An exclusive annual workshop hosted at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has equipped 10 final-year students with coveted leatherworking skills and valuable industry knowledge.
Focused on sustainability and technical enhancement, the four-day leather school is sponsored by DMU partner The Leathersellers’ Company, a 600-year-old historic organisation in the city of London that enables individuals and communities, fosters opportunity through education, and supports a sustainable UK leather industry.
Students from a wide range of arts and design disciplines had the chance to learn about the potential of leather as a practical, sustainable and innovative material, as well as master skills such as hand and machine stitching, skiving, and edge dyeing, all while making a laptop bag.
Utilising DMU’s cutting-edge facilities to hone their leatherworking techniques, students were mentored by university technicians alongside Charlie Laurie, the award-winning designer, craftsman and founder of luxury leather label Charles Laurie London.
Charlie demonstrating a technique to the class
Charlie said: “I’m passionate about the importance of teaching people skills in leatherwork, so I’m pleased I had the chance to mentor such lovely students both individually and as a group, passing on skills that they can hopefully take through to their degree.
“I think DMU’s facilities are amazing, with the leather equipment being some of best you can get, so students are very lucky to be able to learn in that environment.
“On the final day it was amazing to see how well they’d all done. The week was a real success and I hope the students enjoyed it as much as I did.”
For Fashion Textile Design student Lucy Dollery, it was an opportunity to learn skills in a traditional discipline she had no previous experience of.
“I’m grateful that I was able to do this without any financial restrictions, thanks to The Leathersellers’ Company’s sponsorship of the workshop,” said the 22-year-old from Bristol.
“I would definitely recommend trying your hand at a different craft. It made me change my opinion of working with leather and I can see it opening up more doors for me in the future.”
As someone who likes wearing leather, Contour Fashion student Imogen Sullivan was keen to enrol on the workshop to explore ways of incorporating the material into her lingerie designs.
The 24-year-old from Hertfordshire said: “I learned a lot about specifically using leather in contour and doing it right, which feels like such an accomplishment. Realising just how much work goes into leatherwork, I now have a lot of respect for those who make a living from it.
“Charlie was really, really good and clearly knew what he was talking about. He was happy to help us all individually and everyone’s bags looked amazing.”
Fine Art student Emily Beales enjoys experimenting with as many materials as possible to push her sculptures in new directions, so wanted to give leather a go having never worked with anything traditionally associated with textiles before.
“Charlie showed us the process of wet moulding leather - you drape it over a shape and it dries into a rock-hard form, which lends itself really well to sculpture,” said the 21-year-old from Suffolk.
“It was a great experience because I work so much in abstract, so it was nice to have a tangible ‘I made this moment’ when I finished my bag. I’d definitely recommend taking the opportunities you get at DMU as you never know where they might lead and what new skills you might discover.”
Clifford Amponsah, a Fashion Design student from Ghana, is embracing learning new things after Covid-19 and joined the four-day workshop in order to explore how he might incorporate leather into his final-year knitwear collection for men.
The 26-year-old said: “I learned about all kinds of leather and how to stitch it both by hand and machine. It was hard work but I enjoyed it, and it was amazing to get a professionally finished bag out of it.”
Gillian Proctor, Associate Professor for Enterprise at DMU, said: “Each student showed incredible enthusiasm and attention to Charlie, who was an incredible instructor. I would also like to commend our technical staff, Michaela Wilson-George and Kelly McRobie, for their valuable support.
“We are indebted to The Leathersellers’ Company for their bursary which finances this event and other activities to enrich the skills of our students, and to make this school accessible to all.
“Additional thanks go to Pittards and Doc Martens for their generous donations of leather, and to Tusting for their continuous support.”
Posted on Tuesday 25th October 2022