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Article: Experiments in Wet Forming Leather


Experiments in Wet Forming Leather

Over the last few months I've done a few things to help me through the burnout I've mentioned previously....wanted to share a bit about the wet forming I was playing around with. 

Wet forming requires veg tanned leather; in my experience, thickness does matter -- the heavier the leather, the stiffer the thing is once it's formed and dried. I did the first two dishes with a 5-6oz cut and the last one I made was from a 9-10oz piece -- the final one has a stiffer shape and is less flexible but was much more difficult to make.

I used baking clay to build my forms and shaped them off of small dishes I have laying around my studio. It was nice to get my hands dirty with the clay...pretty different medium from what I'm used to. The Lowes out here has a surprisingly generous scrap wood pile and I stuck my forms onto the wood boards with some packing tape. 

I let my leather soak for about 30 mins, and then nailed them down around the forms, stretching and pulling to allow the leather to make the shape I was after. The heavier leather also happened to be on the deepest form, so it took about an hour (!!!) for me to get all the nails in there, with the leather stretched out to a point where it was bowl-shaped. Had to cut slits in that one, which wasn't a thing with the first two because they were so shallow. 

Veg tanned leather nailed to a wooden board for wet forming

It took them about 2 days to be completely dry. Once I pulled them up, they looked like this -- 

Dried veg tanned leather bowls before trimming edges

Once I got the edges cleaned up I did a light beeswax burnish with the dremel to give them some shine. They're great little catch-alls and are now scattered around the apartment holding little things. I'd like to try some other shapes, maybe go after some deeper bowls next. It was a good detour and I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out!

Leather bowls with rivets in them

I'm looking forward to trying some new shapes pretty soon! Questions? Drop me a note in the comments!



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