I’ve been unemployed for a while now and through an aunt I was connected to a leather smith, who I wouldn’t badmouth for the world. As a community artist, he took me, as well as a few others, under his wing to learn the craft so we can create an income for ourselves for free. We deal with leather scraps-some from pulled apart bags, jackets and such- and some just scraps from his work. I was kind of ‘No thank you’ about handling leather, but I wanted to learn figuring, and knowing in some cases, that the people who make the vegan alternatives out there may not originally learned with pleather. The interesting thing I learned is that many products labeled as leather aren’t. This is from high end down. They are made with really good vinyl or paper/cardboard then sprayed to smell like leather. Very smart, but deceptive. First I was like “Cool!” but then remembered what it takes to make pleather. (Both leather and pleather are bad for the environment and living beings.) Well after learning that, I’ve examined my big named items that are known leather makers to find they weren’t leather at all. Smell’s not enough though the scent eventually fades. Unfortunately you have to really know by feel, which can be difficult. Even looking under the lining isn’t guaranteed enough to tell if you don’t know. The manufacturers really copied the rough underside well. This goes for suede too. One way I learned it’s not real leather is by a fused fabric underside. Also there’s a kind of an artificial like feel, but in some cases it requires a learned touch.
I felt bad a bit for what I was doing, but then I’ve learned from other vegan friends that they’ve too had to deal with animal products- from having to cook meat to pass a course, family situation or ordering the food for events at work (I’ve done the latter quite a bit at the last job, even personally donating unclaimed frozen turkey gifts. At one nonprofit job I bought meat.). Some friends take apart items they buy at the thrift store and create from there, to limit the market demand for either pleather or leather, selling their creations at the flea markets to make ends meet.
I guess I’m saying, in my life and others, there’s no way to avoid animal products completely. My personal politics couldn’t pass up this internship- lessons that costs in the 100s for free when I’m financially below the poverty line. This is my vehicle to create a job for myself in my learned field (art and design) when no one’s hiring in any field- hoping to move it forward to other material. Ultimately, I wanted to share what I learned about the ‘leather’ that is out there.