Thursday, December 27, 2007

The downside to being creative

Actually there are several downsides to it. The first is that it can be hard to fit it into your life, and a lot of times other things suffer because you have to give something up. The biggest downside, at least for me, is storing supplies. On average a side of cowhide runs about 24 square feet (a full hide averages around 50 square feet) and ideally you should store the leather flat. If you don't have the room to do that, it has to be stored in rolls because it's too stiff to fold unless it is a thin garment leather. To protect the leather and keep it as clean as possible I will leave it in the boxes that it is shipped in which adds to the problem. To illustrate here are some pictures of my storage area:

On the left are the leather boxes. The front one has a tooling side in it, the large box means it is rolled a bit looser and that makes it easier to flatten out. On the right is a set of metal shelves that holds my shipping supplies, paints, dyes and a bin with larger lightweight pieces of leather. Right now I have another side of tooling leather in the same size box I need to fit in the closet.

A closer shot showing a bit of the boxes that are hiding behind the big one.

An even closer shot, each of the other boxes has a large piece of leather in it, the short box in the forefront has a full hide of teal cowhide nubuck in it.

I love working with leather, but there are days that I wonder why I didn't get into something that takes up less space.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Falling leaves

I thought since I had griped about it in my last entry I would post pictures of the finished piece.

In the end I'm happy with how it turned out, and I got second place in the design challenge, but I'm still frustrated with the failed resist. I guess I'm going to have to do some test pieces so I can figure out what went wrong.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I am in the midst of working on a journal cover for the autumn design challenge that is being put on by one of the teams I am part of on Etsy. Things were going well, I had a great design of falling leaves, the tooling turned out great and I had colored the leaves by applying layers of dye creating a realistic look. The plan was to apply resist to the leaves to protect the color and then antique the piece. Unfortunately it didn't work that way, for what ever reason the finish I applies as the resist failed and everything antiqued. This means that I went from this:

To this:

A little bit of the dye shows through the antique, but I'm not really thrilled with the effect because it makes the leaves look muddy (and diseased for the ones with a lot of green) rather than realistic so I was forced to back up and come up with a new plan. Luckily my old standby of copper paint seems to have worked well, but I'm still disappointed. For one I wanted to do realistic leaves and two I don't want to end up using the copper and brown combination too much.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MOO cards!

I got my new MOO mini cards in the mail over the weekend and I am very excited. For those who might not be familiar with them MOO mini cards are smaller than a standard business cards and you can put your own pictures on them. People trade them, use them as calling cards , use them as business cards, and a million other things. I had gotten some a while ago and had used them as business cards for a while, and hadn't really thought about MOO cards until they came up on the Etsy forums. I went to the MOO site and started looking at the setup for the cards again and realized that they could solve one of the problems I had run into because there was the option to do free text and to have no icons or the flickr logo on them. What I did was to make MOO mini cards with pictures of my work on one side and leather and suede care instructions on the other.

They turned out to be perfect, they are uniquely mine because of the pictures, the printed care instructions are easy to read and professional looking, and most importantly I don't have to write the care instructions out on paper tags by hand. This will be a huge time saver for me.

For more information on MOO mini cards, plus their other cool products, stop by

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Well, that was interesting

I'm still working on getting the right technique for working with the new Tandy stains, but so far I've gotten to the point where even if the piece doesn't turn out exactly like I expected I still get a good end effect.

The tooling design here is adapted from a belt design from Al Stohlman and is done in silhouette carving. The stain color is raisin mahogany and I really love the way it worked with the carving. I still haven't worked out how to get a good solid color on an entire piece yet but I like the fade in effect I ended up with here.

This one features something a bit different I came up with the tooling pattern myself. It's a doodle I did during a long meeting for work and it turned out nicely with the inverted carving. The stain color is dusty pink, and it is much pinker than I expected, i was thinking it would be more of a rose color. At any rate it turned out well, although I think next time I do something like this that I'll do a resist on the leaves and maybe the flower.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yeah, I've been slacking off

It has been a while hasn't it? Does it make it any better if I say I've been busy? I has the craft show last month, then went on the road for a week with my day job, and then I've had a bunch of sales in my Etsy shop so I've been trying to get more stuff made. I've also been working on some new things, including wallets and checkbook covers. I'll try to do a more detailed post tomorrow on some of my new tooled pieces, but here are a few of the new things I've been working on.

