Interview: Lauren from American Duchess

Kensington red (3)

“Kensington”, 18th Century shoe, by American Duchess


Laura flashing her red footwear, and clocked silk stockings: “Kensington”, 18th Century shoe, by American Duchess

When I commenced my studies in footwear design I realised how limited my knowledge was when it came to the history of the world. Shoes were the perfect way for me to discover the past in an accessible way. I became drawn to history through fashion – why were people wearing what they were wearing?

What did footwear reflect about the period?

How could footwear tell me a story of the life of the person who wore them?

It was during this ‘history of the world told through shoes’ obsession that I came across American Duchess: a wonderful company that has created many shoe styles which resemble footwear worn from eras since past. For many historical costumers the launch of footwear styles from American Duchess has been warmly welcomed, a niche brand that celebrates the past in the present.

What I love about American Duchess is that I truly feel that these footwear styles are carefully created. It is so apparent that Lauren has a true  respect to the era in which they were conceived. It was a pleasure reading her responses to my questions below. I dream that one day we are in the same place to drink tea and eat cake together – perhaps one day they will build a time machine and we can meet someplace in the past!

Can you begin by describing the world of the historical costume community?

The historical costuming community is an amazing, virtual place where anyone can learn an immense amount nearly instantly. There is so much information and experience being shared through blogs and social groups, like on Facebook, all you have to do is follow along, ask questions, read posts. The community has grown so much in the past few years, too, and has connected people all over the world.


“Astoria”, Edwardian Shoe, by American Duchess

Kensington red (3)

You started your blog: American Duchess in 2009, to chronicle your sewing adventures. This site has quickly become a popular resource for other costumers. How has this blog developed over time?

Originally my blog was called “The Barn Owl Gown” – I know, the worst name ever, haha! – and was meant to just chronicle a single project I was working on. That name, and that project, only lasted so long, so of course I renamed it and carried on from there. The blog has always had the mission to share information and help other costumers. I didn’t know anything about the 18th century when I started it, so I set to figuring stuff out, like how to make wigs, patterning out jackets and gowns, etc., and then I shared everything I learned along the way, whether I was successful or not. A couple years after starting the blog, I came up with the idea of making shoes for other costumers, and because I already had a bit of a readership, I was able to work out the design of that first shoe style, with the input of other costumers. It was and still is a great way to make sure we’re getting in right with the design we produce – a “miss” is bad for business, sure, but it’s even worse for the community, because it’s not filling the footwear needs of other costumers.

In 2011 American Duchess released the first footwear style referenced from the 18th Century called “Georgiana”, a silk low heeled shoe to accompany a colonial costume. What led you to launch this business and begin with this style specifically?

I touched on this a bit in the last question, but it needs more explanation. Initially, I myself was frustrated, as a hobbyist costumer, in the lack of choice with shoes for historical gowns. I felt like there was a big hole in what was on offer, and this lead to the idea that maybe I could fill it. I didn’t want American Duchess shoes to look like anything else, but I wanted to make sure the community and I were on the same page. I set up a survey and asked all sorts of questions – heel height, materials, etc. – and took all the feedback and created the “Georgiana,” which was an 18th century latchet shoe with a french heel. The dyeable satin idea actually came from my mother – go Mom! – and was popular with those who took the survey too, so that’s what we made them out of. There wasn’t anything else like Georgiana in the marketplace, so when we launched it for pre-ordering (essentially, we did our own crowd-funding campaign), they were a big hit, and we were off and running.


“Georgiana”, 18th Century silk shoes, by American Duchess


How close to the historical footwear styles are the replicas you create at American Duchess?

I try to get as close as possible, but there are always compromises. For instance, the size and especially width of modern feet has changed, and the expectations of the wearer have changed. In the past, shoes were constructed without any arch support, no left and right, some without any toe boxes, most custom-made, all with hand-carved heels, some in materials that don’t exist or aren’t being manufactured in the same way anymore. I have to balance all of these things with modern comfort needs, and modern construction methods. We’re not bespoke shoemakers – we run in small batches, but even though we’re not making thousands of shoes at a time, they’re still “mass produced,” so I’m constrained by some of those processes. In each design I strive to get the hallmarks of the period correct. I’ll take a hard look at where the side seams are, the shapes of the lasts, closures, how the heels are balanced and attached, all of these things, and anywhere that I can hold true to those design points, I will, without making the shoe uncomfortable for the user.


