Perfection is what drives Hallot Parson, no matter the endeavor.
Parson, co-owner and chocolate maker at Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh since 2008, has also turned his attention to leather, and his purist’s eye toward crafting shoes and fine bags.
“One of the things I like about making leather goods is that I make these bags and they are still here, and someone may use them and I will see that bag around town,” says the chocolate maker. “And that is a very interesting thing, to put a lot of work into something and have it survive beyond the moment.”
Parson studied with a Hungarian master shoemaker in New York in 2010 and later spent time with a second-generation Texas bootmaker. His aesthetic is driven by what he wants to wear and the quality of the leather hides. A pair of shoes usually takes him about 30 hours to make; a pair of boots takes around 40, depending on the type of construction.
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“Piece by piece, I just started making a few pairs for myself and friends,” he says of his shoes, pulling a handful from a closet. “The Hungarian who taught me shoemaking says that you should not ask for money for a pair of shoes until you make 20 pairs.”
Parson goes on to point out the flaws in each early shoe – flaws he learned from while improving his technique. He is not quite at 20 pairs yet, but he is very close.
Until his shoemaking reaches his perfectionist standards, only Parson’s handmade leather bags and wallets are sold through his online shop, Halet Benchmade ( haletbenchmade.com), and at Quercus Studio in Raleigh. Those range in price from around $125 for wallets to $495 for briefcase-style bags. His first bags were for a local textile artist who needed accessories for her line in a fashion show. “It was a lot of fun to see my stuff go up on a runway actually, because that is outside my realm of familiarity,” he says. “And I enjoyed the fact that you could put in a day or two days’ worth of work and have a finished piece.”
Parson says he keeps working at the shoes because he hasn’t reached the level of craftsmanship he’s trying to achieve.
“When you see a really finely made – say it is a case or a pair of boots – it’s immediately obvious that this is a finely crafted thing,” he says. “I want to be able to do that. I know there is this goal, there is this level that I want to achieve, and I am not there so I have got to keep pushing towards that.”
Learn more about Parson’s work at haletbenchmade.com.