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a bit about leather

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stud_2All of the leather shown above is undyed. The colors achieved are simply the result of time, general use, and sun exposure.

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I am asked the question, “what is vegetable tanned leather?” pretty often. Sometimes people wonder if it’s even real leather… is it made of vegetables?

Tanning is the process of treating animal skin to produce leather. All leather is tanned in one way or another. It is what converts an animal skin into a functional, usable material. The 2 most common types of tanning you will likely hear of include chrome (or mineral) tanning and vegetable tanning.

“Vegetable tanned” means the process of tanning leather has been achieved with tannins, and other ingredients found in plant matter – most commonly tree bark. Vegetable tanning is an age old traditional method, which is often done by hand, by skilled artisans. It is a lengthy process from start to finish, which can take up to 60 days. By the use of natural tannins, vegetable tanned leather improves rather than degrades with age. It starts out with a firmer temper – feeling stiffer than chrome tanned leather – and then becomes soft and supple, and develops a rich patina on it’s surface. In a sense, vegetable tanned leather is like a living organism, responding to it’s environment.

Chrome tanned leather makes up the majority of the leather you will find on the retail market. Chrome tanning employs the use of chemicals, acids and salts (including chromium sulphate), and the process is quick, taking only one day. It is easily mass produced, and highly toxic to the environment, as well as the people involved in the tanning process. Leather tanned with chemicals doesn’t wear well, and eventually often cracks and becomes brittle.

I have been exploring the world of leather over the last couple years, and when I first got my hands on a side of vegetable tanned cowhide, I could immediately smell and feel the difference. It invites you to handle it. The smell is soft and comforting. The subtle variation in grain and color from piece to piece is exciting and beautiful. One of the more notable features of natural vegetable tanned leather, for the end user, is the change that occurs over time. What begins a pale flesh tone, gradually transforms to a rich chestnut or cognac brown. The end color will vary somewhat, depending on the exact tannins used – from reddish brown to golden brown. This change can be accelerated with the application of oil, and with sun exposure. Just as your skin can get a suntan, so will vegetable tanned leather.

The rucksack above, which belongs to a customer of mine, has been in regular use for about a year. The leather has not been dyed! My wallet shown above would be quite a lot darker if I were to leave it out in the light each day. Since it spends most of it’s time in my bag or my pocket, the change has been more gradual. If you were to inspect my wallet closely you would see where the oils from my hands have darkened the edges, and the subtle gradations from light to dark, depending on each area’s exposure and wear. The way a quality wallet (or pair of shoes, or bag, etc) wears, can say a lot about the user and the life of the item. I love that.

This post just scratches the surface of all there is to know about leather, but it should help gain an understanding of some of the basics.

For anyone interested, here are a couple of further resources.

A wikipedia article on leather:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather
and an encyclopedia brittanica entry on tanning:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/582713/tanning

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True, practical craftsman at work. Filmed in 1923. I found this video really inspiring!

And I couldn’t help but notice that here are 3 of my collection tendencies all in one place, haha… clogs (shoes), spoons and chairs.

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a happy and healthy start to a new year! I am always amazed at how quickly another year has passed, and this year is definitely no exception.

The shop has reopened, with select items available. I will be adding more as I can.

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A new item, just out, is the checkbook wallet. I had a lot of inquiries about the prototype, which I have been using for a while now. It has softened up beautifully and is already darkening to a warm rosy tan. For the final, I increased the size a little, and made it easier to access and view the contents of the wallet with a cut-out in the front. Have a look here if you’d like.

 

Here’s to the best year ever. xo

 

 

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stay alive

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Anyone else heard of Jose Gonzales? I just recently discovered him. Loving this song right now.

holiday shipping

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Hi folks! Our last shipping day for US Christmas deliveries is this Friday, December 20. If you would still like to pick up an item that is ready to ship, there’s still time. There are just a few things left. And if you have wanted to purchase a gift for someone but have been undecided or ran out of time, there are gift certificates as well.

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All orders come wrapped for gifting, with simple, seasonal adornment.

It’s been a great holiday season for infusion! Thank you so much for your support!

antique tan

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I have one antique tan buckle wallet ready to ship. I’ve made a separate listing for this particular wallet due to the dark scar that shows on the front (which was revealed once I dyed the leather). The scar seemed too prominent, front and center there, to send out without making light of it. I think it’s beautiful actually, and is one of the things that makes full grain leather so unique, but maybe not everyone has the same appreciation.

 

For any of my readers interested in this item, save 15% with a mention of this post during checkout. I will refund you the difference as soon as your order comes through. And there is still time for Christmas delivery : )

 

Happy weekend, all.

simple things

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Some random snaps from around here lately.

This time of year requires huge amounts of high energy output, ironically, during a time that I more naturally would rather rest and focus inward, on nurturing myself, tending to my home and devoting a little extra time to family and friends. It’s always been sort of therapeutic for me to look through the recent photos I have taken. I think it gives me a chance to linger on the small things that I enjoy so much, and which usually get lost in the busyness of the day.

The simplest nothings are often the best parts of the day.

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