“Renoir”, Civil War Button Boots, by American Duchess


American Duchess recently joined forces with renowned cordwainer: Francis Classe to create the Elizabethan shoe, the “Stratford”. How did you come to work with Francis? How would you describe this collaboration?

I met Francis at Costume College in LA last year, and watched him put together one of his famous “Stratford” style shoes, from scratch. After Costume College, he emailed me rather out of the blue, and suggested the collaboration. He knew that we’d been developing an Elizabethan style – we’d had requests for Elizabethan shoes from the get-go, but with factory changes and other businessy stuff, it had been sortof on the back-burner – and he proposed that we work together to get that project done.


“Stratford”, Elizabethan shoe, designed in collaboration between renowned cordwainer Francis Classe and American Duchess

I couldn’t be happier with the whole arrangement. Francis made the patterning sample by hand, and our workshop produced a version of it that I feel was very true to the original. It’s one of the best shoes we’ve ever done, and it’s our first “Signature Collection” shoe. I love the “Signature” shoes because they’re all about helping other people in our community. Francis receives a commission every time a pair of Stratfords sells, and future “Signature” shoes will act in the same way – we’re working on our second Signature style, called “Seabury,” with the Newport Historical Society, so the sale of those will help fund them, too.

 I noticed you have names for each of the footwear styles at American Duchess. What has been the inspiration behind these names?

Each of the names ties in somehow with the period. Most of them are place names – Devonshire, Kensington, Pemberley, Highbury, Hartfield, Tavistock. Some of them are also the names of influential figures from the periods they represent – Astoria, Pompadour, Georgiana, Renoir, Tissot. The names are meant to evoke a feeling of each era.


“Gibson”, Edwardian shoe, tan, by American Duchess


What is your opinion towards modern footwear styles?

Some are great, some aren’t. It was that way in the past too! I really love a lot of the vintage-inspired lines, like b.a.i.t, and Miss L Fire, but I’m not adverse to a super-high-heeled modern stiletto too. A part of me wants to see the return of properly engineered, well-designed footwear, because so much of modern shoe design is influenced by machining and mass-production capability, not by human elements. Then again, if shoes were being made to those standards these days, I wouldn’t have much of a business! Part of our mission is to fill that gap, and bring some grace and comfort back to shoes.

I am in love with the fantasy of time travel. Is there a specific period / place / historical figure you would meet if you had the chance?

I don’t know if I could choose just one! I would visit lots of times and places, maybe just for a day, to see what it was *really* like, and maybe (probably) to do some shopping, haha. I’d like to meet, or maybe just observe, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Marie Antoinette. I guess I kindof want to see if they really look like their portraits. I’d like to meet Charles Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, the Callot sisters, Chanel. I don’t know what they’d think of me! I’d probably be paralysed by celebrity and not be able to say a word, just stand there grinning like a goofball.


“Antoinette” 18th Century Mules, with metallic silver embroidery, by American Duchess

Learn more about American Duchess ~ click here to visit the website / blog or ‘like’ on Facebook



Interview: Thomasine Gloves

When I saw Thomasine gloves for the first time…

I felt so delighted, so surprised, & thrilled that leather gloves were being created right now in my lifetime that are so spectacular. Wearing gloves serve the function of protection against us from the cold ~ Thomasine gloves may just transform our hands into kinetic works of art.

Thomasine is a Swedish designer now living and working in Paris, France. She has collaborated with Walter van Beirendonck for multiple menswear collections; Tillmann Lauterbach; Gauchère; & photographer Adriane d’Ollone with art director Sofie Nielander. She has also taken part in  the prestigious ITS#SIX, International Talent Support in Trieste, Italy.

Thank you to the talented Thomasine Barnekow of Thomasine gloves for taking part in this interview.

Take a deep breath & witness some of the best gloves our universe has to offer:


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck SS2012

1. Can you tell me a bit about how and when you became interested in gloves?

Gloves came into my thoughts during design school, where I started to view them as soft wearable jewellery. I found an interest in an accessory that has a great traditional heritage and to try to find a modern way to look at them.

The first glove idea was inspired by shoes. The second – by jewellery hiding in under the skin: the collection called ‘peau précieuse’. This is still my brand identity, but often the jewellery part is more conceptual than direct today.


