What does a leather worker do?
Leather workers create a variety of leather goods for different sectors. Products include fashion accessories such as hand bags, belts, purses, pouches and suitcases, together with shoes and sandals for the clothing sector; some craftworkers specialise in leather products for the equine sector, making and repairing saddles, bridles and harnesses; some produce finishes for books, boxes, chests and tableware; and some concentrate on clothing and equipment for historical re- enactment organisations.
Craftworkers use hand and machine tools to carry out work, including punches, cutting and paring knives, edge shaves, pricking frames and awls. Work can also involve computer-aided design (CAD) if developing patterns, particularly when making bespoke products.
Typical tasks include working from patterns to measure and cut leather sections; putting together sections by hand- or machine-stitching, or by using solvents; fitting linings, handles buckles and eyelets; and applying finishes such as stains, waxes and polishes.
Different materials and finishes are used to make products, including cowhides, nubuck, chamois, shagreen and suede.
What's the working environment like for leather workers?
Leather workers tend to work 37 to 40 hours a week. Overtime may be required to meet deadlines. Craftworkers work in small factories, workshops or from home.
Leatherwork involves sitting at a workbench for long periods. Strong smelling polishes, solvents and preservatives are used in the industry, so work areas are well ventilated and protective clothing may be necessary.
What does it take to become a leather worker?
To be a leather worker you should:
have an appreciation for fine detail
have an aptitude for practical work and design
be able to concentrate for long periods
be able to measure and cut pieces precisely
have good eyesight, particularly for close intricate work
have a knowledge of CAD packages if working in pattern design
have good customer care skills
be aware of health and safety issues.
Leather worker career opportunities
There are about 5,500 leather workers in the UK, mostly working for small firms producing a variety of leather goods. If working for a company, there may be options to take on supervisory duties or specialise, for instance, in pattern design work or sales and marketing.
Many skilled and experienced leather workers set up as self-employed, often working from home or from their own workshops.
If you would like to know anything about leather work that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
The Society of Master Saddlers
Green Lane Farm
Tel: 01449 711 642