Heritage Crafts


The making of leather items, often using techniques of moulding and embossing. Many of the leatherworking crafts have separate entries.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
Currently viable
Craft category


Leatherworking is one of the oldest crafts ever recorded with evidence of leather tanning dating back to before 400,000 BC with leather being readily available for usage first as a by-product of hunting. The earliest leatherworking tools are associated with the Stone Age when leather was used for storage, shelter and clothing. From there leather making evolved to be a fashion solution but also producing objects like saddles or tents, book binds and hats. With the Industrial Revolution the volume of leather making products increased although much of the techniques remained the same.


The leather working process is centred on the material – from sourcing the right leather to work with, through examining the surface and preparing the leather, measuring and preparing/applying the pattern (marking cut lines), through to cutting and then the elaborate process of further working the leather including glueing, casing, stitching, dyeing, burnishing, skiving, stamping, moulding/shaping, perforation. The techniques and patterns of working with leather vary and depend on the type of leather as well as an object being produced.


  • Saddlery
  • Horse collar making
  • Sporran making

Issues affecting the viability

  • With many of the leathers used there are significant environmental and ethical concerns and with more and more fashion houses moving away from it
  • For a good and ethically sourced materials the costs are high comparing to cheaper, more synthetic alternatives
  • The process of preparing the leather is time consuming
  • Some of the tanning processes are environmentally harmful causing pollution to waterways, ecosystem and posing health risks to the labourers
  • The leather work training/qualification is not widely available and accessible with a decreasing number of active makers

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

  • Andy Bates
  • Karl Robinson Historical Leatherwork
  • Andrew Clark Military Metalwork, military leatherwork
  • Janet and Malcolm Eagleton, Scottish Sporrans

Other information

Accredited leatherworking courses are being run in conjunction with Northumberland College. Students start with the basic skills before widening out and then specialising.

National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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