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.