Electroplating leather, material exploration

Photography: Tarishi Gupta + Sambit Biswas

Vegetable-tanning uses tannins from tree-barks, mainly oak and spruce.

A humble and timetaking process, the resulting leather is—a living being. It ages with time, deepens in color as it reacts with light, softens with water and dries stiff. In an experiment to fuse metalworking and leathercraft techniques, the collection took shape.

Leather is porous and does not allow the flow of electricity through it. The process of electroplating requires conductivity for electrolysis to occur. To prepare the vegetable-tanned leather, it was first sealed and then selecitvely painted with copper in the parts where the metal deposit was desired. It was then set in the electrolyte solution for about twenty hours. The ability of veg-tan leather to be wet-moulded helped in the electroplating process. The copper precisely imitated the pores and folds of the leather underneath.

“Become” was presented as part of Consorzio Vera Pelle’s Craft the Leather 2018, along with 9 other designers’ work with vegetable tanned leather.