After graduating in 2014, with a Diploma in Interior Design coupled with the passionate influence from his tailor mom, Gavin realized that his biggest passion lies in hand-crafting. Upon that realization, he decided to set his mind to diversify his qualification into a career in leather crafting.
When asked about how he had first picked up the skill, like a true millennial, he answered with a cheeky smile, “YouTube!”, then adding on that he had later refined his skills by taking a series of online courses as he grew a deeper professional curiosity towards the craft.
Giving us an insight into his studio during the interview, there’s evidence of how far he’s come since his ‘YouTube’ days when he showed us the first prototype of the leather cardholder made by him. Sitting on the floor is his first stamping machine while a more current model sits on top of his work table, both used for customizing names onto leather goods. Even with all the impressive tools and machinery used for crafting leather goods, he keeps some things traditional, like the way he sharpens his tools using a traditional stone sharpener.
In a time where mass-production is over-saturated in the market, the artisanal craft is seen to be on the rise as consumers are more inclined towards hand-made and hand-crafted goods. Today, his business is growing with a steady demand for customized leather goods. He is also a teacher in his own rights where he conducts short courses and facilitates workshops in leather-goods crafting.
Let us take you on a deeper insight into leather crafting as Gavin demonstrates how a leather cardholder is made.
How to Craft a Leather Cardholder
The leather pieces are first measured and patterned, then cut into shape using a Japanese leather knife. Lines are creased onto the surface near the edges using a heated creaser that provides a decorative finish.
The edges are removed using an edge beveller and rubbed down using a rounded wooden burnisher to give it a polished finish. It is then finished off with a coat of leather-edge paint.
The flesh sides of the leather pieces are then coated with a layer of burnishing gum that will hold together and give the leather its strength. As Gavin explains, leather is a natural material with no woven construction that holds it together.
After the gum dries, the pieces are then arranged flesh side to flesh side and glued together at the seams. To attach the outer compartment and cash-holder tab of the cardholder, the seams of the leather’s skin are sanded down to ensure that the adhesive glue holds the pieces together. Once the adhesive glue dries off, the edges are then rounded off.
Stitching lines are marked with precision using a wing divider before the stitching holes are punched in. The holes are carefully and lightly marked with a chisel before they are punched in with the assistance of a mullet.
Perhaps one of the most artistic display of the entire process, a stitching pony – a wooden device used to sandwich and hold the leather piece, is used to assist the stitching process. Gavin explains that waxed polyester threads, as opposed to cotton threads are used as they provide better strength than the other. A saddle-stitching method is used to stitch leather pieces together. Once the stitching is complete, it is then flattened down with a hammer to give it a sleek touch and feel.
The edges are then sanded down, and crease lines are added where the edges will be painted to ensure a sleek line of paint is applied seamlessly. The edges are smoothened out with the beveller, then burnished with water before the paint is applied. As much as 3 coats of paint are needed for a smooth finish before the leather piece is complete.
Gavin Tan graduated from ICAD’s Diploma in Interior Design course in 2014.
Check out GVNT on Instagram at @GVNTCO.
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