The antique art of vegetable tanning
Vegetable tanning is the process by which the animal skin, or rawhide, is converted into non-degradable leather through the use of natural vegetable extracts.
It dates back to prehistoric Tuscany, where it has been passed on for centuries from father to son as artisan tradition.
The vegetable tanning process, in which the famous 'vachetta' or Florentine leather is created, is completed in three long and complicated phases:
1) The process begins with the preparation of the rawhides, which are carefully cut by artisans and placed in rotating 'bottali' or wooden drums, large containers made of a particular type of wood. This phase, which takes place in various steps, serves to purify the skins of animal hair, proteins, fats, minerals, salts and water.
2) Once the skin has been fully prepared for vegetable tanning, it is soaked in water for many days during which time it receives natural tannins made from the extracts of Chestnut and Argentinean Quebracho trees. Here, it is transformed from animal skin into a flexible and resistant leather. Following this important step, is the dyeing and fattening of the skin which takes on a different color and pliability depending on the amount of color and fattener used. The secret formula for this process is different for every tannery and renders each pieces of leather complete unique from one artisan factory to another.
In Medieval times, this phase was overseen by the 'Notaio', or notary, who ensured that the leather was sealed in the wooden drums for a period of 8 months. The resulting leather was then certified as authentic and guaranteed to have been processed according to artisan standards.
3) The final phase is 'messa a vento' or the drying phase, in which the leather is hung to dry completely, to ensure maximum flexibility for the production of bags and accessories.
Those who choose vegetable tanned leather, choose a natural product of superior, artisan quality. In time, your leather purchase will become softer and darker, rendering it truly unique and more beautiful with every passing year.