And it starts with one, beautifully crafted leather ball.
BY BERKELEY LOH
“We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Paul Cunningham, Founder and Craftsman of Leather Heads Sports, has never stopped playing. Growing up in a rural town, before social media and the internet existed, Cunningham spent the majority of his time outdoors – playing, exploring, and learning to create things with his own two hands. He reminisces about his childhood in Cooperstown, NY, where baseball and soccer taught him some of life’s most important lessons: cooperation, humility, perseverance, passion, hard work and dedication.
Cunningham realizes his products are much more than just beautifully crafted objects. They are made for connecting with the people you love. “Sport connects generations, cultures, and ethnicities. It is the Olympic ideal,” says the self-taught leather craftsman. Cunningham developed his crafting skills as a hobby while working a corporate day job, teaching himself the basics of cutting, sewing and stitching leather. After seemingly endless trial and error, he designed the Lemon Ball Baseball and a new business was created. With the success of the Lemon Ball Baseball, Cunningham was compelled to expand the concept to include other sports balls – all designed for play, but made with beautiful and quality leathers.
“The hallmark and inspiration of my business is that I use the sculptural shape of the sports ball as a vehicle to showcase beautiful and expensive leather,” says Cunningham, who admits to having an obsessive nature that fuels his passion to design and create beautiful things.
From once running a one-man show to now running on the sidelines, Cunningham’s day is focused on managing people and growing his business. Running a business does not come naturally to Paul – although he mentions having no regrets, there have been a handful of lessons learned. Keep in mind that Paul is not so much a book keeper, nor an office administrator, nor an expert in human resources. He is a craftsman.
While he’s the head of a successful business overseeing, mentoring and taking care of a talented team, Paul finds happiness sitting at his sewing machine. Creating, tinkering and refining sports balls is his version of yoga – but instead of ending a session with Namaste and a bow, Paul walks away with a beautifully crafted object, knowing that his creation will help create stories and experiences for others around the world.
“Sport is passion, and sport has unlimited capacity to be a positive influence. The most passionate people in my life are athletes. I think of the memories from my youth and the things that drive me to be better, smarter, and stronger… sports was always a central theme.”
Get out there, grab a Leather Head ball, and start playing.