Thomasine Gloves: ‘Peau Precieuse’ Image By Barrie Hullegie


Thomasine Gloves Image by Coco Amardeil


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck AW2012

2. What is your process for developing a new glove design?

It is the search for making an idea that is yet not designed. I either have a fascination of a graphical image, a craft technique or a fashionable silhouette that I try to make 3D. I use paper and materials in my hands that I try to cut and fold into a new interesting shape as the base for the design. So I am very tactile and sculptural before I really start with the drawings.

TOKYO glove Marine

Thomasine Gloves: ‘TOKYO’ (Marine)

3. Your colour combinations are unexpected – so excellent. How do you arrive at these colour palettes?

The colours are a matter of taste. I don’t really follow trends, because I believe every story told can be the right ‘trend’ it is just up to oneself to tell it in a strong way. I see it like creating a painting.

But I do like shades of colours rather than prime ones.

MILAN mitaine Taupe

Thomasine Gloves ‘MILAN’ (Mitaine Taupe)

4. You have collaborated with some acclaimed designers and stylists on photo shoots, What is your process for a successful collaboration?

Personal chemistry – good energies are meant to come together and create successful work.Personally I try to listen and understand the core of the imagined product and then I translate it with my hand writing and perfection.


Thomasine Gloves for Walter van Beirendonck SS2014

dove glove

Thomasine Gloves ‘dove glove’ 


Thomasine Gloves Walter van Beirendonck SS2012

5. To me your gloves seem fresh & innovative. At the same time I can see that you value tradition in your craft & successfully relate this to your design. How do you combine the new with the old so well?

Gloves is a handcraft – by understanding the product and the heritage one can also start to change the shape to modernize it. By understanding the quality of leather one can create wonders that is not possible with textiles.

PARIS glove Fushia

Thomasine Gloves ‘PARIS’ glove (Fushia)

But the main point for me – I believe is that I am a product designer with speciality in jewellery and in textiles – gloves became the ultimate combination of the two directions.Gloves have become a bit of a forgotten accessory – by creating a new identity for the use of product one can play on nostalgia and elegance to create a modern product.

6. Hands are so personal and very integral on a functional level to our everyday lives as human beings. What do you think happens when we wear gloves?

NEW YORK gloveByAdrianeGrzadziel

Thomasine Gloves ‘NEW YORK’ glove Image By Adriane Grzadziel

If you are in love with your pair of gloves,  you will wear them all the time,  you will talk with them, you will stand up in the bus / metro to hold your hand up high. When you feel comfortable and beautiful – you will carry them with a pride. THOMASINE gloves are made to make you feel special.

7. What are you looking forward to in 2014 & beyond at Thomasine Gloves?

To make my brand reach further and make more people fall in love. 😉
To create a range that is both more simple but still make you feel less ordinary.
That women and men compliment their wardrobes with a special glove compartment.

HELSINKI glove Red

Thomasine Gloves ‘HELSINKI’ glove (Red)


Thomasine Gloves Coquillage De Main Galuchat


Thomasine Gloves Coquillage De Main Galuchat

If you would like to see and read more about Thomasine Gloves click HERE

Until Next Time

Interview: French Leather Gilder – Lucie Monin

When I think of gilded leather I imagine gorgeous antique books. Hand Bound, with gold detailing, from a time long since passed.

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detail: “La Vie des Insectes” dated from 1900 written by J.-H. Fabre
made in the Wiener Werkstatte workshop

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“La Vie des Insectes” dated from 1900 written by J.-H. Fabre
made in the Wiener Werkstatte workshop

As with many other hand crafted techniques gilded leather is usually performed in the present day by machines.  Often referred to as “Hot Stamping Machines” or a “Gold foil Press”. These machines are commonly used to stamp a logo or brand inside footwear or make prints for leather goods.

I can attest to the difference between machine made gold transfers and gilding which has been created by hand. The pressure and quality of the lines is in a different league. Hand Gilded leather is very luxurious, even the glow of the gold is superior.

The individual featured in this interview is a very talented contemporary leather crafts person; Lucie Monin lives and works as a professional gilder in Paris, France. Lucie has opened my eyes to the possibilities, relevance and beauty of gilded leather in the preset day .

I met Lucie back in September when I attended the 2013 “Le Cuir à Paris : – Fur and leather Event. Twice a year this event showcases talented craftspeople under the title of “Bespoke” and provides participants with stands to display unique works that celebrate leather.

