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Artistic leather processing: history, techniques and features
Artistic leather processing: history, techniques and features

Leather is a natural, environmentally friendly material that is flexible in work. It is soft, pleasant to the touch, durable. Working with it allows you to show your creativity and create unique products from unnecessary, old things. In the article, we will consider what artistic leather processing is.

Types of material

Skin types
Skin types

The following varieties exist:

  1. Genuine leather is produced by processing the skin of an animal, it has a fibrous structure.
  2. Faux leather is produced industrially from polymer material.
  3. Velor is one of the varieties of chrome leather with damage on the outer surface. As a result, it is tucked under suede on the wrong side.
  4. Laika is a leather with a characteristic ductility and softness. It is made from the skins of small cattle, sheep and goats.
  5. Suede - leather made from the skin of elk, deer or wild goats with fat tanning. Features a velvetysurface and softness, on the front side has a short velvety pile.
  6. Opoek - highly elastic soft leather. Made from the skins of newborn calves.
  7. Growth is the skin of a young animal. However, it is not as elastic as the calf, since the animal no longer feeds on milk, but on plant foods.
  8. Saffiano - made from slightly burnt goat skin. It is very soft and thin, it comes in different colors.
  9. Chevret - dense and at the same time elastic skin. Manufactured by chrome tanning from sheep skins. Its thickness ranges from 0.6 to 1.2 mm.
  10. Chevro is a dense and soft leather made from goat skins with chrome tanning. It features an unusual pattern and has a thickness of 0.4 to 1 mm.
  11. Reptile skin - unique pattern, high quality and high cost.

What is leather art?

This is a material that was one of the first to be finished by people. Naturally, it was originally used for domestic purposes. Later, decorative techniques of decoration appeared, such as engraving and appliqué. Even after the discovery of weaving, leather is still the main material for making belts, bags, armor and shoes.

There are three main stages of dressing. After preparatory work - skinning and cleaning, the skin becomes an untanned semi-finished product, called a hide. It has special properties, depending on which a certain type of leather is made. After that, the structure of the raw material is fixed by tanning. Finishing procedures are performed to givenaked physical, technological and other properties, as well as the desired appearance.

The technology of leather processing in different nationalities has its own characteristics. The main purpose of tanning was to protect the hide from decay and decay. The oldest type of processing is aldehyde tanning. It consists in keeping the skin in the smoke from burning plants. The nomads smeared it with animal fat, and the Indians rubbed a mixture of fat and eggs. After that, the material was washed with water and kneaded with rounded stones. It was a way of fat tanning.

In the northern peoples and in India, this process was carried out with the help of herbal and vegetable decoctions. This method is called vegetable tanning. In Asian countries, a different type was used. Alum tanning was done by mixing flour, s alt, egg yolk and aluminum alum, and then the leather was treated with the resulting composition.

Interesting facts

The history of artistic leather processing dates back to ancient times.

Primitive people used animal skins to protect themselves from inclement weather. However, under the influence of moisture and temperatures, they did not last long. Therefore, only a few items made of this material have survived to this day. Over time, people begin to process the skin, extending its life. During the excavations of Egyptian tombs, rock paintings of the 5th century BC were discovered. e., which demonstrates the dressing process.

Craftsmen of that time begin to make dishes, sacks, shoes, clothes from leather. The skins stretched over the frame served as a means of navigation. Nomads built dwellings according to a similar principle, and shields were made of leather for warriors. Later, artisans begin to improve their skills and creatively approach the processing of material. In the tomb of Tutankhamun, clothes embroidered with gold, household items decorated with leather appliqués, etc. were found.

Romans in the 1st century BC e. began to use such methods of processing the skin, which allowed it to be used as parchment. They fastened the sheets, creating some semblance of a book. Later, bookbinding developed. Since the 10th century, covers have been exquisitely decorated with artistic embossing, stamps and engravings. The entire binding was covered with ornaments. It depicted the simplest geometric shapes, animals, plants and more.

With the flourishing of the Gothic style, the engraving technique became widespread. It differed in complexity and was carried out only by qualified craftsmen. To this day, the surviving products of the Gothic period are considered masterpieces of art and are kept in the best museums in the world.

In the Renaissance, such a technique of artistic leather processing (photo can be seen in the article) as exquisite embossing becomes popular. Relief images of mythological characters are reproduced on objects. The Baroque style brings into fashion wallpapers made of leather. First they were produced in North Africa, later in Spain, and in the 17th century they were widely used in Europe. With the advent of classicism, no new trends in leather finishing occurred, however, in the 19th century, against the backdrop of the popularity of modernity, engraving, intarsia andgilding.

During excavations in Altai, leather items dated to the 5th–1st century BC were also found. e., such as harness, vessels, boxes. The tanning industry among the Slavs was quite well developed, but a small number of things have survived to our time. Mostly shoes and other household items.