Red top grain cowhide embellished with lines of stitching with silk embroidery floss and rhinestone spots.

Teal nubuck leather card case decorated with lines of black silk embroidery. This is the first one I did with just embroidery as an embellishment and I really like the effect. I'm working on making some with more intricate embroidered designs.

My first wallet. It worked out pretty well, but I'm not happy with the interior. I need to work out how to get the sewing machine set the right way to sew the interiors together so I've ordered some pre-made interiors for the tooled wallets that I want to make.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New card case

This is my second try at this design, I ran into problems with the finish and what it did to the stain. It didn't quite work out the way I had wanted on this one either, but the color is a lot more even across the whole piece here. The first one looked like two different projects had been cobbled together. The problem is that the stain tends to sit on top of the leather a bit and if you get too much finish on a piece it picks it up and you get patterns that look like water staining where it pools. It isn't a bad effect, just not what I was I was hoping for on this piece.

This is a close up of the tooling on the front. It is silhouette carving and the design is one of the ones from Al Stohlman's book on inverted and silhouette carving. I really like the look of these scroll designs so I expect I'll be doing more of them in the future.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Features and other things

I just wanted to do a quick update of sorts.

First off I was featured on The Art of Craft blog starting this last Sunday, which I was very excited about. Along with running a blog that promotes crafts people and offers tips for selling your work they run a wonderful shop on Etsy Q Branch Ltd.. I'm particularly impressed with the needle cases that they have, I got a plain one for my leatherworking needles, but they have ones that have spaces for thread so you can have a sturdy and attractive sewing kit to carry with you. Please take a look at their blog and store!

Second, I'm done with the large custom item I was working on and hope to post pictures of it and a few other pieces later this week. Hopefully I can get more thoughts on the new stains as well since I've gotten a few more colors.

Finally, he craft show we have done the past few years is this coming Saturday so I'm trying to get ready for that which is going to make everything a bit crazy for a while.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Very excited

This may not look like much to anyone else, but I am really excited about it. The other night I pulled out my reliable old Singer and did some fiddling around with it and discovered that I can sew the garment leathers I've been working with on it. (The picture is my test pieces.) That is going to make the custom piece I'm working on so much easier, and it means that putting together bags will be easier too. All I need to do is go get heavier thread in more colors and some more bobbins and I'm set. I just hope I can find what I need here since we have no fabric stores at this point, otherwise I have to order stuff and wait.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Six letter syndrome

I think I posted here or in my other blog on what my husband and I call 6 letter syndrome, which where you can't stop at saying 'No' you have to keep going and add those other 6 letters which means you end up saying 'No. . .problem' instead. I get myself into a lot of trouble with that, but at the same time it also makes me push my boundaries and learn more. Well, I've done it again and now I have to try to figure out how to do a project and hope it works. And hope my hands survive the attempt. I have got to get the 29-4 up and working so I can lean how to use it. I'll still have to hand sew the tooled pieces but the machine will speed up the garment leather one. I will of course post pictures when I'm done.

In the meantime here is a picture of one of my recent projects which is a bit more experimenting with the new stains.

The leaf is from a book on Japanese textile designs and I think it is a stylized ginkgo biloba leaf.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On sales and liking what you make

I had a large sale from my Etsy store yesterday, one of my largest ones to date, and it got me thinking about a few things. One is that while I love everything I make I never stay too attached to any of it. If I really wanted any of them I would just keep them or make one of my own so it doesn't bother me to send them off into the world. I'm not sure why I feel that way at all, but it works for me so I'm not going to worry about it. I just tend to be very nervous while they are in transit and I worry about if the other person will like it or not. I also realized that I have a tendency to end up making one of a kind pieces just because I get bored using the same tooling designs and stamping designs, but I don't want to specifically market anything that way beyond ACEOs because I don't want to be tied down, I want the option to reuse a design if I want to. This isn't something I every consciously decided to do, it just happens to be the way I ended up doing it. Is it just part of the way I am or is it connected to the craft I do? I'm not sure at all, but it makes for a nice of philosophical thought oin a Tuesday evening.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More experimenting