Gants Maison Fabre

Gants Maison Fabre, Lucie Monin

As I approached the bespoke stands I was immediately drawn to the shimmering gold that was aglow around Lucie.The closer I got to her works the more fascinated I became with the intricate gold details.

6. 1ERECLASSE_janv13_ Lucie Monin pour Thierry Lasry.

Lucie Monin pour (for) Thierry Lasry


Taneka Carel, Lucie Monin

Please read the interview below: the questions and answers are in French as well as English:

1. Nous nous sommes rencontré au salon le cuir à paris, pouvez-vous me raconté votre expérience à cet évènement?

Le salon Le Cuir à Paris fut l’occasion pour moi de rencontrer un certain nombre de personnes intéressantes issues du milieu de la mode, du design ou de l’architecture intérieure. Ce qui a le plus intéressé les visiteurs sur mon stand : le service de personnalisation en direct que je propose pour des évènements ( inauguration de boutique, lancement de collection série limitée, soirée presse, soirée pour les fêtes de Noël…)

1. I met you at Le Cuir à Paris, how would you describe the experience of participating in this event?

The show “Le Cuir à Paris” was the opportunity for me to meet a number of interesting people from the fashion industry, from design and interior design. What interested visitors to my stand the most: the service of live customization which I propose for events (inauguration of shop, launch of a limited edition serial collection, an evening press, and an evening for Christmas)


Lucie Monin at work

2. Parlez-moi de la dorure?

Voici exactement ce en quoi mon travail de doreuse consiste : Il y a d’abord la partie création, où je dessine, puis je customise ces même dessins en or sur des pièces qui deviennent uniques (même un particulier peut venir me voir). Je propose également comme je viens de l’expliquer, des personnalisations (initiales ou messages) sur différents types d’accessoires en cuir, dans le cadre évènementiel. Par exemple pour Tommy Hilfiger au sein du concept store Colette, à Madrid ou à Dusseldorf, ou encore pour Red Carpet au festival de Cannes. Je serai présente chez Merci pour la Maison Fabre au mois de décembre.

2. What is gilding?

Here is exactly what the work of gilder consists of: Firstly there is the part of creation, where I draw, then I customize the same drawings with gold on an accessory  which become unique. (even a private individual can come to see me). I also offer as I have just explained it, live personalizations (initials or messages) on various leather accessories, for events. Some example are: for Tommy Hilfiger within the concept store Colette, in Madrid or in Düsseldorf. Also for Red Carpet in the Cannes film festival. I shall be present at MERCI for the luxury french company Maison Fabre in December 2013.


Dr. Martens Boutique Paris, Lucie Monin

7. 1ERECLASSE_janv13. Lucie Monin pour Dr Martens

Lucie Monin pour (for) Dr Martens

3. Quel a été votre parcours, et comment en êtes vous arriver à être une doreuse sur cuir?

Je suis restée 3 ans au sein des Centre des Arts du Livre (anciennement les Arts Déco) à Paris , souhaitant me spécialiser dans la restauration de livres anciens. Puis j’ai effectuée quelques années à l’école bleue, architecture intérieure et design. Finalement, j’ai rapidement voulu créer un concept : revisiter le savoir-faire de dorure sur livre à travers l’univers de la mode, en le remettant au goût du jour. C’est formidable de pouvoir personnaliser à sa guise n’importe quel accessoire et lui donner une vie plus singulière, en rapport avec soi !

3. What is your background and how did you arrive here, being a leather guilder?

I stayed 3 years within “Le Centre des Arts du Livre”(formerly Arts deco) in Paris, wishing to specialize in the restoration of old books. Then I spent a few years at “L’Ecole Bleue”: design school. Finally, I quickly wanted to create a concept: revisit the know-how of gilt on book through the world of fashion, reference the past but with current tastes. It is great to be able to personalize as one pleases any accessory and give to an accessory a unique life, in touch with the individual owner!

