BROCKWAY — Bo Delia is a self-taught leather artist who never expected to see her work displayed for a gallery show when she first began learning the craft.
Delia’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and her mother’s doctor suggested that she and her sisters should exercise their brains by learning new skills. Delia thought she was too old to learn new skills, but remembered how much she loved the smell of leather as a young girl.
The next day she saw an ad that the Brockwayville Depot would be having a basic leather demonstration.
“I think God had his hand in that. So, I went to the class and was hooked,” Delia said.
She began searching craft stores in the area for leather tools, but couldn’t find any. Her husband, Rich Delia, remembered that True Value used to sell Tandy Leather supplies, but she was again told the store no longer had anything. A week later they called her back that they had found two tubs of leather supplies in the basement. This was another “thank you God” moment for Delia, she said.
The kits were 40 years old and the tools were rusty, but she cleaned them and used them to practice. She made some keychains for family members, then her sister brought her some pictures of purses. Delia thought they were nice, but wanted to design her own.
She made her own pattern from a full sheet of leather, and went from there. She bought wood for the bottoms from Fremer’s lumber company, and kept practicing. She made several bags, and every once in a while she would be out with one of her bags, and be asked where she found it. This led to her selling a few of her bags, or accepting commissions to make personalized ones.
“I’ll try making anything,” Delia said. “Anything to keep my mind active.”
With some encouragement, she entered the Brockway Fourth of July Art Contest that same year, and won second place.
She and her sister attended a jewelry making class at BCAT, which she figured she could apply to her leather creations. This was the first time she had ever been to the center. The teacher who had been in the metals shop before Melissa Lovingood had left behind a large sheet of leather, so Lovingood asked Delia if she could do anything with it. She ended up hosting a three-day leather workshop for the center, teaching how to make keychains with the leather. Lovingood reached out to her about a gallery showing at the beginning of October.
“When Melissa reached out I told her I’m only self-taught, but she said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ I just didn’t feel like I was worthy of it because I never went to school for leather,” Delia said. “It is truly an honor to be down here.”
She works for about 40 hours on each purse she makes. She takes photos and records the details in case she ever needs to do touchups or mend a bag. She has done no advertising for her bags, but has enjoyed steady sales just due to word of mouth. Everything she makes has a cross on it somewhere.
“I believe that God has given each and every one of us special gifts and talents,” Delia said. “Here I am, married for 45 years, a mother of three, and grandmother of seven beautiful grandchildren, and I’m just learning new things. You are never too old to learn.”