I think I'm slowly getting the hang of the new stains, but it's going to be a while before I get it perfected. I have figured out a few tips for using the new Eco-Flo Hi-Lite stains from Tandy:

1. you can't be afraid to really rub it into the leather otherwise you don't get good even color
2. it works a lot better to apply it with a rag because you can get better pressure
3. trying to apply it with gloves on is nearly, but not quite, impossible
4. definitely wait to apply more of the stain until the first coat is dry because you run the risk of disturbing the initial coat
5. when the instructions say apply one coat of finish and let it dry before applying a second coat, they really mean it

All in all, though I am just loving this stain because of the colors. Below is another one of my test pieces, and I'm really thrilled with how such a simple stamped design turned out in the blue.

This is exactly what I had wanted every time I griped about how frustrating it was to only have black and different shades of brown available in antiques.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Small journal cover

This is another piece I finished recently, and I think it came out quite nicely.

The tooling is based on a Persian embroidery design, and was done in the inverted carving style. This was a test piece for some of the newer metallic acrylic paints that I've gotten and they worked well, although I think I may need to start doing a number of light layers to get good coverage with the paint. This one just closes with a deer lace that wraps around a metal button which is a lot easier to set up than the bead toggle closure so I may end up using this style in the future.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bamboo ACEO

This piece is my first full scale try on the new stains over paint.

Above is the piece after it was painted. I chose this design because I've wanted to use it for a while now and it seemed like it would look nice with the green tea stain. The design itself is based on a Japanese textile design and I did basic inverted carving on it. The paint is a metallic brown for the trunk and metallic moss green for the leaves.

This is the piece after being stained. It's not perfect because I didn't realize that you have to rub the stain into the leather to get it to take well so it is uneven and shifted around when I put the finish on, but it's not too bad. I think it's interesting that it makes the tooled portions look like they have verdigris on them, that may be something to keep in mind for later projects.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The final verdict for the initial trial

The pieces have dried and I've gotten the finish put on them and all in all I think everything went well. I did discover while putting on the finish that it is very easy to pull the stain up off the leather and out of impressions when the finish is applied which means that neither piece has quite as even of staining now as it did in the initial picture. The same thing happens with antique but not to this extent, so I'm going to have to sort out if it was not leaving the pieces to sit and dry long enough between steps or the applying the finish with a sponge brush that did it.

Stain test project pictures

OK, here are pictures of the first two pieces that I tried the stain out on. On the left is a stamped piece stained with sky blue, on the right is a piece with a cut designs stained with thistle purple.

The sky blue piece was made out of a piece of tooling leather with a darker tone and I think that is effecting the color of the final piece, but I do like the end effect. I think I need to do another test piece for the blue out of lighter leather to see how it turns out.


The new stains arrived yesterday and so far they are working exactly like I had hoped, a lot like the antiques I usually use. The only issue I have found so far is that if you are using the lighter colored stained on tooling leather that is sunburned or a bit darker in color the stain will not cover it as well and that darker base color will show through. It's not bad as long as you know about it and I think I can use that fact to create some cool effects. I am waiting on a stamped test piece and a cut design test piece to dry then I can finish them and get some pictures to post. I also got an ACEO tooled and painted to see how the stains work over that. Based on a discussion with another seller on Etsy I may try to use these stains as a wash over a dyed piece as well, but I'm going to need to get the right design for that.

The iPod case kit is not quite what I was hoping for, unfortunately. I think it may still help me with working out my own pattern so it isn't a complete loss though.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fun, new and interesting

I made it back from my weekend trip OK, although I wondered a bit with the heat. The craft show went OK according to A, we had some sales at least and I think it was enough to pay for the show fee. Now that all of that is done I can get back into making things and I'm really excited about some of the projects I have planned. One of them, thanks to a suggestion from another seller on Etsy, is to try to make full sized wallets. I think I have a plan and a pattern worked out for those, the next step will be to get the leather for the interior and do a trial run. The other is iPod, and possibly iPod Nano, cases. I've been trying to work on this one for a bit now and I haven't had a huge amount of luck with getting a workable pattern, but I see Tandy has kits for both now so I'm looking at getting one just to see what they came up with and maybe it'll help me sort out my pattern. I also have ideas for embellishing the garment leather card cases I make and maybe working on some bags.

