Leather is a natural material, from the skin or hide of an animal. The hide goes through a process calling tanning to turn it into leather. The tanning permanently alters the protein structure of the hide, making it stronger, more durable and prevents it from decomposing. The tanning process creates strong, flexible and long-lasting leather.
Using the best quality full grain leather, I see the history on the animal skin, the scars, marks and colourations. My aim is to value the life given, by making items that can be repaired, repurposed and passed on to future generations.
Leather Tanning Process
To achieve leather, the animal hide goes through a slow process of tanning, where the hair is first removed in the lime-yard. The hides are washed and rehydrated in water, with a lime 'liquor', to loosen the hair and plump up the hide. The hair removed is repurposed, used by plasterers and felt manufacturers.
The tanning process continues in the tan-yard, where the hides are put into weak solutions of tannic acid, which gradually increase in strength and darken in colour over many months. The tannic acid is natural, made from either oak bark or local vegetation steeped in water.
In England, the oak bark is stripped from managed forests in the Spring and Summer, then the bark is dried for several years, before being ground down. The oak bark powder steeps in water for several months, before being drained into vast pits which the hides then pass through. Think of tea bags steeping and you'll get the idea of how the drained tannin water darkens over the months of tanning. Tanned hides can take up to 12-14 months to tan in this way.
The hides are then removed from these vast pits and whilst they dry over several days, oils are applied and the hide is rolled on very heavy pressure rollers which smooth the surface and helps polish and finish the leather. Master curriers then stain and dress the hides with tallow wax to keep the leather hydrated for its onward journey to the leather artisan.
Hides drying JFJ Bakers Tannery, Colyton, Devon
a gloss or sheen on a surface resulting from age or polishing
The leather patina of your item will change, darkening with time and wear. Like with any leather apparel, to keep it looking it’s best, I suggest you give it some love occasionally and so I supply you with a leather care pack.
To clean the leather, softly brush off any dirt, sponge clean, using a little water, allow to dry naturally, away from direct heat and then nourish with my warmed BEESROC Leather Balm. My balms are hand-poured here in Devon from 100% natural ingredients. The balm contains organic Devon Beeswax, Cocoa Butter and Jojoba Oil* or Almond Oil*. I want to use skin-friendly products when I nourish leather, so thought my customers should too!
No preservatives or chemicals are used, as Beeswax is naturally antifungal and antibacterial. As well as my original unscented balm, made using Almond Oil*, I have a few scented balms in the range, using Organic Essential Oil and Jojoba Oil*.
I am continuing to develop these balms, investigating more traditional methods, using lanolin, Neats Foot oil and tallow, with other organic materials for an even more sustainable product.
I also include a reusable cotton-linen/bamboo towel. These can be washed up to 85 times at 40 degrees. Line drying is recommended, no ironing required and suggest you do not use fabric conditioner. The bamboo cloth gets softer with each wash and you can even bleach them if needed. A cloth, that is both environmentally friendly and sustainable, as at the end of its life, it can then be composted.
* Warning Nut Allergy