Deborah Janssens

I got involved with the Chicago School of Shoemaking because I wanted to start working with cowhide and learn how to make my shoes. I had taught sewing and pattern-making in New York so I had a lot of experience, but I really wanted to expand my skill set.

I enjoy making handbags that have the details I want (embroidery!) and enough pockets so I can keep organized. I also like making boots and sandals. I’m a problem solver at heart so I like solving design problems.

My favorite thing is the look on my students’ faces when they realize the pieces of leather they cut out are really coming together to make their bag.

I love giving my students the tools they need to start making the bags of their dreams.

During the pandemic break I’ve been working with a few mask-making groups. I was very happy to see that my first set of masks went to a Southside hospital.

Here are a few samples of my work, including my leather embroidery. I can’t wait to make sandals for summer (and perhaps handbags to go with them)!

Tutoring specialties: Bag and accessories sewing, patterning, tailoring; machine skiving. $85/hour.


IG: @secondtononechicago

Headshot photo credit: Holly McDowell


Jamie Ramsay

I started my involvement with CSOS when I took a my mom to a Leather Work 101 class for Mothers’ Day and instantly got hooked. The strength, applicability, and versatility of leather intrigued me. It also seemed like a good skill to have if there were an apocalypse. 

Some of the things I enjoy making most include hip packs and bags. I look forward to trying gloves next!

My favorite thing about teaching leatherworking classes is seeing the self-confidence that blossoms from creating a tangible and functional object for oneself. In my classes, I’m a high-fiver (which will now be all air high-fives from a responsible distance).

I’ve been moved by the overwhelming kindness of people during these rough times sheltering in place. A friend of mine tragically lost his father, who contracted Covid-19. His father was a firefighter and veteran, and well-loved in his community. On the day of the funeral, which was restricted by social distancing, the fire station sent a truck to lead the funeral procession. The community police provided an escort and blocked off intersections in 3 towns for the funeral procession to drive through. Neighbors stood on corners waving flags and holding up signs to express their respect for their friend who had passed. It was all a surprise to my friend and his family. Some people really have shown their best for their neighbors at this time.

Tutoring specialties: Machine sewing, hand stitching, small leather goods construction, embossing, machine skiving. $85/hour.

Contact Jamie at

IG: @lifeonmarsgoods

Naomi Easley

I discovered CSOS in my first 101 class, where I made a leather clutch with my partner. I fell in love with leather as a medium and with the community’s willingness to share the knowledge that the CSOS cultivates.  

I have taught small leather goods and leather molding classes at CSOS since 2015; my teaching style relies on a foundation of patience and identifying student needs on an individual basis. I never tire of seeing the fantastic things that my students make, or watching them progress on their leather-crafting journeys.

Fundamental to my teaching style is the concept of ongoing education, including my own; I still pull out that clutch from my first 101 class as a reminder of how far my leathercraft has come, and I am excited to try my hand at making costume masks this year. 

Tutoring specialties include hand stitching, molding, and dyeing, skills I have put to good practice in crafting satchels and bags. $85/hour.



Peter Thompson

I was introduced to leather arts by my late father George, who in turn had learned it from his patients while working as a nurse in Canada. 

I’m carrying on the tradition in honor of my father looking to stretch myself from the traditional Sheridan style he learned, toward contemporary carving and tooling methods.

I also like to push the envelope of dye and coloration to include alternative methods for more vibrant styles.

Tutoring specialties: Vegetable-tanned leather tooling, carving, and dyeing. $85/hour.


Sara McIntosh

Master Cobbler, Founder of the Chicago School of Shoemaking and Leather Arts

Tutoring specialties: Footwear patterning and construction, outstitch technique, product development, prototyping. $105/hour. Read my story HERE



Vanessa Arroyo

I have been a friend of the Chicago School of Shoemaking for a few years and happy to be part of the shoemaking community now that I live in Chicago.

I am a footwear enthusiast that enjoys making womxn’s shoes.

