What to Look for When Purchasing Handmade Leather Goods

What to Look for When Purchasing Handmade Leather Goods

July 03, 2024

What to Look for When Purchasing Handmade Leather Goods

Imagine running your fingers over a well-worn leather satchel, feeling the soft texture and admiring the rich patina that's developed over years of use. 

There's something magical about handmade leather goods, isn't there? 
In a world dominated by mass-produced items, these artisanal pieces stand out as timeless emblems of quality, sustainability, and emotional connection.
At Tanner Bates, we're passionate about preserving this craft. Our Devon-based workshop is a testament to the enduring appeal of handmade leather goods. Let's dive into why these pieces are so special and what you should look for when investing in one.

The Value of Handmade Leather Goods: An Enduring Investment

In an era where consumerism often prioritises quantity over quality, handmade leather goods represent a refreshing departure from the norm. Unlike their
mass-produced counterparts, these meticulously crafted pieces are designed to withstand the test of time, making them a wise investment for those seeking longevity and enduring value.
Beyond their unparalleled durability, handmade leather goods possess 

a unique character that only intensifies with age. Each piece develops a distinct patina, a visual narrative etched into its surface, reflecting the journeys and experiences it has witnessed. This organic evolution transforms a simple accessory into a deeply personal artefact imbued with sentimental value that transcends mere functionality.

Moreover, the creation of handmade leather goods aligns with sustainability principles, a growing concern in our environmentally conscious society. By choosing companies that prioritise responsible sourcing and production practices, consumers can contribute to a more sustainable future while indulging in the timeless beauty of these artisanal creations.

Vixen Leather Tote Bag

Key Considerations When Purchasing Handmade Leather Goods

While the allure of handmade leather goods is undeniable, discerning consumers must navigate a complex landscape to ensure they acquire pieces of uncompromising quality and authenticity. Here are some crucial factors to consider when embarking on this exquisite journey.

1. The Source & Transparency: Tracing the Origins

In a market where transparency is often lacking, it is essential to seek out reputable sources that are forthcoming about the origins of their leather. Unscrupulous vendors may attempt to mislead customers by obfuscating the provenance of their materials, compromising both quality and ethical standards.

At Tanner Bates, we take pride in our commitment to ethical sourcing and the use of domestic materials, ensuring that every piece in our collection has a traceable and responsible origin. We believe that transparency is not just a courtesy but a fundamental obligation to our valued customers.

2. The Tanning Process: Unveiling Nature's Artistry

The tanning process plays a pivotal role in determining the quality and sustainability of leather goods. Two primary methods exist chrome tanning and vegetable tanning, each with its unique characteristics and environmental impact. While efficient, chrome tanning involves harsh chemicals that can be detrimental to the environment if not properly managed. 

Conversely, vegetable tanning is a time-honoured tradition that relies on natural, plant-based tannins to imbue the leather with a rich, warm hue and unparalleled softness. This eco-friendly approach not only preserves the natural beauty of the material but also allows the leather to develop a captivating patina over time, a hallmark of true craftsmanship.

At Tanner Bates, we have embraced full grain vegetable tanned leather, ensuring that our products not only exude an unrivalled aesthetic but also align with our commitment to sustainable practices. Our skilled artisans regularly visit our local Devon tannery to meticulously hand select hides. We work with the finest leather to ensure that each hide is a supple, breathtaking canvas for our artistry.

3. The Leather Grade: Discerning Quality from Imitation

Not all leather is created equal, and discerning consumers must be able to distinguish between various grades to ensure they acquire the finest quality. Full-grain leather, the highest echelon, is prized for its durability, natural beauty, and ability to develop a rich patina over time.

In contrast, lower grades like top-grain or genuine leather often undergo processes that strip away the natural character of the material, compromising its longevity and aesthetic appeal. While these alternatives may be more affordable, they fail to capture the essence of true craftsmanship and authenticity.

At Tanner Bates, we exclusively use full-grain leather for our products, ensuring that our customers receive the utmost in quality and longevity. Each piece is a testament to our unwavering commitment to preserving the inherent beauty and integrity of this remarkable natural material.

4. Quality Craftsmanship: The Art of Meticulous Construction

Beyond the material itself, the true artistry of handmade leather goods lies in the intricate details of their construction. From the precision of the stitching to the quality of the hardware and finishes, every aspect contributes to the overall durability and aesthetic appeal of the piece.

