Q: What is your favorite type of leather to work with and why?
So apparently it’s time for me to come clean. I know a bit about different types of leathers – I see them, wear them, touch them, love them –- but I’ve only worked with one type of leather, and it’s vegetable tanned tooling leather. When I started working with leather my goal was to make a belt that had artwork on it, and really the most suitable leather for putting artwork on is vegetable tanned leather.
Unlike chrome tanned or other leathers, the vegetable tanned leather doesn’t have color added during the tanning process (or by the tannery after), and it isn’t softened. While technically it’s not “raw” leather (rawhide is raw leather, meaning it is untanned) vegetable tanned leather seems to me to be as close to natural leather as you can get.
The advantage of buying a leather that doesn’t have any color added to it during the tanning process is that you can add color and pattern yourself. I brand and carve my leather, then paint it and dye it. In the photos above, you can see the raw leather with branding and painting on it. The dye is added after it is painted.
The patterns and colors that I put on the leather, because it starts out so raw/natural, are permanent. They won’t rub off or wear down over time. Adding color or pattern to a chromium tanned leather (the traditional garment leathers) doesn’t work so well – you can’t brand it since the leather has dye and finish already in it, and these would smell terrible if you burned them. You can’t carve it since the leather is thinner and stretches, and any paint is going on over the finish of the leather so it won’t stick nearly as well. Chromium tanned leathers are best left the way they are and cut and stitched into something.
I could probably cite a number of reasons why I choose vegetable tanned leather but when it all comes down to it, I think what really sets the Moxie & Oliver handmade leather line apart from others on the market is the artwork. Since vegetable tanned leather is the best leather for artwork, it’s the best leather for me!