Jim Manning in memento.

“I never knew Jim Manning from elsewhere than the book “Leather” by Willcox and Manning. And I have had the book with me in my workshop for 35 years, soon. And it feels sometimes like it’s a part of it all. And I belive I’m not alone about it”                                                                      red

Jim Manning in momento.

Since the last issue in November/Desember 2012 has the news about the US citizen Jim Mannings dead, after long time disease, reached the magasin. He was one of the two authors “Willcox and Manning” behind the book “Leather”, publised in the 1970’s. The book had its starting point in his shop Bit Ov Sole (opened in 1967-68) by the time in Copenhgen were he gathered 25 of the best leathercrafters in the world. His friend Donald Willcox, who also was a travelling american writer in Scandinavia, launched the idea to the book, first to his publisher van Nostrand/Reinhold in NYC and then to the danish Gyldendal Publishing firm. To those who are unfamiliar with the book and Jim Manning mentions here that he first time came i contact with leathercraft on some sort of reformatory school( Fader Flanagan’s Boys Town in Nebraska (Leather, Willcox and Manning, p.21) fore children/youngsters belowe 16 years because he not liked to go to school. And some times later was he working in one of Chicagos first leathershops before he open up his own shop. But so was he caugth by the police in state of Tennessee fore use of marihuana and had to go to a new reformatory school for adults in 6 months.(Læder,Dk, p.28-29). But the work i the leathershop in Chicago had been the beging to his famous Bit Ov Sole shops.  About the Bit Ov Sole shops repeats what Donald Willcox writet on page 12: ” his Bit Ov Sole shops have existet in Memphis, Ft, Lauderdal, Nanatucet, Aspen, and Miami Beach and Copenhagen and on free weels all over Europe”.(in a wolkswagenbus). He also writet on page 29: ” In 1966 was he living America and travelled to Europe”.(after the marihuana affair) And: “lived by making sandals,belts, and bags”. One quetion is allways: “How was the leathercrafter Jim Manning?”. The danish crafter Klaus Graae as startet with leathercraft on Bit Ov Sole in Copenhagen said to the magasin Lær, Sko og Skinn (Nr. 1-2008) in a talk about the book Leather and Bit Ov Sole that “Jim Manning was not such a skilled leathercrafter”. But what it real means in a party with 25 of the best leathercrafters in the world is not easy to give a comment to. Graae also said:” he was enourms competent to gathering people”. It’s all to understand as he was a talented human and leathercrafter with leader qualyties. The book as also was a expression on the field of leather art and craft for the rebbelation between young people at the time became as a part of the hippiemovement also a part of the impulse to the renesiance of leather art and craft in a time when leathercraft in a wide sence was on its way to the historical junkheap in the urban western world. Something as today perhaps can be difficoult to understand. The book was published in USA 1971, in Deenmark 1972, in England 1974,in Finland 1975,in Norway 1976 and other european countryes about(?) the same time!. But in different versions. The orange “global” version, as reached the undersigner with its danish text was the one “everbody talked about”. The hippie leathercraft had in many ways its own distiction, words and symbol, something as pictures and text in the book show in gleams. But you can also find refrences to a book as Encyclopedia of Raw Hide and Leather Braiding by Bruce Grant and patterns and pictures of braidings and lifestyle illustrations as point to folk/western leather art, craft, music and culture. But a important divide between the artforms, books and music from a antropological point of viwe is that the book Leather come out of a townculture, while Encyclopedia come out of the rodeo, cowboy and rural culture as also was popular through the country and western music. While Leather have references for example to musicans as Robert Zimmerman=Bob Dylan and David Crosby (Crosby, Stills ,Nash and Young). As was exponents for a type of contemporary music as still was inovative in the end of the 1960’s begining of the 1970’s.The magasin Lær, Sko og Skinn was also asking Klaus Graae in 2008:” was the music a important part of it all?”.And he answered:”Yes, it was important to us”. And Jim Manning also introduced some of the world’s biggest rock and roll band, as Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Canned Heat and others to play in Copenhagen. In a time, when the rock music, was exspected to be a May fly by the same establishment as the book was a rebbeletion against. But first of all was it perhaps a skilled book about leather art and craft. But it was implisitt also touching the big sosiety and the leathertrade on a unconventional way by references to drugs as marjuana and to littratur and movies and had a expression of deeply consern about the human and the humans living conditions in a time for example market by the Vietnam war. But also the european post war world. And the book became like that a part of the critical thinking by the time as reached to most classes in the sosiety, one way or the other, as a class struggel from the botten and up.Something as today not are so striking in the western part of the global world as it was. To sum up this momento article so is’t to say that the shop Bit Ov Sole and the miliue as made the book Leather possible was part of its time and a art noueva as reached, as all great art do, to many fields of life. And to many people. Also those outside the field of leather, art and craft looking for alternative ways of living in the urban world gave it inspiration. And still is the book living, in demand and reportet. And the story to Jim Manning and his leathershops, Bit Ov Sole will allways be a lightpoint in the darkness to humans as come the dreamers way with theyer hands, some tools and thoughts about leather art and craft. And peace and love in mind for the world


Don(ald) Willcox continued his authorship after the book leather by writing many different crafts books until the 1980’s when he quit working with leather and moved to Asia were he have lived about 30 years. And where he also continued his authorship with other topics.He live today in Thailand were he among others is founders of CEO, a Thai foundation that provides a varity of free services for disabled persons.


Klaus Graae still work with leather art and craft and run today his own company “Graae Copenhagen” as produce fashion leatherwear for men. Perhaps the best leather portfolio products in the world.

2 replies on “Jim Manning in memento.”

Jim and I were roommates for several year while he lived in Chicago. After he settled in Copenhagen, I visited him several times. He had a wonderful Danish wife and daughter there. I lost track of him over the years and your “tribute” is the first indication I had that he had passed on. He was truly a unique person and I have always treasured the fun times we had together. I’d like to personally thank you for posting this tribute to Jim.

I met Jim one night as I was driving to Tacoma,Washington from Tampa,Florida on my way to my permanent station as a drafted soldier probably in November 1963.It was late in the evening and I had found myself on Beale St in Memphis,Tenn. I was looking in the windows of the several pawn shops there at guitars.I was an aspiring folkie in those days 23 years old,I used to sing Beale street blues and so when I stumbled on to that famous blues street I stopped to take in the essence and feel the vibe. As i was looking into the various windows I happened by a sandal shop,Bit Of Sole, and inside the closed shop were two fellows sitting under a parachute playing guitars.I tapped on the door and one of them came to the door and opened it saying come on in and I did. It was of course Jim who asked if he could help me, I told him i played guitar ans sang,he said well come sit in with us.We played late into the night and into the early morning,it was great and I have never forgotten the openness and hospitality of that most generous man. He had a lifelong effect on me even though we only saw each other one time after that chance encounter several months later when i was returning home to Tampa after getting out of the Army. In the ensuing years I have chided myself for not continuing our friendship which i cherish to this day as one of the great experiences of my life. I am sad at his passing,a remarkable human who truly was a loving spirit,I am certain he rests in the arms of the Great Spirit.
Karol C.(bud) Klein

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