Meet The Makers: Lee River
Handmade leather goods for life. Proudly made in Cork City. Crafted from quality oiled leather, rugged, durable appeal has been combined with modern touches for a traditional and practical look.
Simon Harding uses natural veg-tanned leather, and traditional techniques, to create leather goods for the modern world.
The leather has been slow tanned using centuries-old recipes of natural oils, and tannins extracted from trees, resulting in a leather product which ages naturally, resisting the passage of time, gaining character with age. While absorbing the traces of your life, this leather piece will improve and become a one-off piece of your own making.
Simon told us they have used the same tannery in Tuscany for their veg tanned hides for over 20 years. A family business, they are members of the Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium, which adheres to ethical tanning processes and the preservation of the age old methods they practice. The raw material is actually sourced in Ireland due to the favorable temperate climate, which results in flexible moist hides suitable for high quality tanning. The leather is tanned slowly, in the traditional way, using natural, organic plant tannins and oils, giving a lifetime of service.
Ancient methods, to make a product for life.
Vegetable tanning is an artisan tradition that the Tuscan tanneries have handed down from father to son for centuries, mixing antique recipes and state-of-the-art technology.
The transformation from raw hides into a material that will resist throughout time is a process that slowly happens in large wooden drums, in full respect of man and the environment. An astonishing process based on the use of natural tannins extracted from trees, on modern technologies and machinery, and on the slow passing of time.
Leather is an extremely versatile material, very durable, and at the same time, soft and flexible, as few other materials are. Because of its original biological function as an animal skin, leather has a great capacity for transpiration, combined with a high resistance to outside temperatures and conditions.
Simon receives two shipments a year of the hides arriving by truck on pallets from Italy. The hides are graded and sorted, cut, edge beveled, embossed, punched, dyed and finally buckled to make a finished product. The goods are handled many times during production, ensuring major blemishes and faults are rooted out.
The majority of by-products of the leather tanning industry are recovered, properly processed and recycled in other fields. Animals destined to the food industry are almost exclusively the source of hides used for tanning. No one animal is killed only for its skin. On the contrary, if these hides were not up-cycled through the tanning activity, they would be a large question to answer in terms of needless waste. At The Lee River factory, 99% of the leather is used to make some functional product which will last for many years, before finally bio-degrading at the end of it’s life cycle.
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