A number of years ago - maybe as many as 15 - Lindsay and I diverted from the M5 on our way down to the West Country, and called in at Cleveden Craft Centre. Here we found a pleasant assortment of craft shops and a café. I was particularly impressed by the workshop of Mr. Arnold Smith, who is one of the finest leather-workers in UK, and who has special talent for portraying wildlife in leather. On this first visit, I purchased a simple leather belt that was decorated with stamped oak leaves and acorns.
Turn the clock forward to 2010, after a few more visits and a couple more belts purchased, when Lindsay kindly commissioned Mr Smith to produce a picture of a Little Owl for our wedding anniversary. Mr Smith is a very busy man, and it was a few months before my Little Owl picture arrived, but I was delighted with it, and pleasantly surprised by the price charged. You can find Mr Smith's web site here:- http://leathercraft.weareblink.com/ - I am sure that you will be impressed by his work.
|my Little Owl - by ACA Smith|
Now this is where I find that I've lost track of the timeline of how it all happened, but Lindsay and our daughter, Melanie, had been attending a number of short crafting courses at 'Crafts in the Court' at nearby Barwell. At one point, they decided to book on a short leather carving course being conducted by a gentleman by the name of Malcolm (I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten his surname) and asked if I was interested in joining them. My answer was a resounding 'yes please!', as I was already contemplating making a leather belt.
The course was excellent and lasted probably only two or three hours and there was a follow-up a couple of weeks later. The girls both made decorative Christmas items, but I was trying out some potential designs for a belt.
After these sessions there was a long period of several months getting a raft of tools and materials assembled and then doing a few practice pieces. Some of these items were obtained from Mr. Smith, some via the internet, and some from The Identity Store, an excellent leathercraft supplier in Matlock. Eventually, over the Christmas period of 2017, I started work on the belt itself. I had in mind that I would like to make three belts, each one featuring one aspect of my wildlife interest. Wanting to leave the most important one to last, I started with a butterfly-themed belt, inspired by the Chalkhill Blue butterflies that I'd been seeing during that summer. The belt was eventually finished in February 2018, and although it shows my lack of skill, I am nevertheless quite pleased with it, as it is not that easy a task carving detail into an item that is only an inch and a half (3.8cm) wide. The photo below shows a section of it.
| section of Butterfly Belt - finished in February, 2018|
|section of Dragonfly Belt - finished in October, 2019|
Fairly deep cuts are then made in the cased leather using something called a 'swivel knife'. The swivel knife has to be kept razor-sharp by stropping before each session. The result is as shown below.
|pattern cut into cased leather|
|design after the leather is punched and extra detail cut in|
|section of belt after all cutting and punching finished|
|section of the finished Little Owl belt|