cowhide

Is there a graceful way to use cowhide scraps?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So next I tried making a small, modular shape that could be repeated and attached to its neighbor infinitely.

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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.

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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.