Process

 

Hand Sculpted Leather by Penny HallThe Process of Creating
Hand Sculpted Leather Blessing Bowls
 
To me working with leather is a reflection of life.  Life is filled with experiences we often label “good” or “bad”.  The truth is every experience in life is good. 
 
When we open our minds and hearts to bless both the “good” and “bad” the result is something magnificent to behold.  That magnificence is who we are as a result of blending all of life’s experiences and seeing them as good.
 
That is what you will find in my hand sculpted leather blessing bowls.  Each hide I receive represents an animal that lived a full life.  That includes brands, scars, cuts and scrapes.  I include these character marks in my pieces.  Occasionally you will find a piece that is what you might consider flawless, but they are rare.
 
My work begins with a hide that is so large it covers a dining table that seats six people and rolls off the end onto the floor.  The color of the hide is the color of skin.  Some are pink toned and others are more of an olive tint. 
 
The hide is thicker and harder in some areas like the shoulders.  The belly and sides are softer and thinner.  The back of the leather is sometimes smooth and other times rough and stringy. 
 
Since I use every part of the hide in my work you will find a variety of thicknesses and textures.  The back of the leather is exposed on all of my pieces and varies due to the nature of the hide.
 
I cut each piece, soak it, shape and sculpt it and let it air dry for a couple of weeks.  Some pieces keep the shape while others over the period of a week may shift and open until it settles where it chooses.  I never force them to do something I want them to do.  I honor their wishes to be unique and allow them to change shapes as they choose.
 
Once the pieces are dry I apply several layers of stain.  This takes time but I love watching the character of each piece emerge enhanced by the colors of the stain.  The more layers I apply the more interesting the marks in the skin become as they shine through.  Brands, stretch marks, and cuts add interesting natural design elements to each piece.
 
The color of the hide changes the color of the stain as it is applied.  This makes it impossible to create the same color even if the piece of leather was from the same hide.
 
Once the front and back of each piece is stained I carefully hand apply with wool daubers and paint brushes an edge coat.  Once these dry over night I apply a thin clear acrylic finish to help protect each piece.
 
The final steps include the addition of any ornaments that might enhance the bowls.
 
The finished item is the sum total of a long journey from where it began as the remains of an animal that gave its life for us to eat to the beautiful piece of art you hold in your hands. 
 
I designed these unique one of a kind pieces as decorative items.  However, they are tough as leather and can hold anything that is not wet.  To care for them wipe them clean with a soft dry cloth. 
 
No matter what use you choose for your leather blessing bowl I trust you will be reminded to look at all of your life as good and focus today on life’s many blessings.
 
Blessings,
 
Penny Hall
Sculpted Leather Artist