Leather moulding is the practice of stiffening and shaping thin sheets of leather using hot water, giving them permanent bends and folds. This practice is used both for the shaping of practical goods and garments, like hats, as well as making artisan leather sculptures. Though the results are dramatic and impressive, leather sculpting requires no special tools or solutions and can be accomplished in your own home.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Air-dry earthenware clay
- Varnish or lacquer
- Thin sheet leather
Make a clay mould from the earthenware clay; this is the piece that you'll lay the hot, wet leather over, causing it to take the shape of the clay piece as it dries. Make whatever shape you want, but give it more exaggerated dimensions, especially with any grooves or depth details.
Let the clay dry according to manufacturer's instructions. Spray with varnish. Let dry.
Boil water on the stove. After the pot reaches boiling point, turn it down to a bubbling simmer.
Cut a few short strips of leather and boil them for different lengths of time to test them. Use the tongs to handle the pieces in the water. Leather will firm after being dipped in boiling water for a few seconds, then drying, but each piece of leather will yield different results. The longer you boil, the harder and more brittle each piece of leather will become. Keep track of which pieces you boil for which lengths of time to see which one gives you the texture you want for your project.
Cut a piece of leather large enough to cover your clay mould, plus have about 30 per cent extra length on all sides for a cutting and shrinkage margin.
Boil your leather piece for the desired amount of time.
Lay the boiled leather over the clay mould. Smooth out the leather to remove any wrinkles or folds you don't want in the finished piece. Let the leather dry and remove it from the clay.
Tips and warnings
- Boiling leather will also cause the leather to shrink, especially if you boil for a long time. Most leather moulding projects are best with minimal shrinkage, so experiment with very short submerging times.
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