The art of leather carving or ‘Tooled leather’ goes back far in its roots. Perfectly preserved leather items have been unearthed from 3,000-year-old Egyptian tombs, are mentioned in the Bible and ancient literature, and are highly valued in most civilizations, though its origins have been lost in history. The first recorded use of tooled leather, as legend maintains, is from the Spanish Moors, who used it to decorate their homes as early wallpaper!
In the 1800s to early 1900s, leather tooling became popular among cowboys and ranchers of the “Wild West” for its ornamentation and expression of personal style. Elaborately tooled saddles helped express pride in their owners’ horsemanship and identified individual possessions among cowboys with no horses of their own.
Leather tooling crafters use only full-grain leather, which has had the hair removed but retains its grain. Leather is then ‘cased’ or wet before the pattern is transferred or drawn on. Then a variety of carving tools are used to create the desired pattern before the item is assembled into belts, purse, wallets, and even shoes!