Leather Guild workshop with Jim Linnell

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis Last month I attended a great workshop with my Leather Guild taught by the famous Jim Linnell. If you've ever done a Tandy leather kit or picked up their catalog, you've seen Jim's work. For our full-day workshop, we carved and painted a 14" full-size eagle feather. I'd never done any leather carving or painting, so this was my first time using a lot of new tools, including hair blades and the infamous swivel knife. Thankfully my fellow Guild members where right there to help me along. The above photo shows the feather sketched out with the hair blade marks and the stem roughly carved.

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis

After carefully cutting the feather hairs using the hair blade tool (typically used for animal hair), we cut out the feather (photo above) and then skieved the back so all the edges would feel light and airy (photo below). Most folks used a safety beveler for that, but I only have my skiever, which took off the leather pretty quickly. That small pile of leather shavings is only about 1/4 of what I peeled off the back.

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis

After the back was skieved, we added a small wire along the back feather stem and covered it with a piece of suede so it wasn't noticeable. This would later allow us to curve and bend the feather to look more realistic. Once that dried, we cut section of the feather so we could separate it out and began curling the edges. Here's where things really started to come together and feel like a true feather.

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis

At this point I was ready to stop and antique dye the piece. However, being that part of our workshop was to learn how to paint leather, I put aside my personal aesthetic and decided to see what the paint might do. Besides, I figured I'd be making this again in the future, so may as well experiment now.

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis

Leather eagle feather by Natalie Davis

Here is the painted and finished feather. The paint did an excellent job of helping camouflage wonky areas and give the feather a more realistic feel. Not sure if some kind of feather will make an appearance in the Canoe shop, but I was pretty happy with how it all turned out. What do you guys think?

On Humility

Jim Linnellleather carving by Jim Linnell

Any craftsperson worth their salt will tell you that humility is an important quality to cultivate. You must embrace mistakes and know that you do not know everything. The elusive knowledge you seek cannot be found in a particular book or in purchasing the right tool. It comes with time and devotion and solid days of making mistake after mistake, cursing loudly in the studio.

This year I joined the Austin Leather Guild and just spent the last two weekends hanging out with folks twice my age talking and learning about leather work. "Sorry, guys, can't go swimming at the Lake. I'll be at a leather carving workshop that day." Hearing the words come out of my mouth nonchalantly is both strange and totally awesome. It is eye-opening and scary-in-a-good-way to know there is so much I don't know, but will learn. I feel extremely grateful to have found a guild that I can bring my questions and enthusiasm, and I have those in spades.

Al & Ann Stohlman Leather Museum

Al & Ann Stohlman Museum by Natalie Davis This weekend I took a road trip to Fort Worth to visit the Al & Ann Stohlman Leather Museum & Gallery. I say field trip, but this was more of a pilgrimage to see masterpieces by one of the greatest leather worker ever.

Al & Ann Stohlman Museum by Natalie Davis

The detail and depth in the carving was mesmerizing, especially in viewing the leather carved book covers (combining two of my favorite things). Stohlman's catalog of books is epic and I never realized that many of his interior illustrations were also carved, not just drawn.

Al & Ann Stohlman Museum by Natalie Davis

There's so much to cover and showcase from this visit, so I'll be breaking this trip into a few posts. Because of the nature of the work, all of the pieces were under plexiglass and rather dim lighting, which lead to less than stellar photos. Stay tuned!