Leather - As Nature Intended

Leather - As Nature Intended

January 15, 2021

As Nature Intended
Tanner Bates are a small business of passionate makers. We love to experiment with different leathers, colour mixes and interesting designs. 
Coming from traditional saddlery roots our founder, John, aspires to impeccable technique whilst admiring and gathering inspiration from the worlds luxury leather brands for their design and quality of finish.
Leather, however, is a product of nature and each skin is unique to the animal it came from. For the luxury brands this individuality presents a problem, but they have found a way to condition each skin, ironing (literally) out any irregularities and coating the surface with a pigment and/or acrylic surface to ensure each one looks exquisite..... exquisite but identical to the next one and the one after that.
For us, the high quality of making and individuality of design is a given. However being a small independent brand we are free to celebrate the uniqueness of the hides by featuring natural scars, imperfections, and irregularities of dyeing. These are natural attributes that give unique character to the final product. All of our products feature these natural irregularities making each item unique.
photo - Tanner Bates Mini Baja Bag made from Russia Kip featuring parallel growth lines from the neck section of the skin
Sometimes these imperfections are such that we have to feature them, making them a part of the design: truly a one off. You can look out for them in our Unique Products Collection. As there is only ever one unique product we can’t keep a stock. If there's nothing in our collection when you look, drop us a line and we will keep you posted on new and interesting unique additions.
Photo - Oak Bark Tanned Bridle Butt
At Tanner Bates we are known for our association and our work with Devon Oak Bark Tanned Leather. This very special leather is made locally in a traditional way, in tannery pits operated by an old water wheel driven by a man-made leat from the River Coly that flows beside the tannery. There has been a tannery on this site since Roman times.
The surface of the leather is the cows’ skin, just with the hair removed. There has been no conditioning of the grain surface – all the blemishes, imperfections and scars are visible. Aniline dye and finishing waxes are applied by hand and are absorbed to a greater or lesser degree giving an interesting variation across the hide.
photo - Penloop Journal made from Oak Bark Tanned Bridle Butt
No Two the Same  
We like our leather in its most natural state, scars and all. Our Oak Bark Tanned Leather hides have as few processes as possible before arriving on our workbenches. We do not want the surface grain to be conditioned to make it look the same across the hide and we do not want the grain removed entirely and replaced by a leather-like acrylic surface. As in nature, it is our intention that Tanner Bates products reflect the individual nature of the animal that it came from.
Photo - Penloop Journal made from Oak Bark Tanned Bridle Butt
Modern factory tanneries apply acrylic finishes and dyes; and remove the outer grain so that they can achieve a uniform surface that repels stains and heat marks. This attempt to create a predictable mass marketable product removes all individuality and character from the leather as well as the evocative smell. Sadly we have come to accept this manufactured product as natural leather and the real thing has very nearly disappeared from our culture to the point where Baker’s Tannery in Colyton, Devon are the last of their kind in Europe.
One of the features of our Oak Bark Tanned Leather is its readiness to absorb liquids and mark from heat impressions. Working with this leather, these characteristics are used to advantage when patterning the surface or moulding to create a specific shape.
Consider the character of a vintage leather inlaid desk telling its history through ink stains, heat marks and an untold variety of mysterious scarring and blotches. Tanner Bates Place Mats and Coasters similarly, will mark as a result of liquids, hot plates and vessels. Remember the first is always the most painful after which, just like horse tack, it’s a matter of management. With time, the marks and stains go deeper with every wipe over and application of Tanner Bates Hide Food. Over the years the appearance transforms entirely achieving the character we all love of vintage leather.
Below is an example of some placemats that have had a couple of year of use.
Enjoy the journey!

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