Something else I'm quite excited about is that Tandy is coming out with a new line of dyes, paints, finishes and stains. For one they are supposed to be more environmentally friendly which I like, but the most exciting thing is that one product appears to work somewhat like the antique stains I use now, but comes in more colors so I'm not stuck with the same old browns and blacks I've been using. I'm planning on getting some to try after payday so there will probably be many experimental projects to post pictures of and I may talk about my impressions of these new stains too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Monogramed card case

I was asked to do a monogrammed card case and this is almost, but not quite, the end result. his picture is about mid-way through the process, but it is a nice shot of the monogram itself, plus I didn't remember to get a picture of the finished piece before I mailed it off. The monogram itself is done in Lombardic capitals, tooled and then painted with metallic pewter paint while the rest of the piece is dyed black. I had to laugh at myself while I was getting ready to start the tooling, I didn't like any of the common alphabet styles for the monogram so I ended up looking through The Art of Calligraphy by David Harris trying to find something I liked. I think the moral there is that you shouldn't ask someone who dabbled in calligraphy to monogram something because you never know what you'll get.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Yes, I know

I'm getting behind on updates and I'm haven't tagged anyone yet. I have to admit that the latter is because I hate to impose on anyone that way especially people I don't feel like I know really well. I still haven't managed to get over things like that.

On the updates I'm in the middle of getting a commissioned piece done so everything else had been put on hold for a bit. After this is done (and I will post pictures) then I need to get going on making a bunch of lanyards since A agreed to having them with the jewelry for out little business, and I only have 7 made with the first show in a couple of weeks. Yeah, it's somewhat poor planning on my part, but I figure I can really hit it over the next few weeks and get a few more made and then work on getting even more made for the August show. I have got to work on managing my time better, I've gotten back into doing leather work to the extent I keep ignoring working on lanyards.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Inadequacy and disconnect

I was off from work today to go to several appointments and while I was out I stopped and picked up the latest edition of Craft: and as usual I'm struck with a combination of feelings looking at it. First I'm really thrilled with the fact that it has become cool to make things again and I'm amazed at the skills of the people that they feature. At the same time I feel a bit down because it doesn't seem like anyone feels that working with leather in any form can be a part of this movement. Is that most people that leatherwork can only be Western style tooling or stamped stuff that you mad a camp? Is it the whole 'working with leather is icky' thing? Is it because most leatherwork is functional and therefore doesn't end up being or can't be as edgy as other crafts?I don't know, but I find it really frustrating.

Something that added to this frustration was looking over the information for a series that ran last night on PBS, Craft in America. I wasn't able to see the shows so I was looking over the site and discovered they didn't feature any leatherworkers. Again, I have no idea why, since it is a craft that has continued especially out here in the Rocky Mountain region.

So, what to do about it? I can write letters and make suggestions but will that be effective? I don't feel like I have enough of a presence to really make an impression, but would it hurt, I have no idea. All I know for sure is that I'm starting to feel like someone has to do it or we'll be stuck in the shadows like this forever and eventually get lost because we missed the bus. The question really is, can my usual tendency to be the person to do something because it needs to be done overcome my desire to stay out of the limelight.

Monday, May 28, 2007

New supplies

I'm really excited over the last couple of weeks I've gotten some great new stuff to work with. First off, I found a source for 100% linen thread in a wide range of colors. I have to wax it before I sew with it but it works perfectly and it's nice to be able to have a matching thread for a change rather than being stuck with black or brown.

I also got some very cool leather.

On the left is a moss green pig suede. It's a bit heavier than I expected so I won't be able to use it for linings, but it is such a nice piece of leather it will work well on it's own. On the right is a dark green top grain leather. It was listed as 'dragonskin green' and I think that's a really good description because it had an unusual wrinkly texture and the green is darker at the bottom of the wrinkles. It's exactly what you would expect dragon skin (for a non scaly dragon) to look like or even dinosaur skin to look like. Both at going to be fun leather to work with.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stamped journal cover

My latest large project was this journal cover which I finished sewing together last night.

