The leather industry is the world’s production and sale of leather products but there is so much more to it than this. For every major manufacturer, there are hundreds of small businesses and leather designers working across the globe on varied products, some completely original and others reworked classics. When looked at as a whole, the leather industry is a community, a hub of ideas and designs centered around one defining passion - A love of leather.
History of Leather Industry
The first traces of leather making tools were found in Hoxne in England, dating from the Stone Age, 400000 years ago. Afterwards, it perforates history from Africa, 82000BC to Siberia, 33000BC, coalescing around 4000 years ago in Iran, Armenia and Egypt. Their proximity indicates that leathercraft was a skill taught from one society to another, shared for an improvement in life and an evolution of culture. We see here the original inception of the leather industry.
Soon, jewellery emerged, the first leather designers plying their trade across Europe. Romans dyed leather vibrant colours, marking the dawn of leather as a fashion staple; a huge step in its significance to society.
Within the last 2000 years we have seen countless innovations. Leather guilds sprang up, giving central governance to an industry that, before this, had been sculpted by individuals and Oral teaching. Global trade took this fledgling leather industry into the worldwide community, where it flourished as the key material of every level of society.
When the Industrial Revolution hit, leather was vital for the economy, already established as a malleable, durable material of exquisite utility and heritage. Since then, the leather industry has remained a vastly influential and significant player on the economic stage, and judging from its history, that’s not something likely to change.
Leather Industry Tanners
The complicated relationship between leather and its artisans can never be purely reduced to a set of rigid rules; it's through creativity and delicate care that each article of leather is unique, and that absolutely begins at the tanning phase. Leather Tanners are the catalyst in the leather design process, taking the raw hide and giving it that special spark, transforming it into the leather we know and love before sending them out into the marketplace. The process of tanning is a long-cherished art, a process that can be described in 25 steps, yet one that is nevertheless open to vast swathes of creative flourish. A truly global practice, every tanner will have their own variation on what chemicals they might use, how long they might tan the hide and the exact methodology they will follow to produce their own personal desired result. One of the most significant take-aways from this is that when you consider the sophistication of leather designers, even a comprehensive leather 101 guide will never be able to capture every nuance that exists in even a single aspect of the leather industry.
Leather Industry now
Technological advancements affect every aspect of the world today. Leather design is no different. There are now enhanced production processes, leading to new and improved methods of creation which produce higher quality leather at a faster rate than ever before. Leather’s pedigree has kept it at the forefront of fashion, design and utility. However, the leather industry now faces a new challenge: synthetic and massed produced, lower quality leather.
There is a definite difference between a leather product mass produced in a factory and a uniquely tailored item, handmade with traditional methods. If there is one thing the history of leather tells us, it's that the art of making leather is ancestral and personal. It is a ritual that artisans partake in, delving into their creativity and resourcefulness to form an object completely their own. When a machine stamps a name into a sheet of leather, there is no personality. 1000 leather products can be made identical, which is antithetical to the ideology of leathercraft. Vintage leather is sought after because it is a part of cultural heritage, created with love and passion, whereas synthetic or mass produced leather is a consumerist objectification of an aeons old practice. Taking a strip of leather in your hands, molding it into something new and individual through the toil of your fingers, this is the art of making. This is the leather that lasts through the ages.
The heritage of leathercraft is still going strong today, you simply need to know where to look. When you think of how to make leather, you want to watch a master at work, or see the result their vast experience has made possible. Here’s a quick list of some of the current crafters in the field:
Tagliaferri Artisan - How to videos; a window into a craftsman’s methodology. It is satisfying simply to watch the delicate yet firm movements of his hands as he shapes the leather into a work of art.
Tanner Bates - Look here to see a deep focus on the history and national English heritage of leather. Their focus on traditional, handcrafted methods yield a rewarding glimpse into why leather is so personal.
Studio Candice Lau - A deeply personal collection, she has developed pieces with a personality that only comes from a joy in the creative process.
Mollum Vellum - With a focus on working slowly, they relish the time and patience that they can take on each individual item, working by hand to ensure a unique identity.
Artisans Leather kits
Leather design has been through countless iterations. The question of how to make leather has so many answers that the only solution is to find out for yourself. Hands on experience, putting your dexterity and creativity to the test, these are the methods that yield a deeper understanding of the ancestral art of leathercraft. Remember, vintage leather was once new, and whatever you craft will remain an artifact for future generations to revere.
The best way into the world of leathercraft is when you have a guiding hand. The most intuitive tool for teaching is .Ar:ti|sans DIY Leather Kits .
These kits give you the material and the teaching tools to craft leather yourself, an opportunity to stamp your own name into the history of leather with an enduring creation. With an Artisan Kit you can learn how to make leather mold to your will, so that you can experience the depth and intimacy inherent in the art of making.