Eco-printing on Leather with Theresa Brown

Theresa Brown is an incredible leatherworker and eco printing artist and is coming to teach at the Folk School in March! We are so excited to have her teach this no pressure class combining Nature and Leather. It’s geared for everyone who wants to learn whether you are a hobbyists, just curious, a working artist or the serious craftsperson. At the end of the workshop you will leave with a number of creations from your leather designs along with the knowledge and confidence to continue working in this art form in your own studio! Register today for your spot in Theresa’s class! 

Read more about Theresa and her class in our interview below!

JCCFS: Tell us more about your upcoming week leather class, “Eco Printing on Leather” from March 24-30. Specific processes and techniques!

TB: This Ecoprinting on Leather workshop is unique for a variety of reasons, the foremost being that no one teaches this skill! So students coming to the class all start on the same playing field since no one knows more than the other and I found that creates a fun, entertaining atmosphere of learning! Botanical printing on leather is also a new concept to the leathercraft industry and has yet to be explored by them. So the opportunity to incorporate ecoprinting on leather with traditional leather crafting can open doors to all kinds of creative adventures! The workshop is also unique for the role that Nature plays in the results of the final product. Leaves and plants are influenced by their environment and as such, this art form has a continually refreshing newness to it! And unlike most art forms where students can purchase supplies in a store, we go out and collect plants and leaves from the trees and bushes near the classroom.

JCCFS: Very Cool! What can students expect to leave with? 

TB: Oh my, let’s start with Fun in Learning! I am not a believer in “suffering for one’s art” so I keep my workshops fun yet understandable. After all, the students are here not just to learn a new skill but to experience the uniqueness of the campus environment itself! I encourage “going with the flow” since Nature is unpredictable and we are, after all, working with her generously donated supplies of leaves, weeds and flowers! And of course I want my students to leave the workshop with not only unique finished products that they have created within the course, but the knowledge to continue creating after the workshop! My students will leave with at least one leather pocketbook, book covers, leather jewelry with their designs…and one phenomena I always guarantee is that, after this workshop, they will never again look at a bush or tree the same way again!

 A beautiful eco-printed journal

Eco-printed lambskin!

Theresa in her studio!

Theresa’s eco-printed leather purse

JCCFS: Tell us a little more about yourself for those who are unfamiliar.

TB: Ecoprinting is not a new art form but began to gain popularity about 12 years ago. I became involve about 15 years ago mainly as it was SO different from the art form that has been my profession and livelihood for over 30 years-a fine art portrait artist! I am an outdoor person and ecoprinting appealed to the side of me that likes to be on woodland trails since it involves collecting leaves, plants and flowers to imprint their images directly upon fibers such as silk, wool, cotton and less commonly, on leather. I became fascinated with working with the leather aspect of ecoprinting early on and became the first instructor in the US to teach this technique. Leather was a real challenge as it reacted differently than fabrics when imprinting the tannins of leaves and plants using a water bath process. My pdf  Tutorials, especially, “Ecoprinting on Leather Naturally and in Color” are popular among the botanical printing groups and before long I was being asked to teach workshops around the country. I worked to create workshops from beginner friendly 1 day “how to” classes up to 5 day “Maker’s workshops” that encompass start to finish techniques for the student. It’s satisfying to collect leaves and plants from your area, learn imprint them onto leather and then turn that leather into a beautiful work of art created by you and Mother Nature!

JCCFS: What attracted you to the Folk School?

TB: I love the fact that the Folk School embraces learning new skills and crafts with an open arms approach! I also know that the art form I teach is new to not only the Folk School but to the Botanical printing and leather world! There are so many directions a creative mind can take this art form and sharing it with open minded individuals is an exciting concept! And let’s add the very real fact that the Folk School is in a stunning and inspiring location in the beautiful NC mountains!

JCCFS:  I totally agree! Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

TB: A huge and intimate advantage that ecoprinting on leather has over many art forms is the ease of collecting some of its main ingredients such as leaves and weeds locally! That imbues the finished pieces with the flavor of the location through it’s design! Imagine wild rose or blackberry leaves from the campus embedded into a finished leather handbag or book cover! Very personal items can be made which make a walk in the woods or the surrounding trails take on a whole different meaning. Although I joke that “I rescue leaves from curbside pickup!” but it is actually true! Fall is an especially good time to collect fallen leaves to store for winter and in doing so, a piece of that tree or plant continues when it is resurrected into a work of art!

JCCFS: What’s one piece or craft object you’ve made recently that you are proud of, and why?

TB: Originally when I created my Ecoprinted designs on leather I sought out leather makers to help me finish the designs by turning them into the “usual” handbags and purses. That turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated so I just drew on my own (then limited!) leather making skills and began to add to what I already knew to embrace my new vision! Bit by bit I began to let my creativity take over and let the leather piece dictate the shape of the purses started making myself. So now it is so much fun to watch a student begin the same process…discard traditional concepts and create a purse or two that is uniquely theirs within the scope of 5 days from start to finish!

JCCFS: What tips would you give an aspiring craftsperson? Anything you wish you knew as a student?

TB: Yes! Oh my. Where to begin? Can you imagine how I saw art and crafts and the concept of what I believed an artist was as an 18 year old college art student? Then imagine how I viewed it all later after decades of being a self employed single mom artist with 4 children and supporting my family entirely on the sales of my art? I would advise any aspiring craftsperson to make a plan! What do they want to do? What is their end goal? I would share that success comes not from talent but from good work habits and perseverance in reaching for those goals! So, Art and Crafts are not about the “most talented” but about the craftsperson who works the hardest! What your goals are in your craft totally depends on your personal situation. Learn to take advice from people who are where you want to be in your art goals!

JCCFS:  Great advice! Where can folks find you if they want to stay up to date on your work?

TB: I am easy to find! My website is My instagram account is thesilkthread. and my Facebook page is thesilkthreadart.

JCCFS: Wow! Your work is beautiful. Thanks for chatting Theresa!

TB: You’re welcome! See you all in March!

Theresa’s amazing work!

More examples!

Another one of Theresa’s pieces!

Upcoming Class with Theresa

Eco Printing on Leather

March 24-30, 2024

Eco printing (botanical printing) involves collecting leaves, plants, and flowers to imprint their images directly upon the leather. Collect botanical matter, then learn how to imprint on both top grain and lambskin leather naturally and in color. Use your newly imprinted pieces to start exploring construction techniques that you might apply to making leather designs into beautiful handbags, clothing, jewelry, and even shoes in the future.

About Theresa Brown

M Theresa Brown is an award-winning artist whose professional art career embraces many areas of the arts. She studied Commercial Art and Printmaking at East Carolina University. Subsequent years in printmaking and graphic design work led her to explore the fiber arts. Using many similar skills and accumulated knowledge, she evolved as a hand painter, felter and ecoprinter on natural fibers. Her articles and designs in the fiber arts have appeared in international publications such as “No Serial Number” and “Belle Armoire”. She is the first instructor to teach eco printing on leather in the U.S. She has been an instructor at many fiber art shows. She and her artist husband, Stephen Filarsky reside in rural NC with their alpacas, chickens and family dogs!

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