I used my 14th century lattice design stamp and stamped three rows from the top and bottom stitching grooves towards the middle of the piece and staggered where each row ended on the front. The piece was dyed with oil dye and closes with a strap and brass buckle.

The cover is lined with red deerskin suede and hand-sewed together with black linen thread. It is large enough to hold a standard 5" x 7" refill journal.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Apparently I've been tagged

Last night, while I wasn't looking I got tagged by K M Rani

The rules are:

1) State 7 random facts/habits about myself on my blog
2) Tag 7 other people by leaving a comment to that effect on their blogs;
3) And ask them to have a look at my blog to read the rules of the Tag game.

The first one will be easy, the rest are going to be a bit harder, I'm not sure if I know 7 people with blogs. (Or 7 people with blogs who haven't been tagged yet.) At any rate, since I'm waiting for leather to get to the right stage to stamp, here my 7 random facts:

1. I have bachelor's and master's degrees in international studies focusing on Eastern and Central Europe.

2. I spent a semester studying in Hungary and while there did my one big trip over spring break, I went to Prague. I always liked telling people that because it seemed so much more exotic than going to Florida or Cancun.

3. I am told I make killer dill pickles and dill pickle relish, if so I give all the credit for it to my Grandmother because she taught me how.

4. I like to take medieval recipes and work them out to a point where I can cook from them. Don't believe what you hear in your history classes, not all medieval food was weird and they didn't eat brown sludge, they actually made some darn good food.

5. I prefer to stay on the edges of things and watch, plus I have a level of social anxiety so I seem really shy and aloof, but if you get me talking I will ramble on forever about things. I think I like to stay on the edges of things because I know the tendency to ramble bores people to tears.

6. Given the option I'd never leave the house, I'd jut stay here and make stuff and correspond with people by the internet.

7. If I could I would get more cats, but I know the ones we have keep me busy, so I don't.

So, now I need to find 7 people to tag, which I'll try to do in the next week.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Leather carving and creativity

I've touched on this before when talking about copying but not in a lot of detail so I thought I'd expand on it. (Yes, this is to make up for the fact I haven't got any new projects done to post pictures, why do you ask?)

A I mentioned in a previous post it is very common in leatherwork to use tooling patterns that were designed by someone else. This is not as bad or as sinister as it may sound. For one, it's hard to get a tooling pattern to fit on a the piece you are making and second, a tooling pattern is just a clear black and white line drawing, while there might be recommendations for tools you can tool it however you want to. As and example, this is a free tooling pattern from Tandy Leather Factory and this is the completed example with recommended tools. That is all you get and because this is an old pattern, not all of the tools are available anymore so there is no way to come up with an exact copy of the original. This is one of the reasons why copying a design or working off of copyright free or public domain images doesn't bother me at all. Another is the difference in mindset between the arts and the crafts. In the arts being unique is important while in the crafts the function of the item is more important. Since I am a craftsman my focus is on the function. Finally, there is the issue of time. As it is it takes me a good amount of time to make a carved piece between the actual carving, dying, finishing and hand sewing the piece together, having to draw up my own tooling designs would just add to how long it takes me to get anything done which would raise my stress level. Maybe someday I'll try drawing my own tooling patterns when I've got a good rhythm down for making stuff, but maybe not, it just isn't a big issue for me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A few little things

I haven't gotten any big projects made lately but I have gotten a few smaller ones done, including these card cases out of some of the new leather I've gotten recently.

The red leather was really a big step outside my comfort zone but I'm really happy with how it looks and it is fantastic to work with. This case is lined with black pig suede.

The taupe is from a lot I bought of upholstery "scrap". (I'm using quotes here because I wouldn't call a lot of it scrap at all, one of the pieces is close to a third of a hide.) This one is lined with a nice burgundy pig suede.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Big plans and the quesion of copying

