When Colleen Schreiber was laid off from her job in food and beverage sales in March, she didn’t panic. But as the months stretched on without a path of return to her 15-year career, Colleen began looking for a way to reinvent herself. She soon found the answer in a craft that combined her longtime love of design and quality craftsmanship — hand-sewn heirloom leather pieces, made to outlast the passing whims of fashion or pandemic shifts.
Colleen recruited her husband, Erik, a classically trained painter turned engineer and architect, to help work out the logistics and design the logo. The two settled on a symbol that long held meaning for them — the ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail. The ancient symbol of the eternal cycle of death and renewal, regrowth and rebirth, is one that Erik wears as a tattoo and Colleen wears as her wedding band.
Paired with the name Ophidia, the scientific name for the snake, the story behind the brand evolves into the end of one career and the beginning of another, the life cycle of leather, and the philosophy of using every part of what nature gives us.
“For us, the ouroboros means to continue growing, reinventing ourselves, to not become stale but to continue to grow as a person,” Colleen says. “We use cattle, cow or bison, to sustain our lives. By using every part of the hide to create heirloom pieces that can be passed down from a father to a son or a mother to a daughter, we are continuing its life.”
Starting (and Honing) Ophidia Leather
Leather being her preferred gift for every major holiday, Colleen was well-versed in what made a handbag or wallet special. Recreating those aspects, and inventing new ones, required a lot of research. A lot of trial and error. And experimenting with lots of tools. Now, a sunny space off the dining room of the couple’s Pinehurst home holds the hides they source from ranchers out West, a long work table, an industrial sewing machine and, finally, a rack for hanging finished or soon-to-be finished Ophidia Leather products.
“Together, we design every single aspect of it — from where the logo is going to go, to what kind of stitching we’ll use; the hides, the rivets, the tassels, the colors, the finishes, whether it’s hair-on or hair-off. He’s the numbers guy,” she says, gesturing toward Erik, “and brings an aspect of mathematical design. I bring the aesthetic.”
The Ophidia Leather process is cathartic for Erik, who has relished every chance to get creative since he made his own career pivot into the 3rd Special Forces Group 10 years ago. While Colleen’s aesthetic choices often overrule his own, he’s bringing his own instincts to products in development like men’s wallets and even a leather duffel bag.
Overall, the line is clean and simple, with natural and neutral tones that might, on occasion, yield to one bright pop of color. Most importantly, the handmade process and the availability of source material mean no two pieces are alike.
Creating a Lasting Business
Ophidia Leather made its first public debut at an August marketplace on the Sunrise Theater lawn, receiving rave reviews on the business’s stock of pre-made options and some orders for custom goods. From wallets to bags and even strops, for sharpening knives — Colleen and Erik are happy to make it all.
“When you purchase a product from us, you’re not buying it from a corporation. You’re helping a local family sustain their life; you’re contributing to your community and getting a high-quality, one-of-kind heirloom that you’ll cherish for years to come.”
This piece was produced in partnership with Ophidia Leather.