Discerning connoisseurs should be attuned to the signs of quality craftsmanship, such as thick, even stitching, solid brass or stainless steel hardware, and meticulously burnished edges. These hallmarks not only enhance the visual appeal but also ensure that the piece will withstand the rigours of daily use for years to come.

At Tanner Bates, our skilled artisans are masters of their craft, employing time-honoured techniques and meticulous attention to detail in every step of the construction process. From the careful selection of materials to the final finishing touches, each piece is a labour of love, a testament to our commitment to preserving the art of handmade leather goods.

5. Sustainable Practices: Embracing a Greener Future

In an era where environmental concerns are at the forefront of consumer consciousness, the leather industry has come under scrutiny for its impact on the planet. Mass-produced leather goods often contribute to deforestation, water pollution, and excessive waste, leaving a significant ecological footprint.

Consequently, it is imperative to seek out companies that prioritise sustainable practices, minimising their environmental impact while preserving the integrity of their craft. From using locally sourced materials to implementing water-efficient tanning processes and recycling initiatives, these responsible manufacturers are paving the way for a greener future in the leather goods industry.

At Tanner Bates, we are proud to be at the forefront of this sustainable movement. Our commitment to eco-friendly practices is woven into every aspect of our operations, from recycled materials to water-efficient tanning processes. By choosing our products, our customers not only acquire exquisite handmade leather goods but also contribute to a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Our workshop is solar powered (on a good day), or that our leather is a by product of the meat industry, essentially making something beautiful, long lasting and ultimately biodegradable out of a waste material. The Devon leather uses skins from local 'low impact' responsibly farmed grass fed beef cattle. The carbon footprint is kept to an absolute minimum in this way. The leather only then has a short journey to our workshop. 

The oak bark used at the local Devon tannery is also a by product of the timber industry, once used to tan the hides, it is used as compost/mulch for gardening. The stream water used to tan the hides can ultimately be returned to the stream as there are no harsh chemicals used in the tanning process. The tan pits are agitated by a 400 year old water wheel - this is totally carbon neutral. 

The hides are moved around the tannery by man power - labour intensive and heavy work, but carbon neutral! So many of the processes involved in making the leather use man power, not machine power. Most of the machines that are used are over 100 years old and cannot be replaced so are kept running by skilled and experienced engineers. 

Wherever possible we like to keep our legacy light on the planet. 

Notebook - Leather Bound Journal

Ready to Embark on Your Handmade Leather Journey?

Now that you're armed with this knowledge, you're ready to become a connoisseur of handmade leather goods. Remember, it's not just about buying a product – it's about investing in a piece of artisanal history that will grow with you over time.

Curious to see these principles in action? We'd love to show you around our collection at Tanner Bates. Our passionate artisans are ready to guide you through the intricate world of handmade leather goods. 

Who knows? You might just find your next favourite accessory – one that'll be by your side for years to come.

So, are you ready to experience the unparalleled quality and timeless elegance of handmade leather goods? Your journey into this fascinating world starts here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Purchasing Handmade Leather Goods 


1. Why should I choose handmade leather goods over mass-produced items?

Handmade leather goods offer superior quality, durability, and a unique character that develops over time. They are crafted with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring each piece is a true work of art and an investment in long-lasting quality.

2. What is the difference between full-grain and top-grain leather?

Full-grain leather is of the highest quality, retaining its natural surface with all its imperfections, leading to greater durability and a rich patina over time. Top-grain leather is sanded to remove imperfections, making it less durable and unable to develop a natural patina.


3. How can I identify high-quality craftsmanship in handmade leather goods?

Look for even stitching, durable hardware (such as solid brass or stainless steel), and meticulously finished edges. These features indicate the piece is made with care and precision, ensuring longevity and aesthetic appeal.

4. Why is vegetable tanning preferred for high-quality leather goods?

Vegetable tanning is an eco-friendly process using natural tannins from plants. It produces durable, beautiful leather that develops a unique patina over time. Unlike chrome tanning, it is free from harsh chemicals, making it better for the environment.

5. How does Tanner Bates ensure the sustainability of their leather goods?

Tanner Bates uses ethically sourced materials, including locally sourced hides and eco-friendly vegetable tanning processes. They prioritise sustainability in every step of their production, reducing environmental impact and promoting responsible manufacturing practices.

6. What should I consider when choosing a handmade leather good?

Consider the source and transparency of the leather, the tanning process used, the grade of leather, craftsmanship quality, and the manufacturer's commitment to sustainable practices. These factors ensure you invest in a high-quality, durable, and ethically made product.

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