Leather Resource contends that leather tanning became a refined art in Mesopotamia between the fifth and third millennium BC. Today’s leather craft is based on these humble origins but takes it to a more modern conclusion. Tools and techniques have evolved, still using leather, but now putting them to brand new uses in furniture and novelty pieces. Technological advancements have sped up the process, of course. Today’s leather pieces take far less time than those done in ancient days. However, it has also changed the art of leather crafting fundamentally.
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Leather Comes in Many Forms
While most of us consider leather to be the tanned hides of cattle, that’s just one type of leather. The majority of modern leather comes from cattle, but there’s also material made from the skins of horses, pics, buffalo, or aquatic animals, like crocodiles. In addition to the source of the leather, the curing process also affects the quality. Good quality leather goes through a meticulous curing process that could last for weeks. The smaller tanneries tend to stick closer to the traditional arts of leather curing. More prominent, commercial tanneries opt for quantity over quality. Leading furniture brands usually look at smaller tanneries to supply them because they adhere to ancient techniques.
Patterns and Technique
Some brands don’t bother with the high-quality cured leather. Instead, they prefer mass-produced leather with a unique method to make it into a memorable piece. In many cases, these pieces can be pretty unique and even transcend the brand’s expectations. Although it’s not nearly as well-defined as bespoke pieces, mass-produced furniture has its own type of craftsmanship. Furniture made from this leather may not have the same sophisticated look, but it can be just as durable and hardy as handmade pieces.
The Production Process
Once the animal skins are acquired, they proceed to curing. Curing starts by salting, drying, or freezing. This first step is crucial since if it’s done improperly, it will waste the hide. Once cured, the leather is limed. This process removes the hairs from the skin, leaving the bare leather. Fleshing follows the liming process. At this stage, any leftover flesh is removed from the leather. Occasionally, manufacturers split the hide, separating the top and bottom layers. The top layer is used as grain leather, while the bottom layer is used as suede. The next step is pickling, which makes it more susceptible to tanning.
Artistic Expression in Leather
Leather is more than just a material to make furniture and clothes with. Colored leather, for example, sees a lot of use in furniture for interior decor. Wellington’s Leather Furniture demonstrates a unique use of color and texture to bring out the artistry of the piece. Leather furniture might seem like a trend, but this is a misleading notion. Trends ebb and flow, changing with time. Leather furniture and artistry aren’t a fad. Thanks to its place in history and the amount of skill needed to tease elegance from it, leather is a prized material. The art of leather goes deeper than just what it covers.