Well, I have exhausted my supply of leather for the making of book jackets. I will be restocking when I get some more funds. This time, I worked with a slightly stiffer goat leather. It was still very thin, but nowhere near as elastic or floppy. This made it a dream to work with.
Granted, the leather is too thin to do any real carving. It does, however, take tooling well enough that the design isn't lost in a shallow mess. So I didn't carve at all. I did tool. I'm really pleased with the results.
The design makes me laugh (I've been giggling over it since it's inception), and I've gotten pretty decent at tooling, quickly picking up the skill I learnt more than twenty years ago. The end result is something I feel I can be proud of.
I've dubbed this the Novice Leather Jacket, and it comes in antique black and antique mahogany. Other designs are forthcoming, when I can acquire more leather. I plan on putting the designs only on the front panel of the jacket, so the price will not be as great as the current design. As it is, the tooling alone is something like twelve hours of work. My thumb is still recovering.
Working with a new style of leather presented its own lessons; ones I thought working with the soft leather already taught me. Not so.
The first is that the measurements for the soft leather do not work well for the stiffer leather. In order to get the book the fit, I needed to make the cut a little longer than I did for the softer leather. Luckily, leather is quite pliable and I could make my first attempt fit. It's snug, but it fits. The second attempt is by far the better one, though both fit and are good.
The second lesson has to do with staining and finishing. I rather enjoy the hand-rubbed antique look of the leathers I've stained, which I've achieved first by accident, then quite deliberately. The mahogany stain is, to my eye, a great deal more purple than I thought it would be, but coupled with the mahogany finishing, it works beautifully, adding a delightful depth to the colour. The same is true for the black; not that the stain was far more purple than I'd imagined, but that using the hand-rubbed stain and hand-rubbed finishing both in black adds a great deal of interest and depth to the piece. I'm glad that's the route I decided on when I embarked on this project.
The last lesson I learnt was that leather stain makes quite the mess when it spills, and that your hands will be funky-looking for a couple of days if you happen to spill the stain all over them.
This latest project was lovely to work on. I quite enjoy tooling. I find the focus needed to do it well is meditative for me, letting me put aside a good number of worries as I tried to ensure that the tooling was vaguely straight.
Due to the length of time required to cut, tool, sew, stain and finish the piece, I will likely restrict my monthly orders of the Novice Book Jacket to about ten a month. It won't be enough to make a living wage, of course, but I wouldn't be able to do that unless I charge $200.00 each for these, and I don't feel that's something I can do.
Perhaps I will be fortunate and sell enough paintings and prints to make up the gap, if I sell anything at all.