For Travis Sigler, cosplay is everything.
"It's one thing to be a fan of something," he says, "but then you go to a convention and see other people dressed as people from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. You get super-excited because you know they're your people. It doesn't matter whether you're standing next to a Dragon Ball Z or Star Wars character. People are really friendly. It's just a huge smorgasbord of fun."
A lifelong lover of both Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon mythology, Sigler fell in love with cosplay after attending his first Comic Con four years ago. This summer, he partnered with longtime friend and leatherworker Tayler Toll, and the two translated their passion for epic fantasy into Wyrd Leather and Mead, the Portland area's first combination leather shop and meadery.
At Wyrd, you'll find everything from chainmail bikinis and jewelry made from roadkill bones to mythology-tinged jewelry and belts. The store gets its animal-based supplies from Oregon Leather Company in downtown Portland. Aside from leather materials like elk and deer hide, Sigler also makes drinking horns from steer antlers, and leather holders, which he calls "frogs."
"We try not to import anything," Sigler says. "We try to keep everything local."
Years earlier, Sigler took a licensing and copyright course at Clackamas Community College, where he learned how artists and other cosplay merchants sell products related to intellectual properties with aggressive lawyers. Rather than claiming to be direct re-creations of costume pieces, Wyrd and similar stores are allowed to sell products "inspired by" various intellectual properties. Additionally, Wyrd is protected because the majority of their cosplay pieces are custom commission orders, as opposed to thousands of mass-produced pieces.
After a few years of taking commissions and experimenting with projects and leatherwork techniques, Sigler teamed up with Toll in 2016 to brew mead, an alcoholic beverage primarily derived from fermented honey. They originally brewed in Toll's closet at home, experimenting with online formulas based on traditional 13th-century recipes. Over their first year of fermenting, the idea for Wyrd matured.
"We started Googling, and there's nothing like that in Portland right now," Sigler says. "We can express our love for art and mead—you can't get that much mead in Portland to begin with."
Through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wyrd raised funds to build its meadery, though it is still several months out from being built. Sigler says he and Toll are in the process of taking their recipes from their home equipment, which yields around 25 bottles per batch, and increasing them for Wyrd's fermenter, which yields around 250 bottles per batch.
Once the recipes—including lingonberry, bochet and possibly Oregon red oak—are perfected and the meadery is officially open for business, Sigler says Wyrd's next step is a partnership with McMinnville's Mac Mead Hall. If the meadery opens on time this spring, and can install more fermenters, Sigler believes Wyrd's mead will be available elsewhere by fall.
In the meantime, Sigler says people can come to Wyrd for their fantasy trivia nights, shop Wyrd's products and consigned local art, jewelry and mead-pairing cookbooks. He says fans of the History Channel's scripted series Vikings might see a pair of Wyrd's bracers on the actress Marta Jadach, who plays a shield-maiden.
Sigler says his customers range from Renn Faire attendees to metalheads. One thing Sigler makes clear, though, is that neo-Nazis are not welcome inside. As he got into Scandinavian and Norse mythology, Sigler learned white supremacists have long tried to co-opt runes associated with his favorite stories and his own cultural heritage. For that reason, Sigler prominently displays a sign at Wyrd's front counter articulating the store's antifascist stance.
"We had a lot of people who were concerned about [neo-Nazis], who didn't want us to get targeted by that crowd and fall into that crowd," Sigler says. "A lot of people who are Norwegian or Icelandic or from anywhere in Scandinavia are like, 'This is amazing. Thank you!' We don't want to be associated with [fascism], and it's a problem that's been happening all over the place.'"
SHOP: Wyrd Leather & Mead, 14001 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 503-305-6025, wyrdleatherandmead.com. 10 am-5 pm Friday-Wednesday.