My favorite thing about teaching here is that I get to meet so many interesting, eclectic people. I may look a bit different the next time you see me because my green hair has nearly grown out since I’ve sheltered-in-place, and I may just keep it that way! 

People who work with me think that my class is very informative. 

Tutoring specialties: Lasted footwear construction, patterning, prototyping, machine sewing. Spanish speaking. $85/hour.


Yohance Lacour

I’d been working with leather for almost a decade and had never used a sewing machine. So, in 2017 I came to the Chicago School of Shoemaking to learn… and never left. I worked alongside Sara, volunteering around the school in exchange for classes until I was qualified to teach them. The rest is Black History.

I love making anything for the first time, but I most enjoy sneakers and handbags.

My favorite thing about teaching is watching students discover new techniques or tools. Those aha moments take me back to my own, reminding me of why I fell in love with this trade.

While sheltering in place, I realized that creative juices aren’t always poured into the cups we’re looking to fill. I was frustrated with myself for not churning out any leatherwork. Then it dawned on me that I’d actually been creating throughout the entire pandemic. I’d been creating ways to stay healthy and sane.

I’m excited about following through on some backpack ideas I’ve been toying with for awhile.

My goal as an instructor is simply to make learning fun.

See ya soon!  

Tutoring specialties: Sneaker construction, development of prototype, design concepting, embossing, entrepreneurship. $85/hour.


IG: @yjlacourcollection

Valerie Dramé

When I left my long-term career, I was kind of lost as to what I wanted do next. I knew I wanted to tap into my creative side and I took a Leather Work 101 class out of curiosity. I became obsessed! I loved the feel of working with leather and continued to take as many classes as I could along with practicing on my own, which allowed me to launch my own line of leather goods a short six months later. Of course, my work has vastly improved since then.

Sheltering-In-Place was in some ways status quo for me as I tend to be a homebody. But the upside is, it made me even more connected to my friends through weekly Zoom parties. I’m pretty good at Pictionary now. It was also a good time to organize my home workshop and play around with prototypes.

I primarily make women’s handbags, but I also really enjoy hand stitching small leather goods. I’ve been putting off making a backpack design for some reason – maybe that should be next! 

It’s fulfilling to show students how to used advanced methods like fine edge finishing, but what I enjoy most is learning what different students like to do in their own leather work. Everyone has their own passion. When I’m teaching, I try to make sure each person gets the attention they need while leaving some room for creative problem solving on their own.  

Tutoring specialties: Fine leather bag making techniques, such as edge finishing and hardware installations. $85/hour.


IG: @dramedesigns

Ray Serna

Originally from North-East, Los Angeles, California, I developed a love for art and design at a very early age.  By the age of 9 years old I was taking private art lessons from a family friend who was himself and accomplished artist.      

        I later attended The Los Angeles High School for the Arts.  While at LACHSA I immersed myself in sculpture (clay, multi media) and figure drawing.  I excelled in all my chosen art disciplines and graduated LACHSA with honors.  I then applied to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was accepted with a near full scholarship to attend.

            While at The School I studied the fine arts, I later decided to challenge myself further by changing my focus to Fashion design with an emphasis on footwear design and construction.

            After the first semester of footwear design I was offered a position as a teacher’s assistant and classroom tech.  I was a T.A. for 2 years.  As I reached my senior year I decided to pursue a career in footwear design.  I was offered a position as Associate designer for a company in Boston. 20 years later I have designed shoes for Coach, Nine West, Vince Camuto, Tommy Hilfiger, Creative Director of Tommy Bahama footwear, Adelante shoe co., Director of Product Development at Reliable knit of Milwaukee, while also teaching advanced footwear design and construction courses at The Chicago School of Shoemaking and leather arts.            In my spare time I collect rare gemstones and design Jewelry.  I also collect art and fashion books. In addition I love to practice Calligraphy and Knit.

Tutoring specialties: Lasted Shoemaking, patternmaking, adjusting lasts $105/hour.