Last night I had one of those amazing ideas for a Big Project and now I'm trying to sort out of I really want to try to do it. The idea is to do a tooled picture that is a recreation of a page from the Book of Kells. The scary part is that I could do it, it would just be a project that required a lot of breaks, and I even have good black and white line drawings of several of the pages to work from. That is what leads me into discussing copying. Copying is a huge issue at Etsy and to be honest I just don't get it. For one, barring something really groundbreaking it is entirely possible for more than one person to come up with similar ideas. Second, a lot of leather tooling uses other people's designs to some extent. You an get all sorts of pattern books and craft aids and even free tip sheets that have tooling designs you can use however you want with no problems. To be honest, even though I don't do the standard designs I'm still copying somewhat, I just happen to be using designs drawn from manuscripts, textiles, and ceramics. I think that's why I tend to think of myself as a craftsman more than an artist.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I hand sew leather pieces. Part of it is because I haven't been able to get my Singer 29-4 working quite yet, but the rest is because it makes it easier to work on things while watching TV or at SCA events. One of the side effects is that I develop and interesting set of calluses on my hands and fingers. I hadn't realized that I had been sewing leather enough lately to develop the callus well, but I discovered tonight that I must have. While I was cutting part of dinner tonight, slipped and pushed the pad of one of my fingers firmly onto a hot baking sheet. I looked just a bit ago and I can't even tell which finger it happened to because they all look normal.

I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Leather Lingo - Silhouette Carving

Silhouette carving is the other main type of tooling that I do.

Silhouette carving starts with a simple design that would work well as a silhouette. One thing that I've found that works particularly well are stencils because they are designed to create the design using painted and unpainted areas. As with the other projects I began by transferring the design and cutting it with the swivel knife. You then bevel in as if you are doing inverted carving. The above picture shows the design at the point where I've beveled the left half of it.

The next step is to flatten the entire design with backgrounding tools. The goal is to get all of the design evenly tamped down, which takes a bit of work. After the backgrounding is done the piece is allowed to dry.

There are two recommended methods of coloring silhouette carving. The first is to either paint or dye the silhouette in a dark color and leave the rest of the leather unfinished or lightly colored. The second is to dye the piece a dark color and paint the silhouette in white. Because I like to be contrary I decided to color this pieces following the second method, for the most part. I dyed the piece with black dye and painted the butterfly silhouette with light purple acrylic paint and then applied an acrylic finish.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Leather Lingo: Inverted carving

Inverted is really what the name implies, it is leather carving that is done the opposite way regular carving and tooling is done.

The first step, as with all tooling projects, is to prepare the piece of leather. This piece is card case so I started out by cutting the stitching groove around the edge so that I can center the design appropriately and then beveling the edges of the piece. The next step is to use rubber cement to attach the leather to a piece of poster board. I don't do this step with all tooling projects, but in this case I did because I am working with a lighter weight leather and the tooling could cause it to distort which could be a problem.

To transfer the design I first trace it onto tracing film, which you can see on the left side of the picture, and dampen the leather and then staple the tracing film to the poster board to keep it in place. Then I used a stylus to go over the lines of the design on the tracing film which engraves it into the damp leather.

This is a shot of the stylus I use and a close up of the design after it had been transferred. The next step is to cut the design using a swivel knife. First I make sure the leather is still the correct level of dampness and then begin cutting. The key is to use a light hand hand because you can cut all the way through light weight leathers with a sharp swivel knife.

Above you can see the piece after I've completed cutting the design. You may notice that the circles in the center of the flowers look a bit different. I am awful at cutting circles with a swivel knife so I used a plain round seeder stamp to make the center of the flowers. Once the design is cut I dampened the leather again and began tooling the design.

In inverted carving rather than bevelling away from the design, you bevel into it. On this particular design I beveled around the edges of the leaves and around each of the petals of the flowers with a patterned beveler which gives the leather a bit of texture. To give the leaves some dimension I beveled along the center line with a plain beveler. since the center line was not cut it doesn't create as deep of a bevel but it does make the leaf look like it has a central vein. Finally I used a modelling spoon to open up the cut vines between the flowers. After all of the tooling was done I set the piece aside to dry overnight.

The next day the leather was dry and I moved on to painting the design in metallic acrylic paints in green, rose pink and gold. The key I've found it to use thin coats, in part because it allows the paint to stay flexible, but also because it keeps the texture from the tooling from getting covered up. Once the paint is applied I let it dry overnight before moving to the next step.

The next step is applying the antique stain. The particular antique I use is a thick liquid which you apply, let sit and then remove with a a damp sponge. The removal portion is a pretty messy process because you have to keep rinsing the sponge out, and while I'm careful to keep from getting it on the table, I usually manage to stain my hands.