14.Chaussure homme Walter Steiger habillée d'or. Photo Laurent Depaepe

Chaussure homme (mens shoe) Walter Steiger habillée d’or, Lucie Monin Photo Laurent Depaepe

13. Commande pour Blake & Goodyear,  Modèle signé Pierre Corthay. Photo Laurent Depaepe

Commande pour Blake & Goodyear, Modèle signé Pierre Corthay, Lucie Monin Photo Laurent Depaepe,

4. Quel est l’histoire de la dorure? comment cet art as t-il évolué pour devenir ce qu’il est aujourd’hui?

Avec les Guerres d’Italie, la première dorure sur livre est arrivée en France en 1494 « la Couronne de Charles VIII ». Elle ennoblie les manuscrits royaux durant la Monarchie, reste présente au XIXème, malgré la Révolution Industrielle, et est réadaptée de manière plus contemporaine début XXème avec l’arrivée du Cubisme, et du Surréalisme. On l’a un peu délaissé au profit de la dorure industrielle par la suite.

4. What is the history of gilding? How has this craft evolved over the years to where we are now?

With the Wars of Italy, the first gilt on book arrived in France in 1494 ” La couronne de Charles VIII “. The gild ennobled the royal manuscripts during the Monarchy, remains present in the XIXth, in spite of the Industrial revolution, and is readjusted in a more contemporary way with the XXth, beginning with the arrival of the Cubism, and the Surrealism. Afterward, it is more abandoned for the benefit of industrial gold transfer machinery.


Lucie Monin at work

5. Avez-vous un mentor ou avez-vous étudiez cet art? avez-vous des livres ou des sites web a recommender?

Michel Richard, un ponte dans le milieu de la dorure, mais peu connu des média. Exigeant, il m’a apprit les bonnes bases. Il faut être patient, rigoureux, et méticuleux.

5. Have you had any mentors or education to learn how to guild? Any reference books or websites you would recommend?

Michel Richard, a heavyweight in the universe of the gilt – but little known of in the media. He has me taught the good base: It is necessary to be patient, rigorous, and meticulous.

19. exploration sous-marine

Exploration sous-marine, Lucie Monin

6. J’aime beaucoup votre style, il me semble très fluide, d’un design tellement détaillés, et parfois aussi minimal. Faites-vous des plans ou des croquis, ou laissez-vous votre imagination vous guider au fur et à mesure que le travail avance?

Il y a effectivement un travail de graphisme en amont. Une fois que le client valide, je le redessine sur calque, puis, à chaud en transparence je reproduis ce même dessin sur le cuir. Une fois cela réalisé, je peux ajouter l’or exactement dans ces mêmes traces. Merci April pour le compliment, mon style est en effet fluide, aérien, mais aussi organique et mouvant. Je m’inspire beaucoup de l’art nouveau Loie Fuller, ou encore des compositions que nous offre la nature, les fond marins.

6. I love your style, to me it is very fluid with gentle sweeping lines with a lot of intricate design, and then it can be very minimal too. Do you plan or sketch your ideas or do you work directly on leather allowing the imagery to unfold?

When the customer has a design, I redraw it on copy, then, under heat in transparency I reproduce the same drawing on the leather. Once it is realized, I can then add the gold exactly in the same tracks. Thank you April for the compliment, my style is indeed fluid, like air, but also organic and unstable. I am inspired by many of the art nouveau Loie Fuller, and always the compositions which are offered to us from nature, especially the sea bed.

2. Robe monogrammée Précieuse. Design et motifs Valéry Damnon; dorure Lucie Monin

Robe monogrammée Précieuse. Design et motifs Valéry Damnon; dorure Lucie Monin

7. Comment faites-vous la balance entre vos idées et votre style tout en respectant les exigences du client?

Les clients qui me font appel aiment justement mon style de dessin, donc je peux jouir d’un liberté de création, c’est formidable ! Lorsqu’un projet est précis, je m’adapte, mais toujours avec cette « pâte ».

7. How do you strike a balance between staying true to your own aesthetic and pleasing your client for customizations?

The customers who call on to me like my style of drawing, thus I can enjoy the freedom of creation, it is great! When a project is specific, I adapt myself, but always with my own “touch”.

1. Bottine Walter Steiger habillée d'or

Bottine Walter Steiger habillée d’or, Lucie Monin

8. Nous avions prévu nous rencontrer à votre studio a Paris, malheureusement, vos enfants n’étaient pas bien. Étant moi-même jeune maman, je cherche toujours a améliorer l’équilibre entre m’occuper de mon enfant et avoir le temps pour travailler a mes projets,- comment y parvenez-vous? Et comment vos enfants vous inspire t-ils dans votre travail?

