Unique Purses Hand Tooled & Painted Leather Handbags for Women

An Introduction to Leather Crafting

May 15, 2018

An Introduction to Leather Crafting - Bellorita

Leather crafts are wonderful gifts that you can give to your loved ones.

They are fashionable and stylish in their own way

and would last for quite a long time.

Many wonderful things

like wallet, purses, belts, jackets, luggage, furniture renovation and inner decors of a car

can be made from leather. 

      Hand Tooled Leather Horse

Hand Tooled Leather Handbag   Hand Tooled Leather Boots   Hand Tooled Leather Sofa

Brief History of Leather Crafting

Archaeologists have discovered leather craft objects that date back more than thirty-three centuries.

Ancient Romans used leather as currency.

During the Middle Ages,

leather became popularly used to create books.

As a valuable material,

leather crafted into items like boots and saddles

was essentially reserved for the wealthy who could afford such items.

Artisans who made these items typically belonged to guilds

which guarded their leather crafting techniques quite strictly.

Hand Tooled Leather Saddle   Hand Tooled Leather Book Covers

Leather craft blossomed with the discovery of the New World.

Many skilled artisans traveled with the conquistadors to the Americas

where they were influenced by the lush landscape.

Many leather crafts from this period

show the evolution of geometric-based designs popular in the Middle Ages

to the floral patterns of the Renaissance.

Leather Crafting 101

Leather crafting or simply leathercraft

is the practice of making leather into craft objects or works of art,

using shaping techniques, coloring techniques or both.

The only type of leather suitable for carving is vegetable tanned, full grain leather.

This is because the vegetable tanning process allows the leather to absorb water,

which is used to soften the leather before the carving process,

and the grain of the leather is necessary to allow the leather to hold the shape

after the carving process is complete.

Other leathers lack these two essential qualities.

While the process of cutting into the leather and pushing the edges of the cuts in is relatively modern,

marking wet leather has been around since the Roman period.

Historically, tools for stamping leather would probably have been made out of bone,

but would not have been too different from what we use today.

Leather Crafting Tools

Leather Crafting Technique

The main techniques associated with leather as an art medium include

dyeing, painting, carving, stamping, and molding/shaping.

While leather may be fashioned into artistically wrought, functional items

like purses or belts,

it may also be framed after having been carved or painted.

Leather art is collected by natural history

as well as art museums the world over.

Works of leather craft may be purchased from artisans as well as galleries.


  • Dyeing

The application of pigments carried by solvents or water into the pores of the leather

can be applied to tooled or untooled leather,

either for even coloration or to highlight certain areas.

For example, application to a tooled piece can result in pooling in the background areas

giving contrasts and depth.

There is concern among craftspeople that,

due to changing environmental laws,

alcohol-based dyes may soon become unavailable. 

There are currently water-based alternatives available,

although they tend not to work as well due to poor penetration.

  • Painting

Leather painting differs from leather dyeing

in that paint remains only on the surface

while dyes are absorbed into the leather.

Due to this difference,

leather painting techniques are generally not used on items

that can or must bend

nor on items that receive friction, such as belts and wallets

because under these conditions, the paint may crack or wear off.

Hand Painted Leather Pattern   Hand Painted Leather Pattern   Hand Painted Leather Pattern

However, latex paints can be used to paint such flexible leather items.

In the main though,

a flat piece of leather,

backed with a stiff board

is ideal and common,

though three-dimensional forms are possible

so long as the painted surface remains secured.

Acylic paint is a common medium,

often painted on tooled leather pictures,

backed with wood or cardboard,

and then framed.

Unlike photographs,

leather paintings are displayed without a glass cover, to prevent mould.

  • Carving

Leather carving entails using metal implements to compress moistened leather 

in such a way as to give a three-dimensional effect.

The surface of the leather is not intended to be cut through,

as would be done in filigree.

Hand Painted Leather Bird Pattern  Hand Painted Leather Floral Pattern   Hand Painted Leather Floral Pattern

The main tools used to "carve" leather include:

swivel knife, veiner, beveler, pear shader, seeder

various sculpting impliments, and background tools.

The swivel knife is held with one finger

providing downward pressure

and drawn along the leather to outline patterns.

The other tools are punch-type implements

struck with a wooden, nylon, metal or rawhide mallet.

The object is to add further definition, texture and depth to the cut lines

made by the swivel knife and the areas around the cut lines.

In the United States and Mexico,

the western floral style,

known as "Sheridan Style", of carving leather predominates.

Usually, these are stylized pictures of acanthis or roses although, increasingly,

modern leather artists are redefining and expanding the potential of the materials.

By far, the most preeminent carver in the United States was Al Stohlman.

His patterns and methods have been embraced

by many hobbyists, scout troops, reenacters, and craftsmen.

  • Stamping

Leather stamping involves the use of shaped implements

to create an imprint onto a leather surface,

often by striking the stamps with a mallet.

Commercial stamps are available in various designs,

typically geometric or representative of animals.

Most stamping is performed on vegetable tanned leather

that has been dampened with water,

as the water makes the leather softer

and able to be compressed by the design

being pressed or stamped into it using a press.

After the leather has been stamped,

the design stays on the leather as it dries out,

but it can fade if the leather becomes wet and is flexed.

To make the impressions last longer,

the leather is conditioned with oils and fats 

to make it waterproof and prevent the fibers from deforming.

Though leather is relatively universal,

many decorated objects of leather reflect cultural patterns and designs.

For instance,

tribal artisans might create items

that are decorated with patterns indicative of their region or tribe.

Artistically rendered yet functional items are extremely popular today in terms of fashion and furnishings.

Many artisans also specialize in custom, one-of-a-kind works.


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