This section is dedicated to news regarding curious and the extravagant world of leather and hide, for example the most strangest and bizarre techniques. The most unusual and extravagant work

Hide & Circus

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When we think of leather and hide, we tend to associate these materials to ordinary objects, for example belts, wallets, purses etc. Instead, the leather and hide world has varied sectors. The rediscoveryof old working techniques, the use of new instruments and the introduction of new ideas have favoured the development of leather and hide in new areas.
It’s a sector of great growth in such as the adaptability and moldability of  these materials permit them  to many uses.

In support of this thesis, we would like to tell you how a young artist craftsman has combined two of his great passions: the circus world and craftsmanship with leather and hide.
There has always been, in fact, a close relationship in these two worlds, even though different from one to another. For example, in the circus games in the ancient Rome, the crowd artists would always perform wearing leather costumes and with the horses saddle in hide or in the medieval representations wore costumes and masks in hide.


Most of the accessories used in the circus world still today they are made in leather and hide:

  • The whips used by the trainers, the horse saddles, the boots, the gloves, and accessories like armguards shin-guards are made of hide, the wardrobe worn by circus actors are still made out of leather or hide.
    These materials are chosen because they ensure resistance and strength in the accessories example whips, saddles, armguards and shin-guards and at the same time softness and wearability for gloves and boots.
  • In the circus or in theatrical representations, the actors wear typically hide masks. This is because the leather is resistance, light and most of all breathable. The inside of the masks is treated with sealing wax, a particularly suitable material to prevent the hide to absorb perspiration and leaves stains on the outside of the mask.
  • The drum that during the performances sets the pace, announces new characters and accompanies parades. It’s a percussion musical instrument made from two leathers (or membranes), they are stretched by tie rods at the two ends of a wooden crate, or thicker, of steel.
    The leather used to make drums is usually of goat, because they are more rigid and resistant.
    It is a leather vegetable tanned and left raw.
    After being depilated, these leathers are treated with hydrated lime, to get rid of all the bacteria, after that they are laid on flat wood and put to dry in the sun. 
    Goats leather is perfect to make percussion instruments. Depending on the thickness, the number of layers and coatings that makes the characteristic of the final sound.
    Membrane or leather drums can be beaten with hands or sticks. All drums have canapé chords and laces in hide, necessary for the correct tuning.

Another example is the puppet show, often in the circus shows. Most of the puppets are created and carved in hide; today some of these are art and collection pieces.
After this short excursion, let’s talk about Johnny Cognetti “Little John Leather” and his work of hide and leather made especially for the circus. The first things he created is safeguards for acrobats airs performances.
These supports are used for circus actors to prevent any abrasions during the trapeze show or aircraft show. Furthermore, for their aesthetic beauty they can also be worn as part of the scene costumes.

The protections created by Johnny have these features:

  • They are made from suede leather or rind. He uses soft leathers to consent free movement to who wears it;
  • They are made entirely by hand;
  • The leather wraps the lower part of the leg, leaving some parts uncovered like the ankles, toes, these are the supporting parts for acrobat;
  • Holes are made in the leather , polyester wax string passes trough, that permits to close the protection adapting it to the shape of the leg, so it can give flexibility and mobility.

These supports are made using a single leather of one colour or leathers of different colours, that create a colour game suitable for a circus environment.

The circus world is an example of how many different fields leather and hide have. Fantasy with a phase of study and experiments may open new avenues and new fields.
For this reason leather and hide craftsman is in a continue phase of research and of study: his activity it doesn’t consist only in the making or creating a handmade article but also an everyday challenge to exceed.