A lighter look at Estonian leather art and craft.

This article build on a article from the paperversion of The Euro*pean, Leather, Shoe and Hide, Nr.1-2012.

It happen perhaps to all of us that we sometimes  turns into the statement about leather as a material “as once have been alive”. As it should be something unic about it or particular for leather and leather art and craft. And it looks or sound as it’s forgotten that primary is the whole earth alive. But what consern leather so is’t followed with a feeling of a kind of hidden moral dilemma, something undefined about right and wrong as never looks to be defined?. The last time I turned in to this little gray and diffuse statement was with reading of the preface in the catalogue/book to the estonish leather artist Elo Järvs exhibition “Classic” written of Anne Tiivel, where it’s named *”since leather is a sensitive material, as once have been alive”.

My first meting with Estonian leather art and craft was in the year 2000, in Holland, on Leather 2000. Through among other: the CD “Kammpakk” as is about the rebirth of leaher art and craft in Estonia. A amazing first impression was that there was a whole association of leather artists in Estonia. Unusual for me as only knew about a few leather artists/crafters in association with mostly other kind of artists/crafters where leather art and craft often rather “diseappeared” as a small art and craft form. Historical started the renaissance or rebirth of leather art and craft in the west in the end of ** 1940 and in the 1950’s. And it had it’s brake through in the 1960-70’s with the hippie movement. And later in the creation of new art unions (in Norway) in the middel of the 1970’s  as a part of the renaissance and renewal of art/hand/craft in a wide sence. For me then was Estonia mostley a name behind the iron carpet as sounded more like a myth than a real country.

But then, in the year 2000 could you read in the preface to “Kammpakk”, written of Maarja Undusk, as then was chairwoman in Estonian Leather Artist Union, about leather, among other: ***”Neigther clay, metal nor gobelin tapestry has requiered a sacrifice of a living beeing for the altar of art”. I guess I ment allready then that this was to go quite to fare with it and that it was a exxaggerated statement. And that it was a little strange to read it like that. And it have been, little rough seen, ten years between the statement in “Kammpakk” and the preface in the exhibition catalogue/book “Classic” to Elo Järv. But the one statement makes me think on the other and oposite. And it makes me wonder if such statements is a part of a “problem” conserning leather as a “sensitive material”? in estonian leather art and craft?.

If you ask in a slaughterhouse (in Norway) what a hide is so will the answer be: trash of the meetproduction. And allways, or at least, as it stay in the bible, since**** God allowed humans to eat meat, to feed themself, have it been like that!.And that is still the starting point; a animal is slaugthered for the need of meet, food. And not as a sacrifice on the altar of art.

As a leathercrafter understand I a tanned hide as a naturproduct. And do not recognize my self in any of the statements as comes from Kammpakk or in the preface in the catalogue/book “Classic”. If non was using the hides would they probably be trown on the rubbish heap, and other kind of  (moral?) questions would have comed up. For example, the (morality?) in trowing a valuable and usefull resourse. As it looks from my point of viwe can it looks like that it in estonian understanding are a (moral?) problem between the slaughtering of a creature and using the hide?. Quite simply and easy?. Or is something else hidden behind this dim enlightened point of viwe? As superficial looked upon,..seems to be typical for a “urban understanding”. As follow as the result of modernity. And the development of to example, artificial products?. At the same time as the renaissance for hide and leathercraft and art began in the west started also the escape from (in Norway) the countryside to the towns in the 1950’s. How this have been in Estonia is unknown. But a question seems to be the same ; Became the humans strangers on a generation or two for slaughter?. On the other hand if you take a look in all the books as is published about leather art and craft since the 1950’s so have it never been writed about leather as a “sensitive material”. It have only, and particular since the 1960’s been a question or part of a “sensitive” problem when a kind of animal have been treated by extermination. How this must or makes a different between the countryes am I not sure on.Or what, for example estonian books about leather, art and craft have had in theyer content in the periode from the 1950’s until to day.Also to learn from,” Kammpakk” is that Estonian leather art and craft is connected to a academy of higher education. While leather art and craft in my understanding is connected to general level learning books in the west  from the 1950’s until to day. Among other makes it me wondering on if the question about leather as a “sensitive material” also could be a academic question?. And not so much of a problem in the woorkshops around.  But one question is, if the consequences of the academic answers could come to fall down in the lap to the whole global leather art and craft world?. Since the question conserns a common matrial. And where it on the other side, conserns many unorganized leather crafter/artists, among other in Europe. You can allways guess what the meaning are with these statements as is to find in “Kammpakk” and in the catalogue /book “Classic” are. But still, what do they real mean in Estonian leather art and craft?.

Source reference:

* Catalogue/book: “Classic” Elo Järv. Anne Tiivel p. 15.

** Leather, Willcox and Manning, p.17.

*** Kammpakk, CD. Marja Undusk.

**** 1 Genesis, 9:3.