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The Entry below is in response to an ongoing discussion on a leather Group listed on Linkedin.com See; LeatherNaturally! (Group) Discussion Title; What kind of effect would this have on the industry? You can also join Linkedin Free & link to me at: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/francis-burdett-mills/30/154/547
Posted 19/8/12 The proposal by a large Football Boot Manufacturer to use synthetics rather than leather due to a propose Carbon Tax on leather or leather goods does not make sense. Leather 'breaths' & allows some air to reach the body & in the case in question can help prevent Athletes Foot. In the production of Footballs however the use of plastic was an improvement a they are lighter & do not absorb moisture as well as being more controllable in play. the production of synthetic has its own problems as it also produces emissions due to the fact that it is mainly a by-product of the petroleum industry. I begin to wonder if the present World recession has anything to do with the recent obsession on Global Warming & World Politicians insistence on taxing trade & industry for their Carbon Emission. (how do you measure it & how do you prevent it & at what cost to world trade?).
Carbon Emission is supposed to have a significant impact on global warming & global warming is believed to be man made (by some scientists). I for one do not believe that as Volcanoes, large herds of wild animals in Africa, Termites, even the oceans produce carbon. Yes mankind it responsible for a lot of pollution & we use up far too much of the Worlds irreplaceable resources but to blame us for global warming is beyond a joke, incidentally we eat meat & vegetables & must contribute to carbon emission, lets face it the World is over populated.
People are not getting the true picture for two reasons, the facts are not driven home & some choose not to accept it. The Farmer or Rancher constantly breeds cattle to supply the demands of the World Food Industry but once the cattle are slaughtered the Meat goes into cold storage & eventually to butchers & supermarkets after which it is consumed by the general public. Okay we are all aware of this but my point is that once it is eaten the evidence has gone, however the skin once it has been tanned & made into a leather article it becomes a constant reminder that this was once a living animal & most people assume that it was killed to produce leather.
As to why the Leather Trade has failed to stand its ground & make a case that leather is a by-product of the Meat industry & would be incinerated if not of any use, one must look at the fragmentation of the Crafts. They are: Footwear, Leather Goods, Saddlery, Upholstery, Clothing, Gloves, to name the main trades. Now all of them break down into sub-groups, The Tanneries supply all of these separate trades but no Tannery is capable of supplying all types of leather so you end up with them specialising.
The use of leather has been under attack by the Animal Rights movement for years as they refuse to accept that it is mainly derived from waste, the skins from animals not eaten are killed under licence to control numbers, protect crops or protect humans & Tanners processing this type of skin must produce authentication to that effect. (CITES). This industry has failed to get together over the years to stress these facts or respond to wild & false accusations in the Press such as calves being torn from their mothers to produce Calf Leather & Chinese rabbit farmers rearing a breed that changes the colour of its fur to white in winter to produce fur for Ugg Boots & collars of anoraks. (they don't they breed them for meat but maximise their profit by killing them in the winter to get the best price for the skins). the term Calf Skin refers to the skins of young cattle who's skins are still supple, in the UK calves are no longer killed as the consumption of Veal has been banned for years. However Tanners fail to explain this to the public or refute these claims.
The Leather Industry has been in decline since the last World War & to impose any tax on the production or use of leather could cause the remaining Tanneries to close & then animal skins would be incinerated adding to pollution, taxing the farmers would only increase the cost of food. This is nothing more than another ploy to generate more tax. This must be vigorously opposed by by all involved.
The Manuals on the left Are available from the Sales Page as Downloads & form part of the series of 7 Manuals planned by the Author to cover all aspects of Commercial Leather Craft as practiced since the Victorian Era when individual Craftsmen created Leathergoods mainly by hand, with the assistance of Sewing Machines & other small hand operated machinery. This was mainly done in small Workshops in London & the Major Provincial Cities, this continued until the end of the last war in the UK,
After the war the number of these old firms that often originated in the Saddlery Trade & used the same techniques & standards that had evolved from earlier times began to decrease Companies sprang up mostly on a more mass production set up employing more staff, some using leather others working with the newer synthetic materials. The trend at first was to employ Bench Hands to perform part of the assembly & pass the articles on to another person to do the next bit. A skilled Craftsman was usually employed to oversee the production.
This worked reasonably well & standards did not suffer, the old Skilled Craftsmen began to retire but were replaced by Competent young blood provided by the two main Leather Colleges one in Walsall & one in London (Corwainers) where I was HOD until I retired. But that excellent 2 year full time Leathergoods course is now defunct due to lack of Government funding. Which means that no more of those Students who were taught the traditional skills are emerging.
Now a hand full of those old specialist companies are still trading but finding it hard to find skilled Craftsmen. The Larger companies that were using Bench Hands have maintained their standard by ensuring that a College Student took over or a suitable employee was trained up prior to their old skilled Craftsman's retirement. But even some of these Large Production Companies have closed or re-located abroad due to the competition.
Worryingly from the point of view of traditional skills newer companies have emerged with none of the original know how. They use methods & finishes that bear no resemblance to those taught over the centuries, with simplicity, quickness, & a need for less skill plus as much mechanisation as possible. I understand the reasons & the need to compete. Their products cant be faulted, they may be made using the quickest method & even some unique construction techniques. But the product serves the purpose it was made for, dose not Fall apart, & will last until it's owner discards it as it is made to fit a price margin
So why am I concerned or even bothered I live comfortably in retirement & I am possibly one of the few remaining Craftsmen of the old school that uses a computer extensively. I decided to produce these Manuals to preserve the old methods before they are eventually lost. This is not going to happen in the Saddlery Trade as they took steps to Ensure that their traditional Skills were adhered to with proper Training & Testing. Sadly this was missed by the Leather Industry.
A parallel Amateurs Craft developed in Night Classes taught by amateurs who had taught themselves from Books written by other enthusiastic amateurs Most of these Books originated in America. the techniques used were mainly what we referred to as Native Crafts. This was not a derogative reference to lack of skills but referred to the basic methods used by the Red Indians making their traditional articles & clothing from leather.
For those Traditionalists in America reproducing the unique Articles made & used by the various tribes this is great. & resembles the Re-enactors. However when the amateur methods are transferred to more modern articles the Thonging on bags & wallets produces a chunky article which has a limited market. Their work could be vastly improved by using Skiving, Turnovers, & Stitching, whether that be hand Stitching or machining. Now if I can add to their knowledge & expand their skills I will have helped them as well. I have not mentioned their Surface Decoration (We referred to this a Tooling & leather Carving). Again this evolved from the American Native Tribes. It is an Art Form & some of the exponent are also Brilliant Artists.