Doing It The Hard Way: Veg-Tanned Leather

What is veg tanning, and why do it this way?

Creativity 4 min read Sep 25, 2019

There are plenty of ways to tan leather, but not every one of them is good for your health, or for the environment. Enter Vegetable Tanning: an old-world, artisanal process of tanning animal hide into leather. It’s called “vegetable” tanning because it uses natural materials like tree bark, ergo, there are no harmful chemicals involved here and it’s eco-friendly.

Tanning leather this way can help you achieve a more natural and earthy look. The results are usually irregular and inconsistent, very akin to that unique, rustic, handmade aesthetic that our generation has come to love. Vegetable tanning is the best method to use if you want to maintain and honour the integrity of a material.

Here's a look (right) at the beautiful color of natural leather tanned with white oak bark (Quercus alba), an oak often neglected for tanning. To the left, for comparison is black oak (Q. velutina) bark leather, which is an amazing, darker burgundy. My whole experience with white oak has been magical, and I give it 3 thumbs up! 🌳🌳🌳💞💞💞 Some thorough details are in a new article on my blog: 3rd picture in shows a squirrel leather rainbow. Darkest to lightest is: hemlock bark (Tsuga canadensis), black oak bark (Quercus velutina), white oak bark (Q. alba), & sea grape tree bark (Coccoloba uvifera). Some of the plants I've been both honored & blessed to work with in recent years. 🌟❤🌟 #naturaltanning #naturalleather #hidetanning #squirrelhides #squirrelleather #wonenhidetanning #whiteoakbark #oakbark#vegetabletanning #barktanning #quercus_alba #quercus_velutina #hemlockbark #dowhatyoulove #forgenewpaths #leatherforanewearth #loveallthatlives #pray&weap #loveovercomesdeath

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The only downside there is to vegetable tanning is that the process can be very time and labour intensive. But the final product can last an entire lifetime, plus reinforces an eco-sustainable industry; so for many leather craftsmen, the choice is worth it. Many are becoming keen to learn and honour this artisanal tradition (which has been practiced for centuries) because not only is it better for the environment, but it also makes better-looking products.

If you’re interested to learn about this beautiful and intelligent style of tanning, Wired Open Labs is hosting a 2-day class as part of a series of creative workshops with master tanner and leather worker Aaron Douglas Wales of the label dhupunuru. Aaron specialises in the Australian Aboriginal and Native American methods, and will share his process to making beautiful vegetable-tanned leather products.

Join master leatherworker and tanner Aaron Douglas-Wales of 'dhupunuru leather' and over two days explore Australian Aboriginal and Native American methods of bark and brain tannery to make beautiful chemical free vegtanned leather of your very own. • You will learn the about the process, tools and materials to make vegtanned leather and skins, and will leave this workshop with your own tanned rabbit hide. • All materials provided. An option to purchase a take home kit with specialist tools is also available. • Gourmet lunch and snacks provided over both days. • SATURDAY 20th & SUNDAY 21st OCTOBER, 10am-4pm • LOCATION @thewiredlab A BEAUTIFUL WORKING FARM IN THE HILLS OF MUTTAMA, NSW • PAYMENT PLANS AVAILABLE - LINK IN PROFILE • #wiredopenlabs #thewiredlab #muttama #gundagainsw #tannery #tanning #animalhide #vegetannedleather #vegetanned #leather #naturaltannedleather #nosetotail #creatensw #creativeriverina #creativeworkshops #hunting #cootamundra #cootamundragundagai #naturalleather #chemicalfree

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