Leather tooling , also known as leather carving is one of my favourite crafts from the late 60s and 70s which is when the popularity of this craft hit it’s peak. Anyone who is into 70s vintage style will appreciate a tooled leather handbag, often peoples names were also stamped onto them.
Being able to stamp a name onto it makes it an ideal modern day gift for personalisation of items for friends or loved ones.
One of the amazing things about carved leather work is that it is truly one of a kind. The leather can be hand carved or embossed with stamps. Even with using stamps, the placement will always be different if it is a truly handmade item. Some leather work will also be coloured in to create another dimension.
The most popular leather colour seems to be light brown and then dark brown but you can also find black , blue, green, yellow and more. These are a little more rare to find.
Common themes on vintage goods animals such as horses and deer for a western feel.
One of the most popular themes in leather tooling is floral motifs.
If the flowery hippie style is not to your taste you can find tooled leather goods with a harder rock edge too.
Some of the most beautiful modern designs are boho and feature mandalas and fringing.
If you love the look of carved leather but do not agree with using animal products, there are vegan leather and faux leather options available too, you may have to look a bit harder but I have found a few for you below.
What many people do not realise though is how many tooled leather goods from the past were ( and still are) made in prison.In fact one major leather supply shop in the USA specialises in providing the tools needed to over 15,000 inmates across America. Correctional centres may have leather workshops or other inmates who have been incarcerated for a long period of time may pass the skills on. These skills are highly encouraged so that when inmates are realised they have a skill set they can continue on with on the outside. One inmate has been creating cowboy boots since the 70s and has sold to people in high places like judges. Some jails sell the goods on their website. It in interesting to note tooled leather goods such as pistol caddies and handcuff cases amongst these.
The leather crafting movement is still going strong with one major leather supplies company having existed since the 70s and still providing the same original patterns since that time.