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The Nature of Desirable Leather


leather purse, leather bags, leather wallet Why is it called "naked?"

"Naked" Leather is free from a plastic coating or a chemical finish applied to most cowhides after they have come out of the huge dying vats. Yes, there are chemicals involved in order to make the skins soft and supple during the tanning process. That is why it is technically called chrome-tanned leather. Hides tanned without chemicals at all are called vegetable-tanned. They are mostly used for saddles, belts, some shoes, most boots and other things that need to be stiff. I work with the soft stuff for my leather bags, leather purses, leather wallets, and leather cases.

In the big dying vats, they not only soak the dye all the way through the hide so the color doesn't just sit on top, but they also tumble them to soften them even more. When people tell me they love the smell of leather I know they have never been to a tannery. Where I grew up we had to drive through the shoe factory district to get downtown. We all plugged our noses and yelled P-U! Amazing I ended up in this business!

leather bags, leather purse, leather walletNo additional coating of plastic means that the scars that were naturally acquired by the cow are not covered up. It allows us artisans to use a hide that a manufacturer would find unusable. We still pay alot more for it since we do not buy the same kinds of quantities. But we can cut each pattern piece with scissors or a knife, thus avoiding the scars and blemishes and brands.

The big manufacturers must "click" out pattern pieces with a huge, heavy machine using what look like cookie cutters. They have enough to cover the skin and when it comes down with tremendous force, voila, all the pieces are cut at the same time. The machine is called a clicker. It requires uniformity. Out goes the supply of natural looking, yes, dyed (do you know the color would be a grey if they weren't?) cowhides. The market is now going for lambskin because of the feel being "baby bottom" soft. I may have to switch to lambskin. But it is weaker. Lots.

The patina that leather acquires with age is only possible when it has not been "plasticized." The aging of leather should improve its look, feel and desirability. Cowhide is certainly durable, especially when sewn with nylon thread (which is what I use for my bags, wallets, purses, and leather cases). When plastic has been added to the surface to allow for better cutting of the skin, it can wear off with time and the color becomes blotchy, and in some places the color actually disappears.

Truly, the prime seducer is the FEEL of the leather, the SMELL of fine leather. Unfortunately, these are not discernable in this medium of cyberspace. But the Craftsmanship is extraordinary. The design is touchstone. But the feel....oh, the feel! And the smell...

Click here to see how Kathleen creates a leather bag.

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