Is there a graceful way to use cowhide scraps?
As with any material, when cowhide is used commercially, there are many small scraps leftover. I set out to find an application for these offcuts.
Cowhide is an extremely luxurious material, displaying a huge variety of colors, ranging from stark white to dark black with rusts, chestnuts, creams and straws between. It also can have a wonderful, silky texture and a range of flexibilities.
I began with some basic research to help me understand different types of leather, the tanning process, sourcing and applications. I interviewed industry experts who provided context for my undertaking.
I then began experimenting. First I tried attaching the odd-shaped pieces together in various ways, each result more ‘rustic’ than the last. Next I tried steam shaping, which was successful in making the whole studio building smell like a dog-food factory, but otherwise showed no promise for such small pieces of material.
Inspired by folding flip-flops from the pedicurist, I decided to try for a 2D shape that could be folded into something 3D. Exciting possibility, but still really limited by the scrap size.
So next I tried making a small, modular shape that could be repeated and attached to its neighbor infinitely.
Eventually deciding on the square version (to avoid gaps in the finished whole), I prototyped 100+ of the shape by hand.
Very compelling indeed! Got a die made, punched A LOT of the shape, organized them by hue, and began ‘weaving’ them together.
Finished, the ‘rug’ is approximately ten feet by five feet.
The final product was greeted with enthusiasm by those who saw and touched it. I received several offers of purchase and a commission for a slightly smaller version.