J’ai des jumeaux de 16 mois, et oui la plupart du temps c’est sportif et pas évident à gérer avec le travail. Vous devez savoir de quoi je parle ! mais se sentir maman est tout de même extraordinaire. Cela peut paraître étrange mais ces deux fripons m’influencent aussi pour mon art !!

8. We planned to meet at your studio in Paris but unfortunately your little ones were unwell. As a mother myself I am always wondering how I can improve the balance between being a mama and working for myself – how do you manage this? How do your children inspire your practice?

I have twins (16-month-old), and yes most of the time it is sports and not easy to manage with my work. You must know what I am speaking of! But to experience motherhood is all the same very extraordinary. It may seem odd but these two rascals also influence my art practice!!

Merci Lucie Monin, it was a pleasure meeting you, I look forward to seeing your future projects. To find out more visit this website:

Until next time -April

Deeahne – Leather Carving and Tooling

I am one person who spends most days being very busy. This kind of busy becomes a bit hectic with a very little person as my side kick (daughter) so to get some of my recent projects underway I really needed some help. Carving leather is such an incredible craft and I will admit that while I have carved in the past I can acknowledge the fact that shoe making is enough of a challenge and some things are better left for another lifetime. I also love that my illustrations can be translated into a carved surface so lovingly by Deeahne, and then I get the leather pieces back – this feels so exciting a bit like unwrapping a highly anticipated present. I find the “break” from illustrating the imagery to receiving the carved pieces again allows me to be much clearer when it is time to paint them. I can see the imagery with a fresh pair of eyes.

Deeahne was introduced to me by a friend and it was nice to know someone so lovely and talented was working so close to where I live in the mid North Coast of NSW. There is a bright light that shines out Dee, I really appreciate all the work she has done for me.

I enjoyed speaking to Deeahne so much about her craft I decided to interview her for this post:


Deeahne with Corneilia the cockateil

How did you come to find out about leather tooling? What made you decide to practice this craft?

When i was a child in the 70’s my mother and a lot of her friends had hand tooled and hand made leather bags, belts and sandals.Hand tooled and handcrafted items were all the fashion back then, i  always remember the smell of them and to this day i still find the smell of hide soothing. Maybe its the old memory of human survival being so entwined with herd animals ie: bison, deer, buffalo, cattle, goats etc. How entwined our ancestors lives and to this day a lot of Indigenous peoples lives from various continents are dependent on these animals for so much: food, clothing, shelter warmth, such basic stuff for so long. For so long humanities very survival was dependent on these animals and not just in the physical things they provided, like sustenance and nurturing but also the spiritual connection, the spiritual sustenance and nurturing these creatures have provided and still provide us to this day. So over the years my partner and i have stumbled over old hand tooled relics in Op Shops, old bags and wallets and the energy and craftsmanship and nostalgia has fascinated me for years. Eventually we bought a leather kit about two years ago and have been tapping away ever since…

Leather is a versatile material to work with, what do you like about leather? What are the challenges?

I love the sensuality of vege tanned leather
i love the smell
i love the peace the act of tooling evokes
i love that you can wet it and then leather will retain the marks and sculptured images bevelled into it
i love that it was once a creature used for its meat and the by product is its skin, and its skin housed a body and a consciousness, has eaten plants and felt sunshine and has walked on this earth, i actually feel it is honoring the animal  to create something beautiful  from its skin. So that’s where the challenges come into it for me as well. i would like to be able to access Veg Tanned Leather, that is environmentally responsible and has ethical treatment of its animals as a priority at the moment our supplier is buying skins from Argentina, although Vege Tanned Leather is supposedly “Eco Friendly” in that it uses plants and bark for the tanning process and not nasty chemicals i wonder how Eco friendly it all is also i have concerns for the environmental impact of large scale cattle production and of course the ethical concerns of how the animals are treated respect is a big one for me so  i am also hoping there could be a tooling alternative devised in the future for example “Cork Leather” that could be grande to explore!!
oh and another challenge with doing leather work and any art that requires sitting and focusing for a long period of time is to remember to STAND UP move around and stretch and even alternate with a standing work bench space, i get very physically fidgety after a while so stretching taking a physical and energetic break is very important i’m going to purchase an exercise bike and a trampoline so i can cut sik physically……yay!!  i’d like something i could hang upside down on tooo that would be fun …

You must have quite a few tools in your collection! To the untrained eye many of these look the same–How are they different? Any favourites?