What is the finish

Leather working tools are nothing special. Most of them are widely used household items.

leather processing tool
leather processing tool

The list of accessories is as follows:

  1. Cutting knife for working with thick leathers.
  2. Punching knife.
  3. Narrow engraving knife.
  4. Tailor's scissors.
  5. Wooden thick board or glass for cutting leather.
  6. Scissors with a zigzag blade.
  7. Round punches, needed for punching holes for fittings or braiding.
  8. Manicure scissors.
  9. Punches with a diameter of 30-40 mm for making buttons, leather earrings and other types of accessories and jewelry.
  10. Stamps. They are a rod, at the end of which the simplest relief pattern is carved. Used for surface decoration.
  11. Slit punches. They are used for punching rectangular holes into which straps are threaded when working in the perforation technique.
  12. Curly punches for perforation of various shapes in the form of a star, heart, etc.

Leather processing steps

Work on any product takes place in three steps. Sequencingis:

We make a pattern
We make a pattern
  1. Planning the shape, color, finishing and joining of elements.
  2. Making a pattern. The skin is cut according to the pattern. If necessary, they also prepare decorative elements.
  3. Connecting parts.
  4. Finishing the product.

Next, consider the techniques and features of processing products made of genuine leather.


Leather processing steps
Leather processing steps

This is a leather processing technique that involves the use of various substances to give the material strength, elasticity and improved performance. Before proceeding to tanning, the skins are rubbed with a concentrated s alt solution, soaked in water and lime mortar for several days. Then the muscle-fat and hair layer remaining on the skin is removed. The material is then re-treated in the same way for better ductility and strength.


There are different types of this processing. In industrial conditions, several methods of embossing are used by extruding a pattern using molds. In the manufacture of decorative products, it is performed with special typesetting stamps and stamps.

embossed leather
embossed leather

Another way of artistic processing of leather (the photo is presented in the article) - embossing with filling - is performed as follows. Relief elements are cut out of a dense base and placed under the moistened material. Then it is embossed along the contour. Small elements are squeezed out without lining, the relief is achieved inskin thickness count. As it dries, it hardens and retains its relief.

Thermal embossing is performed by extruding parts with heated metal stamps.

Punch and weave

This is one of the oldest leather art techniques.

Perforation consists in cutting holes with punches of different shapes in the form of a pattern. This technique is used to perform openwork compositions, for example, jewelry, panels or decorating clothes.

skin breakdown
skin breakdown

Leather cord weaving is often found in the manufacture of bracelets, belts, laces. Bags, clothes and shoes are finished in this way.


This technique is more familiar as burning out. In the traditional version, pyrography consists in applying various patterns to the surface of dense types of leather. This was done with copper stamps heated to a certain temperature.

The finished image directly depends on the skill of the artist, so learning how to process leather in this technique is of great importance. The capabilities of the burning device also play a significant role. The pyrograph allows you to apply thin and very complex patterns to the product. Often this look is combined with other techniques: engraving, embossing and painting.

Engraving and appliqué

This type of artistic leather processing is performed only on dense types of material, such as saddlecloth, yuft, shora.

Engraving is done as follows. A pattern is applied to the front surface of the wetted skin with a cutter. After that, met althe object expands the slots and fills with paint. Another engraving method involves the use of a pyrograph. The final pattern, its color and thickness mainly depend on the degree of incandescence of the needle of the device.

Leather engraving
Leather engraving

Appliqué on clothes is done by sewing decor elements from thin leathers to the base. To create souvenirs, panels and other interior items, parts can be made from all types of material and glued to the base.


This technique is one of the oldest of all listed. It is more like a mosaic or inlay. The skin is dyed and details are cut out according to the patterns. Then they are glued to a textile or wooden base with bone glue or PVA. Intarsia is used to create panels, jewelry, souvenirs, decorating furniture.

Batic, toning, candle processing, roasting

Let's look at some more interesting ways to finish:

  1. The technique in which the ornament is applied to the surface of natural leather with molten paraffin is called batik. After coating, a color drawing is made, while the places with wax retain their untouched appearance. After painting is completed, the wax is removed with a blunt object.
  2. Tinting is done with a burner. First, a sketch is applied to the skin, and then ornament lines are drawn with a needle. Depending on the heating of the needle and the force of pressing, an image of different shades remains on the base.
  3. A rather simple and unusual way is to process the material on a candle. Elements are cut according to the templateskin. Small incisions are made on the front side with a sharp object and lightly singed over the flame of a candle. This method is best suited for simulating the veins on the leaves of plants, flower petals. In this way it is convenient to process cords for braiding.
  4. Roasting is another thermal way of processing leather. The wrong side of the material is placed in a hot frying pan of the desired temperature. Soon a circle forms on the surface, giving the product a convex shape. Roasting is most often used to make bulky parts.


This method is the simplest and most beautiful way to treat leather. For this technique, as a rule, soft types of material are chosen. The skin is abundantly smeared with glue and attached to the base. Without waiting for drying, folds are formed in the right direction, according to the sketch. If the drapery is made from used leather, it is pre-cleaned and dyed if necessary.

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