Everyone in the Design*Sponge office is jumping up and down because we just had some beautiful BIG plants delivered today! We can’t wait to show you how everything is shaping up, but right now, we only have plants on the brain. Last week, I created a simple tiered design for multiple plants, and today I’m thrilled to share this leather hanging planter tutorial from Steven Soria of Make Smith Leather Co. Based in Santa Barbara, CA, Steven is a third generation leather craftsman, and his love of the material shines through in this project.
Inspired by Japanese paper folding, Steven has created a circular template that pops up like magic into this three-dimensional plant sling. I love the little details on the strands and the effortless, California coastal look of these. I can’t wait to scrounge up some leather scraps and make some! However, if you want to buy these direct from the master craftsman himself, you can purchase them from Make Smith online here. Thanks for sharing this project with us, Steven! (Last year we did a little peek into Steven’s Santa Barbara home – you can check it out here)— Kate
Read the full how-to after the jump . . .
Image above by Nancy Neil
This project was appealing to me because of the process involved. I enjoy working with leather as a sculptural form. When you wet natural leather, it becomes really malleable like clay, and you can sculpt various shapes. The cutting techniques are in a similar vein to traditional Japanese paper folding: When you cut along the lines and fold in certain spots, out pops a really great form. I like that, too. I think those “A-Ha” moments are what draw me to this type of project — it’s like being a kid with a pop-up book! I grew up with a very similar pattern as a kid working on various craft projects. I ended up altering this one quite a bit, making new sizes for different sized pots, hanging styles, etc. — Steven
- purified water
- vellum tracing paper (8.5” by 11” at the art supply store)
- 4 pieces of long rope strands, leather laces, hemp twine, etc. (3–4 feet)
- leather dye (optional) & gloves
- 1 square foot of veg-tanned tooling leather (12” by 12”)
- masking or packing tape
- dull pencil
- carpet knife and/or X-Acto knife
- computer and printer (for printing template)
- sponge for wetting and dyeing
1. Prep: Print out the plant hanger pattern onto 8.5” by 11” vellum paper.
3. Softening the leather: Wet the leather somewhat evenly by dipping the sponge down into the purified water, then blot the water onto the leather. Repeat this step at least three times until the leather looks like it can’t take any more water. This will soften the leather and allow us to press our pattern into it easily.
4. Transferring the pattern: Now, place the Vellum pattern down on the leather and tape it in place. With your dull pencil, draw on top of the printed lines with a medium weight, pressing into each and every line. This will press the pattern into the softened leather.
5. Cutting: Now, pull the pattern off the leather to reveal the impressions you have made on the surface. Using the carpet knife or X-Acto, start cutting onto and into the impressed lines — all the way through. Cut every line including the outside perimeter line.
6. Dyeing: Note — This step is optional, depending on the color desired and materials at hand. In our case, we are dyeing this one dark brown. Once the leather has dried for at least an hour, apply the desired dye. I recommend Tandy’s Leather Factory Eco-Flo Dye — it’s water based, low VOC and meant for use on natural veg-tanned leather. Apply the dye with a sponge while wearing gloves until the desired effect is achieved.
7. Casing and Shaping: As the leather is drying, pull at the leather a bit to expose those cut marks you made. You will begin to see the leather take a new shape. Keep pulling and stretching the leather to create the basket shape that it will soon dry to be in a stiffened form. This shaping of wet leather and drying process is called “casing.”
8. Suspending: Once the leather is completely dry and you have your plant basket shape, punch four holes in the top to run the ropes through. You want to place the holes evenly apart from each other so that the leather plant basket hangs evenly. Tie a knot at each rope so it cannot pull through. Note — You can use leather lacing, twine, or anything you desire.
10. Mounting: At the top of the hanging ropes, grab all four strands and tie them into a knot. You can use this knot to hook onto a ceiling mounting hook and/or a ring. At this time, adjust to the proper height for the basket to hang.