made approximately 100 holsters for his comrades.
This middle-aged tough guy and father of three is not your typical artisan, but he is certainly no novice.
Before his law enforcement career began, the McAlester native studied graphic design at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee. But after graduation, while working in his chosen field, he decided “making a living at art took a lot of fun out of the process.”
He eventually spent 10 years on the Broken Arrow police force and SWAT team. During that time, Sprague had a few brushes with fame: His prior experience scored him a movie role as an ATF sniper in a raid scene of the 1993 documentary “In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco.” He also had small parts in NBC’s “The Chase,” the reincarnated TV drama “Dallas” and a few episodes of “Good Christian Belles.” That was the extent of his acting career, he says.
For the past five years, Sprague has been employed by Tactical Electronics in Broken Arrow as its West Coast representative and aviation expert. His customers are elite military and law enforcement special operations units.
Always fascinated by helicopters, he formerly made real estate videos by attaching video cameras to remote control helicopters, just as the now-popular drones were first coming on the scene.
He now demonstrates drones at trade shows and teaches a personal safety/firearm course for civilians, “The Invincible Mind.”
“It teaches you how to prepare yourself for a potentially violent situation, regardless of whether you carry a weapon,” he says.
Despite his busy career, Sprague maintains time for his leatherwork business that has seemingly taken off in his home garage workshop.
He taught himself leather working by researching the craft online, including “watching a lot of YouTube videos.” He uses a leather-sewing machine and various tools and keeps an inventory of about 200 rolls of leather.
“It’s an expensive hobby,” he says.
So far, Sprague has made bags, belts — which are especially designed for his conceal/carry customers — and purses. It takes him about four hours to make a belt, he says. He also does custom pieces, like Christmas stockings.
Most of Sprague’s work is intricate Western stamping and carving, but he also produces other styles.
“I ask my customers to send me some examples of products they like and to identify exactly what they like most” about each piece, he says. Then, he sketches a design incorporating all of the elements.
“The customer approves it before it’s created,” he says.
He would love to learn how to make boots and saddles (he grew up around horses), but he doesn’t have time now. At the time of this interview, he said he had a 12-week backlog of orders.
All proof that necessity is not only the mother of invention, but also sometimes leads to finding one’s creative calling.
To see examples of Sprague’s leatherwork, go to www.facebook.com/curtis.sprague.9.