Above is the piece with the antique removed (and a shot of the sponge I used). This is the point where you can see why it is important to open up the cut vines, it allows more of the antique to fall into them making them stand out more. That is also why it can help to use textured bevelers, they catch the antique and pull it into the areas that have been beveled down which highlights the design. Now that the staining is done the piece has to go and sit overnight again so it is completely dry before the finish is applied.

And here is the piece with the finish applied. The final steps will be to add the closure straps and lining then to sew the pocket into the piece

Monday, March 26, 2007

Best laid plans

Yes, I was supposed to add more on other tooling styles, but I ran into a small problem. I have a really good series of pictures on doing silhouette carving, but no step by step pictures on inverted carving. I'm in the process of working on a piece and taking pictures as I go so I'll have a good run down on all the steps. I'll probably end up doing it as a several entries and hopefully will get the first part of it posted by this weekend depending on time constraints.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Leather Lingo - the tooling process

Today I'm going to talk about the process I go through when I do leather tooling. I've gotten pictures of pieces in process so this will be a picture heavy entry.

The first step is to case the leather. This requires dampening the leather and letting it dry a bit so that it feels cool and slightly damp to the touch. You then transfer the design to the leather using tracing film and a stylus. (No pictures of this right now, but I may add some later.)

The next step is to cut the design into the leather with a swivel knife. Below you can see a design that has been cut.

The next step for a piece that is being done using standard tooling is to bevel the design using a bevelling tool. A beveler is somewhat wedge shaped and presses the leather down where it is used. In standard tooling the process is used to make the design stand out. Next I use a backgrounding tool to press down the background of the design. Below is a piece that has been bevelled and the backgrouning has been started on. If you look at the left side of the picture you can see how the beveling has been done to make the interlaced beasts and the boarder stand up from the rest of the piece. Starting with this picture I'll be following a specific piece all the way through the rest of the tooling and finishing process.

The following picture shows the piece after the backgrounding has been completed. As you can see everything except the interlace design and the border has been compressed. The next step is to let the piece dry completely so it can be colored.

Once the piece is dry you can move on to coloring it. In this case I painted the interlaced beasts with acrylic leather paint. (You can use regular acrylic paint, but I prefer the leather paints because they are a bit thinner and seem to bond to the leather a bit better. ) Once the painting is done, you let the piece sit to make sure the paint is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

The next step for this piece is to apply antique stain. Leather antique works by falling into the lower parts of the leather, particularly tooled areas. I generally prefer to use antique because it creates an interesting effect on large pieces. As you can see in the picture below the antique I use is a thick liquid, you apply it to the piece and let it sit, then remove it using a damp sponge.

After the antique is removed and the piece dries, the next step would be to touch up the paint if it is needed. In this case i needed to touch up the light purple on the bird because the antique had discolored it pretty badly in places. Once the tough ups are done this is the effect you have. As you can see the color is darker in the portions that I backgrounded and into the portions of the interlace designs that are lower.

The final step is to apply the finish to the piece. For this piece the back and sides are sealed with a wax finish that is forced into the leather using a scrap of denim and the front is sealed with an acrylic finish.

Next time I'll discuss the other styles of tooling I do, again with pictures of some recent pieces.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

My first ACEO

I am trying something new for my Etsy store, I'm making ACEOs. ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions, and Originals and is a small piece of collectable art. The only rule fo them is that they have to be 2.5 by 2.3 inches. It's interesting to be working on that small of scale and I'm finding that they are a nice way to try out new techniques or materials. My first one was pretty simple, it's just a stamped and engraved piece.

Of course I had to be silly and use my medieval stamps and the iron oxide dye but it really is a simple design. The one I'm working on right now is a tooled interlace design.

I'm still planning on continuing my series of pieces on doing leatherwork, I'm just adjusting it a bit. It occurred to me that it would be good to get pictures of the different tooling techiques so it made more sense so I'm working on that right now. I may just go ahead and talk about dyes and finishes while I'm doing that, but I have't decided yet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A short interlude

Life has been really weird here so I haven't really felt up to continuing the leather lingo entries. However I thought during the brief intermission I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of my latest leather project, a stamped card case.