Leather workers are involved in making everything from saddles to wallets out of leather. They may operate their own shops, or make and sell goods at craft fairs or online. Many who work in this career field began as a hobbyist, and later developed a reputation for producing quality goods, thereby allowing them to enter the profession on a full-time basis.
What Leatherworkers Do
Leather workers are usually involved in producing goods for consumer use. They do this by using special tools in order to stretch and shape leather into various designs. They can also repair leather goods, and this can include trimming and sewing. Some leather workers may also be familiar with tanning leather and dying it to make it different colors.
Leather crafters may specialize in making certain classes of items such as handbags, or create a wide variety of goods for people to choose from. They may also be employed as upholsterers. The Museum of Leathercraft has hundreds of items made by leather workers on display ranging from toys to jewelry.
Where Leatherworkers Work
A large number of leather workers are self-employed individuals. They may operate a leatherworking business out of their basement or garage, where they will produce goods to be sold at flea markets, craft fairs or on online auction sites. A few of them will work full-time at a specialty shop, where they will be involved in making and repairing shoes or creating custom saddles. They may even be employed as freelancers, going from one shop to the next fixing leather furniture for upholstery shops or furniture stores. The most talented leather workers will be solicited to teach classes at craft and hobby stores. They might also hold informational workshops for those who wish to take up this craft as a hobby.
Training and Education
Many leather workers learn this trade by working as an apprentice for an experienced leatherworker. Some training classes might also be held at craft and hobby stores, and these would primarily teach individuals how to make a particular item. There are a number of books and videos available as well that will teach people how to construct things out of leather. For many, becoming skilled at leatherworking involves a great deal of trial and error; therefore, the process could take several years. There is no certification required in order to become a leather worker, which means that the timeframe for entering this trade can vary widely.
Developing a Reputation as a Leatherworker
Most leather workers start out rather small, and begin by simply making things such as key chains or necklaces for friends and family members. After developing more skill and experience, they may then try to make items to sell for profit. They could also advertise their services in the newspaper in order to reach clientele who are interested in having custom jackets or other apparel designed for them. Some people will open their own shop, where they will display the goods they have made and offer them for sale. Others will simply rent space at an indoor craft or flea market or set up booths at festivals where they can earn a little extra money from their handiwork.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are only around 5,750 shoe and leather workers in the United States. Aside from manufacturing footwear, a good number of these workers are involved in making sporting goods, jewelry, luggage, and other products. The demand for these goods is likely to continue being high in the future, which means the opportunities for skilled leather crafters will continue to be steady in the years to come.