As soon as i opened the door Sammo’s workshop, my senses are overwhelmed by the smell of leather. Everywhere I look, there is a mix of beautifully crafted saddles, offcuts of leather, original hand tools to longhorns. I could spend hours rummaging through this workshop. It’s a workshop where someone has spent decades honing their craft. Sammo explains this as his organised chaos. To me it’s a creatives dream.
Andrew ‘Sammo’ Salmon was born in England in 1951. When he was 9 years old, his family set out on their adventure to move to Australia, where his father was going to work as a chief engineer in Geelong. The Family packed up their life in England and prepared for their five week voyage on the ‘Strath Naver’ ship. Their trip took them through the Suez Canal, stopping in Yemen, making their way to Bombay where Sammo recalls seeing the beautiful blue ocean and skies turning into a long dark hazy cloud that went for 100s of km. After a stop over and tourist trip around Colombo, they sailed across the Indian Ocean and made their first step onto Australian soil in Fremantle, WA. From here, they sailed through the Great Australian Bight which Sammo recalls as being radical seas where the ship often seemed vertical and even the indoor pool on the ship was emptied. Finally, they reached their destination of Melbourne. For Sammo and his brother, the five week trip was nothing but fun and adventure, where as he believes his parents may have had a different experience.
The Salmon family settled in Belmont where it was nothing but dirt roads and five months of rain, opposite to the hot and sunny videos they had previously seen of Australia. After leaving school at the age of 15, Andrew began his first job at the wool mill in North Geelong as an apprentice designer. This is where his passion for hand crafting began. Sammo started riding horses at 12 years old. He was given a saddle by a friend, but the saddle needed repair work. After receiving some quotes for repairs, he and his father decided they’ll learn to fix it themselves. They bought an awl, needles and thread and figured out how to repair the saddle. Andrew became infatuated by western saddles, and saved up money from his paper round to purchase a book released by R.M Williams titled ‘How To Make Cowboy Horse Gear.’
The first product he and his father ever made was a set of leather coasters, which he still keeps to this day. Sammo moved to Torquay where he worked multiple jobs such as greens keeping, managing local surf shops, and pouring beers at the local pub. He then began crafting leather bags, which had engraved designs on them influenced by the Torquay lifestyle. A group of the boys established the name ‘Happy Days Leather Co’ which they engraved on their leather satchel bags. Andrew reflects on this stage of his life as being a time filled with surfing, friends, parties and pure happiness.
Sammo then set out on an surf adventure up the coast with Rip Curl & Quiksilver founders Brian Singer and Alan Green. He was dropped off in Yamba where he then made his way to Maroochydore where he worked at the Hobbit leather shop. Wherever Sammo went, he took his leather tools with him. He then found him self going to Thursday Island on a mission to repair a yacht and sail it to Botany Bay with his friend. After they set out on their voyage, they ended up returning to Thursday Island where Sammo lived on the yacht and spent a year there making leather products such as stubby holders, belts and bags.
By the 80s, Sammo returned home to Torquay where he worked various jobs whilst travelling to different parts of Australia. He established a nursery and would delivery flowers around town in a horse & cart. A group of the locals had an idea to start the Bellbrae Cup which ended up being an annual event of fun horse racing where they would have shetland ponies racing against draft horses. The event was help as a fundraiser and Sammo was responsible for driving people to and from the races in his horse & cart with a barrel of beer. The event was eventually shut down by the Australian Jokey’ s Club, so Sammo packed his things and moved to WA to work and play Polo Cross. As usual, his leather machines and tools travelled with him and he continued to craft his products.
After various injuries, Sammo returned home to Torquay where he met his wife in the early 90s. He began making saddles in various houses around Torquay. His family then moved to Moriac, where he is still living today. He established a workshop and shop selling leather products, hats, boots and clothing. His workshop still exists today, and Sammo is still in there crafting his beautiful leather products every day trading under the name Of Leather & Wood.
Cheap isn’t good, and good isn’t cheap. You can connect with Sammo by phoning 03) 5266 2188 or through a google search.