The Pros and Cons of Crafting with Leather
As a textile material it’s said that the origins of leather are as old as civilization itself? A lot of writers credit its origins to different points in history, but perhaps the most impressive is actually found in the Bible. The Bible credits the origins of leather all the way back to Adam and Eve. After they sinned and were removed from the Garden of Eden it’s said that God made them garments from skin and clothed them. What type of skin? It doesn’t say, but I’m guessing it might have been a lamb or something similar. So regardless of what point in history you go back to, leather has been around a long time and will probably be around until the end of civilization itself. But what has made this material so appealing throughout the ages? Perhaps this blog is not intended to completely answer that question, but feel free to add to it with your comments below…
So for now, let's talk about the pros and cons of crafting with leather. I think the best way to tackle this topic, is to simply look at the qualities of the material and it applications. In this blog I’m only going to be focusing on vegetable tanned leather, since this is what was used historically. Chrome tanned leather didn’t come along until the 1800’s. The Pros –
It’s an eco-friendly and natural resource – No harmful chemicals are used in the tanning process.
It has a very pleasant fragrance - Natural rich earthly scent that doesn't overwhelm.
It is ideal for use in art or craft –
Images can be carved and tooled into the surface of the leather to transform this material into literal works of art
It can be wetted and molded into any shape or form you want. Magnificent statues and pieces of art have been molded with leather throughout the centuries, such as in the image to the right.
It can be stained or dyed to any color you want
It’s extremely durable and can last a lifetime (Special emphasis on Vegetable tanned leather)
It’s not that expensive… - You might be surprised to here me say that, but considering what leather is and how much you can buy for the price, it really isn’t that expensive. Since leather is a natural resource, it’s prices will fluctuate from time to time. But regardless, I still think it’s a very affordable craft material that is unmatched by any other.
It’s compatible – Leather is also very compatible with other textile materials, wood, and more.
Leather takes on beautiful properties as it ages and antiques - As leather is exposed to natural elements, such as sunlight, moisture, and oils from our hands, over time the leather will take on a beautiful natural patina tan that only adds to it beauty and look.
Leather requires a little upkeep – Compared to other textiles leather actually requires much less upkeep to maintain, but in order to keep it clean it’s best to protect your leather goods with leather care products from time to time.
Best not to get it wet! – Leather can handle some moisture but being a natural material it’s best not to leave it in the rain if you really want it to last.
Shopping for leather – One of the biggest complaints people have when buying vegetable tanned leather is that it has some scaring on the leathers top surface. But this is unavoidable since the leather is a natural material. So, if the animal is raised on the free-range, then it’s going to have some scaring from bug bites, barbed wire fences, branding marks, or other animal bites. In some ways I think these marks lend character and beauty to the properties of the leather, but if you are shopping for perfection, then there are more expensive hides that can be purchased. Top quality hides are usually made from animals that are raised in protective environments where their exposure to harmful conditions are removed. These hides are of course very beautiful, but also very costly. Sometimes it’s more affordable to buy 2 hides of a cheaper leather with scars than it is to buy 1 piece of hi-quality leather. I guess it just depends on what you are making and what the job demands.
It’s a less known craft niche – Some may see this as a pro or a con, but I think the leathercraft industry doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Considering everything that can be done with leather and rich history of the craft I hope to see it become one of the most popular crafts the world has to offer.
So as far as I can tell the pros, far outweigh the cons... What do you think?
The Power Of Creative Therapy!
I've always had a lot of hobbies but discovered leathercraft during a difficult time in my life. It was extremely therapeutic as well as rewarding and helped me focus on what I was doing creatively rather than on the problems around me. Over the years I've discovered a lot of people with a similar experience as mine. We all need a healthy outlet that does not involve looking at a screen or being preoccupied with likes on social media. One good friend and successful leather artisan once shared with me that prior to getting involved with leathercraft she was losing an ongoing battle with depression. She had been on medication and therapy for a while, but in spite was getting worse. Then one day someone introduced her to leathercrafting and suggested she give it a try. She immediately took to it and her condition began to rapidly improve. Within a short amount of time, she was off her meds and living a healthy and productive lifestyle. Since then she's made a career out of her craft and has received multiple awards and honors for her work and contributions.
Healthy creative expression is not only a very important part of who we are, I believe it's also food for our souls. Its a beautiful way to share with others some of our finer qualities rather than some of the chaos we're fed through the media everyday. You can't always take a vacation from stress in your life, but you can find opportunities to rest and recharge through creativity. There are also many reasons why I love to work with leather besides the fact that I find it relaxing and therapeutic. So, I don't want you to think that it's just something I do to chill out, it's also extremely rewarding... It's provided me with incredible opportunities to develop my talents into a profession and work with some of the most talented craftsmen in the world. I love the strong sense of community that exists within the trade and the support that the community shares with one another. Leather is also perhaps one of the most versatile materials in the world and its craft is as ancient as civilization itself. Leathercraft is a skill that just about anyone can learn and put to use in their lives, given the opportunity. Thanks, Chris
Free Tutorials, printable leathercraft patterns, and articles can be found on my website at, www.fischerworkshops.com
My 1st workshop in Taiwan before starting the Fischer Workshops Youtube Channel
This popular folding coin purse design makes for a great leather project. Small enough to conveniently store in your pocket or purse but able to store a large amount of coins in. It also opens up nice and wide so you can get what you need quickly and easily. To add value and beauty to the purse I have used several types of exotic leather for aesthetics through the circular cutout of the purse frame. I have used both alligator skin and gazelle hide as examples for this tutorial. A PDF pattern with a detailed list of leather types, tools, and products used in this project can be downloaded from Fischer Workshops. Just click on the following link to be directed to the download page... Exotic Leather PDF Pattern Download I have also published a video tutorial to demonstrate the step by step process I go through in making the purse. The video is only 10 minutes long, but it took me about 2 hours to complete this project. I chose to stain the leather by hand which is the longest process in making the purse. I suppose if you bought pre-stained leather you could finish this project in about an hour. To see the video just click on the link below... Thanks and Enjoy!