I LOVE animals! That might sound strange, coming from someone who makes art from their skin but it’s true.
Over the years I have had stages where I have struggled with what I do because I love animals so much. During my 20s and into my 30s I was a vegetarian for 11 years and 2 of those I was a vegan. I would never have imagined back then that I would be doing what I am now! However, things change and people change.
I got into leatherwork through my Viking re-enactment. Leather was a resource that was used in Viking times. Animals were respected and every possible part was used.
I believe that today a lot of people don’t respect animals. The majority purchase meat from a shelf at the shop or purchase leather goods giving little or no thought for the animal that once was.
Of course there are also a lot of people today who do respect animals and go out of their way to ensure that they are treated humanely. They choose to live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, deciding to use animal alternative products and foods.
We all have our own beliefs and I respect that. I can even understand people who feel the need to point out to me that what I am doing is wrong, in their eyes. I feel the same need to point out to people who blatantly disrespect animals that what they are doing is wrong … but I don’t. People will believe what they want to believe and forcing or even trying to gently encourage them will not change what and who they are. I believe the only way is for each of us to live is by our own values. Without wanting to sound hippie or airy fairy, I truly believe in the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
So, how am I living? What’s the change that I want to see in the world?
Firstly, I just want people to be happy! Happiness is my #1 goal and mission in life. I choose happiness and strive to be happy as much as possible. I share what makes me happy and have taught my children that being grateful for what they have is the key to happiness.
Secondly, I want to see people respecting our earth, animals and each other. I’m so tired of the crazy consumerism, the waste and destruction, and conflict between people.
I started doing leatherwork as a hobby because it made me feel happy. I love being creative, always have, and leatherwork (especially the tooling side) is something that I really enjoy. My passion for leatherwork and my desire to be doing what I love (rather than feeding someone else’s dream) was my reason for turning my hobby into a business. So, at first, it was my own happiness that was the driving force.
As time went by, the demand for custom handcrafted leatherwork grew and it increased my awareness about the true value of quality handcrafted leather goods. My passion for leatherwork became stronger as I realised that I was promoting products that lasted and, by doing so, was providing an alternative to mass produced crap (sorry but I think it’s the best word to use) that pollutes our environment, ending up in landfill or our oceans. I felt happy knowing that I was using a resource that is a bi-product of the meat industry which meant I was not contributing (as much) to waste.
Further down the road, I decided to make my motto ‘Keeping the Old Skills Alive’. I began to run workshops so that I could pass on my knowledge to those who wanted to learn. The very first thing I share at my workshops is respect for animals. In fact, if you look at my Introduction to Handcrafted Leather page on my website and scroll down to the bottom, I state very clearly my thoughts about leatherwork and encourage others who are considering taking up the craft to think about what I say before doing so.
There will always be conflict between people who have different beliefs. I’m not even going to enter the ‘vegan leather vs animal leather’ debate. The truth is that animals die either way – whether it’s through the meat/leather industry or from the pollution that production of both types of leather causes. Who really knows which is more? I don’t! I just have to go with what feels right for me.
I am a leatherworker. It’s my chosen profession and I love it! I understand that what I do relies on the skin of what was once a living creature. I am not going to try to make it sound pretty. Part of me feels really sad but that’s not what I’m going to focus on. Instead, I’m going to focus on the fact that I know I respect animals. I show this respect by using their skins, rather than letting them go to waste, and create goods that are valued, will last and have less of an environmental impact than mass produced plastic ones. I purchase leather as I need it, according to demand from my customers. I purchase Australian leather and only veg tanned (as opposed to chrome tanned which is much more destructive to the environment). I will continue to seek better alternatives for my leatherwork (ie natural dyes, hides from cows who have grown up on small farms and local tanners) and I look forward to keeping the old skills alive.