Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pulled toward Leather

As much as I love painting, there are times I need to work on three dimensional projects. A few times, I have combined a painted canvas with some assemblage attached. Other times, I like to play with assemblage, bookbinding, themed art journals, shrines, painting glass and ceramics, and such.

Since last year, I’ve taken baby steps learning about leather, making little leather purses for gift cards using using random leather scraps. Online, I found instructions for simple things like setting a snap. Here is the practice one I kept:

The next ones, I measured with a ruler and an awl to get evenly spaced holes for the lacing.

Leather art caught my eye at my very first Renaissance fair many years ago. One vendor had leather journals, checkbook wallets, belts, mostly in a Celtic theme. I was overwhelmed by the choices and finally settled on a refillable Celtic journal in turquoise. The intricacy and details of
Oberon Design reminds me of that craftsmanship.

When I saw these unique wallet and handbags in a GaelSong catalog recently, I was very intrigued.

Thanks to the wonderful Internet, I discovered C. L. Whiting. Since I love using leaves in my own work, I am drawn to these designs. This artist’s works are amazing, exquisite, and fabulous!

Curiosity about this tough, flexible material intensified after discovering it could be used as both the support and cover for handmade books. Having made a few books now, I am fascinated with color combinations, detailing of spine stitches, and closure styles (buttons, leather strips, buckles, latches, etc.).

From the little I’ve researched, you can stamp emboss, carve, paint, dye, and even brand leather. I have one of those multi-function heat tool that can burn leather but haven’t tried it yet. You could really get creative and use your own designs on untreated leather ovals, squares, rectangles, and bookmarks.

It’s odd that leather isn’t more prominent in mixed-media books and magazines, isn’t it? Does it still have connotations of being a craft that only the boy scouts or summer camp kids use? Are there any leather crafters out there? Tell us about your experiences.


  1. I do not know much about leather.
    I do love these. So much to learn.

  2. Many years ago on a gallery hopping trip to Soho, I discovered an entire 50 gallon drum of suede and leather remnants. It had been set out for trash day by a glove manufacturer (back then, Soho was still mixed use with factories and galleries sharing loft buildings.)

    I managed to lug home almost all of it somehow. For years I made leather throws, appliqued leather "quilts", leather purses, wall hangings and even leather halters. I learned there were special needles for hand and machine stitching, but even so, I burned up a few Singer motors, and had pin cushion fingers. I recently discovered I've still one box of the grey - and I plan to make some tiny leather pouches as necklaces with the last of these. It can be stamped, dyed, embossed, embellished, painted, etc., etc. and it lasts and lasts with minimum care.

    I wonder if the expense of leather prohibits its common use - or perhaps some don't want to utilize animal products ? - I'm not sure. I'd likely have never tried using it except for finding such a free treasure. The key is to have good tools and to develop strong fingers!! Good Luck!

  3. Those little leather purses are like mini jewels. I love them!

  4. That’s what always makes the creative journey so fun, Poetic Artist. I love that there’s always something more to learn.

    What a wonderful story, Patrice and great recycling tips! Sounds like you were able to make several items from your find. So far, I’ve used a bookbinding awl or a screw-punch to make holes. Before I knew what kind to use for bookbinding, I would buy grab bags at hobby stores, so these scraps will be used for straps and smaller pieces.

    Thanks, Chris. Doing a smaller project can be quite rewarding.