 We love our leather tools some of them are very old and you cant buy them new anymore so they come with they’re own energetic history. I just had a friend give us a box of old leather carving tools she found at a garage sale, the old woman that sold them told the story with tears in her eyes about how her now deceased husband had collected them one by one over the years and how he made rocking horses for children and used the tools for stamping and carving the leather bridles on the horses……we LOVE this hand made box and its 84 tools!! Over the past two years we have been buying them new and old off ebay and online leather tool shops its always exciting to get them in the mail! They all do all kinds of special things there is a trillion types of leather stamps performing various functions for leaving all kinds of impressions in the leather…Bevelers….Smooth Bevelers…Lined Bevelers..Backgrounders…Flower centres..etc etc…Different picture stamps…swivel knives …mallets…leather cutting shears…etc etc
I LOVE them ALL!!

ok so i give you some real  basic steps say you want to make a book mark or something easy like that

1. Buy some vege tanned leather
2. cut to size
3. Decide on a design and draw it up on tracing paper
4. Wet the leather with water or carving solution
5. Place stencil of tracing paper on top of the leather draw over lines on stencil so as to leave a visible impression in the leather
6. Use a leather Swivel Knife to cut into the line impressions
7. Use a leather beveling stamp tool to stamp around the cut impressions and bring out the design
8. The rest is up to personal taste and what you want to do with the piece. ie background bevelers….borderlines…dyeing …painting…etc

You mentioned to me the first time we met you were self taught, do you have any resources or mentors that have assisted you?

I can say that my biggest mentor has been the desire to do it which has been building up over the years. i have a vague memory of making a very simple project in primary school and once someone gave me a leather wallet with a horse carved into it when i was a child. These things have probably etched in my memory. So we have accessed information online and have acquired a few old books that give you step by step instructions, other than that it has just been my experimentation and enjoyment which has expanded the interest into a creative hobby. Also having an artistic eye and inclination helps, i’ve always loved to draw and paint and immerse myself in music always. We like having days where a few friends get together and tap under the trees ….its sweet.

You have a special studio space set up – how would you describe it? What impact do you think this environment has on your work ?

We live in an old farm house and we have a room where we store all our tools and gear but our studio space is basically our house and the  timber veranda that looks over a picturesque dam and is surrounded by old Tallowood trees and rainforest pockets. Lots of Native birds and mammals visit us and surprise us with charm and songs daily. We also have lots of company from our menagerie of domestic animals ie/ Rescued chooks , very funny amazing  Ferrets!! , guinea pigs, cats, gouldion finches, rescue dogs, hand raised cockateils, quails, Siamese fighting fish …yay!! There is a lot of humour, distraction, heartfelt warmth, feeding, cage cleaning and lots of furry feathery kisses!! We feel very blessed to live amongst it all natures natural abundance. Firewood just falls from the limbs of the trees…..and it is extroadinarily peaceful….we pass thru a green tree tunnel at the opening of our road….and when you pass thru that, everything vibrationally changes….the temperature drops and the trees surround you leaving the hustle of human behind except for the sound of the neighbors dogs and sometimes our roosters in those moments me and my partner look at each other and sigh..’ hmmm its quiet in the country….(sometimes not!!). So i’m sure this energetic peace we have experienced here has an impact on the leather work we do……yes we are close to the seasons and the elements, and to the feathers and fur and carving leather is about  as ancient as all that.
Deeahne and Huckellberry

Modern machines have taken the place of many of the jobs previously completed by hand. Embossing processes and laser cutting can create depth in leather in similar ways to carving / tooling. How do you see what you do in reference to this?

Well to me something made by someone with warm hands a heart beat…breath…dreams…something made with someones intention for beauty or communication something hand woven, something drawn, something carved…with emotion…with honouring and enchantment will always be far superior than a mass produced article, but that is just my inkling. I gasp when i see or feel these beautiful things like hand carved canoes, old 70s macrame, birds nests so delicately put together – and so many varieties of birds nests……so amazing. Woven bags made from sea grass, a hand made guitar, a cave that has been carved for years by the relentless and salty sea. These things make my heart beat and my senses come alive and trip me over with the wonder and awe for life xx  I thank machines though they have given us a lot, but for me its important to be immersed in the balance…and access the skills and heart and craftsmanship of our ancestors with respect for nature and then environment whilst using technology for our best eco ethical  and humanitarian way.


Thank you to Dee for participating in my first interview!

Until next time