One of my absolute highlights from Oz Comic-Con (Sydney) was the leathercraft workshop with Tandy Leather. Given leathercraft is not your typical exhibit at a comic convention, what appealed to me was exactly that—it was something different! It was new, it was interactive, it was inviting, and we scored our very own leather bookmarks—which, by the way, were instantly used in our comic books once we returned home.
So Why Leathercraft?
Leathercraft is one those skills that can really be applied to almost anything you do. It is amazing how often leather bookmarks turn up in my searches for the latest geeky stuff. It is also a gorgeous feature of many cosplays (especially the steampunk), belts and shoes, book covers, wallets, and the elusive but super-friendly horse-loving groups.
I was fortunate enough to go to a “technical high school,” offering a full range of “technical” subjects as part of the curriculum (read: fancy subjects you would now pay thousands of dollars for at a private/independent school). One of my favorite subjects was a leathercraft elective in high school that taught some basic skills. Note: it was second only to the mechanical engineering elective, where I played with LEGO for 3 hours a week over a 10-week term. Bliss.
Way back when (we’re talking 25 years ago), our class was introduced to the smooth feel of leather, the warmth of the grain, and the satisfaction with the simple effect gained from stamping. We gradually worked our way up to embossing and sculpting, with our final assessment being a brand new wallet. I think my dad still has the wallet, though I am honest enough to admit it is probably sitting at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.
Up until Oz Comic-Con (Sydney), I had not touched leathercraft for many many years. While I loved it when I was younger, I simply didn’t know of any good suppliers or workshops. Thank Cthulhu for the internet and comic-cons because it is a LOT easier these days.
Tandy Leather Australia
The team from Tandy Leather was set up perfectly at Oz Comic-Con Sydney, blurring the edges between cosplay, merch, and the comics near Artists Alley. It was totally reflective of how leathercraft as a skill can encompass so much of our geek. I am also happy to advise Tandy Leather is a global brand; I hear on good authority (from GeekDad cosplay-artist Will James) that Tandy Leather is a pretty big name in the United States of America.
It was great seeing such a wide range of supplies and samples of their work. There was also plenty of staff on hand to talk about various leathercraft effects. But my favorite was the “bookmark bench.” Oz Comic-Con attendees were invited to make their own bookmarks, choosing from a wide selection of stamps and embossing tools for the best effects.
We had three (3) kids test out the bookmarks, looking at ease of use and appeal to kids. For all three kids, it was an absolute hit. While the recommended age group is 10-years-old and over, our 5-year-old Zaltu could manage the smaller stamps and hammers with a little assistance for the larger stamps.
Starter Kits (Including a Leather Bookmark)
If you are a complete noob and have no idea what to do, I strongly recommend a Starter Kit. Leathercraft is really easy to start off but you want to feel comfortable with the tools, testing out your personal touch and strength. No one is going to know your touch but you.
Tandy has a great starter kit on offer: Adventures in Leathercraft Set 1 for US$39.99 / AUD$67.49. The reason I like this set is that it has all the basics I remember starting in high school, including a 3-piece starter tool set and six (6) projects (including a bookmark). The extra bonus is you can take your starter kit to any Tandy store with workshop facilities and have a free lesson on how to make the most of your kit.
Once you are comfortable with the basics, you can easily work your way up to bigger projects: leather cosplay swords, bridal bouquet keepsakes, or steampunk goggles! Yeah, these are a little outside of my skill-set but I’m working on it.
The more geeky conventions I go to, the more I appreciate the small number of exhibitors who are stretching the boundaries on our definition of “geeky” and “comic convention.” Sure, we don’t want people jumping on the bandwagon because they think the geek dollar is lucrative, however, I appreciate sharing niche skills which do relate to the convention. Tandy Leather at Oz Comic-Con was a great fit and I really loved seeing them there. Not only did it bring back some positive high school memories, but it also gave us some inspiration for future projects.
Review score: 4 out of 5 Handmade High School Leather Wallets
This review is not sponsored or endorsed in any shape, manner, or form. The author has a free personalized leather bookmark as part of the Oz Comic-Con Sydney exhibit and no further gifts.