Leather, an Important Media?

The Smithsonian Craft Show opens today, and this show gets me to thinking about the medium we get up every morning to work with, and how it seems to be under represented at some shows, which is important to us, as it is how we make our living.

The breakdown of exhibitors at the Smithsonian Show this year is as follows:

Jewelry, 25     Ceramics, 20     Wearable Art, 13     Wood, 13     Furniture, 12     Glass, 11     Decorative Fiber, 9      Basketry 8,     Mixed Media, 6      Metal, 4     Paper, 4

Leather, 1

I began researching the history and importance of leather craft on the internet and came across some information from Tandy. For 33 centuries, man has used leather, a by product of his food, to clothe and shelter himself. Shoes were made to protect his feet. When man started to record his thoughts, he wrote on leather parchment , easier to carry than stone tablets. The paragraph below struck me:

“During the Middle Ages, however, only the wealthy could afford boots, capes, saddles, etc. made of leather. Leather workmanship was limited to a very narrow section of society. A secretive lot, Leather Guildsmen closely guarded knowledge of their art which they handed down from father to son.”

We have been over the course of our 33 year career, mostly self taught in the medium, as other than these types of very limited apprenticeships, there are no “schools”, “societies” or “guilds” to learn from.  We were on board when F.I.T. launched its limited leather program, and Toshiki taught the decorative techniques class for a while.  So much skill is involved in using the medium, which as a natural product, no two skins are alike, to sew it, you can use machines but once the needle pierces the skin, you are committed. There is much hand manipulation to stretch and form.

Also there is so much long term value and beauty to leather, people have loved it to feel and to use, to protect and serve them, for centuries.

So why the snub from some shows?  Is it still not as relevant today as it was in 1300 B.C.?  I have seen some very interesting work being done in the medium.

Have you? Would you like to see more of what can be done in this medium?

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