An Introduction to Leather Crafting

May 15, 2018

Leather carft with tools

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.

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.

ancient historical Kazakh accessories, weapons of Kazakhs, Mongols and nomads

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.

texture of vegetable tanned leather, raw material for leather working

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. There are some beautiful examples of Roman leather at Vindolanda near Hadrian's wall and the book "Purses in Pieces" is very informative with some lovely examples of medieval carved leather work. 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 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.

Leather dying in a traditional tannery in the city Fes, Morocco

  • 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.

The artisan is painting on the vegetable tanned leather with fish

  • 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. 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.

The artisan is carving image on the vegetable tanned leather

  • 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.

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 un a stirrup like top 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.

The leather stamping tool with the image it creates on vegetable tanned leather

  • Stamping

Leather stamping involves the use of shaped implements (stamps) 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.

Bellorita handbags are created with leather carving and leather painting on the highest-quality vegetable tanned leather. Artistically and cultureally inspired, the images on the bags reflect the heritage of oriental culture. Shop Bellorita Handbags with coupon code Bellorita20 to enjoy $20 off.

Shop now button to buy bellorita hand carved and hand painted handbags

Leave a comment

Also in Blog

A Bag Should Be A Reflection Of A Woman's Personality
A Bag Should Be A Reflection Of A Woman's Personality

October 17, 2018

Unique handbags enable the stylish woman to express her personality in her own special way.
Read More
Emerging Designer Says “No” to Fast Fashion and “Yes” to Affordable Luxury Wearables
Emerging Designer Says “No” to Fast Fashion and “Yes” to Affordable Luxury Wearables

September 21, 2018

Jack Sun, an independent fashion designer and the man behind the new and trending Bellorita handbag line, is one of the modern designers saying a hard “no” to fast fashion.
Read More
Senior Fashion Bloggers are Raving About This Designer Handbag
Senior Fashion Bloggers are Raving About This Designer Handbag

July 24, 2018

Bellorita handbags has been popping up over and over again, and many of the bloggers championing the brand are older women.
Read More

Sign Up for Exclusives