Realistic Leather Figure Carving with Christopher Kearns

Christopher in his studio
Christopher Kearns is a Leather Worker from just outside of  Raleigh, NC who we are very excited to welcome to the Folk School for the first time as he teachers his class “Realistic Leather Figure Carving” the week of November 17th – November 22nd , 2024. We asked Christopher to share a bit about himself and his craft! 

Read more about Christopher and his class in our interview below! Interested in his class? Register today to secure your spot.

JCCFS: Tell us a little about your background; how did you get started?

CK: I got started working in leather back in 1982 when I needed something to keep me busy in the evenings when I had a job on the road. Even from the very beginning, I was drawn to figure carving in leather. A desire to improve my skills and learn more led me to find others who also worked with leather, so I became part of a local leather guild. Not only did the guild offer instruction in all types of leatherworks, but they also belonged to two organizations that sponsored shows for leatherworkers. These shows brought in top-rated instructors that I took full advantage of, becoming a close friend and student of a number of them. These shows also had competitions in every conceivable application of leatherworking, where I was able to take home many ribbons for my work. To this day I’m still part of a leather guild, always working to improve what I do and teaching others how to work with leather any chance that I get.

JCCFS: Could you tell us more about your class’s specific technique or process?

CK: For most people, when they are interested in tooling leather, they are sold a basic set of tools and given patterns and instructions for Western Floral style tooling. While this is a beautiful style of tooling leather when done properly, I don’t think it is the best way to learn about tooling leather. I like to start by teaching Figure Carving because it allows you to pick patterns that are familiar to most people. Be it a teddy bear, a snake, a duck, or an elephant, if you can picture the real thing in your mind, it will be easier to create it in leather. It will also be easier to see where you need to improve your tooling.

In this class, I teach a process for figure carving that the student will be able to take from the class and apply to any subject. We will talk about what each style of stamping tool is made for, how it is to be used, and which is best for Figure Carving. We will also spend time learning about the most important tool in carving leather: the swivel knife. This tool takes years to master, and we will go through several exercises to help you on your journey.



Examples of Realistic Leather Carving 

JCCFS: What do you most enjoy about teaching?

CK:Having had the pleasure of knowing some truly remarkable leatherworkers, true artists in the craft, and learning from them, I know the importance of good, solid teaching. I also know what it’s like to desire that knowledge. Not only do I continue to learn and improve my work every chance I get, but I also share what I know about working with leather as often as I can, with everyone interested in learning!

As president of the Pitt Pounders Leather Guild for 11 years, and now as president of the Raleigh Leatherworkers Guild for the past 10 years, I try to make it a point to have a hands-on work session at each meeting. During these work sessions, everyone has a chance to work on the same project, learn a new technique, or practice something they already know how to do.

JCCFS: This will be your first time teaching here. What attracted you to the Folk School?

CK:I was drawn to apply to be a teacher at the Folk School because of the immersive nature of the courses offered. To be able to dedicate a week to learning a new skill or craft is something that not many people take advantage of. This shows a true desire in the students, and as a teacher, having that type of student in a facility conducive to learning, that’s a match made in heaven! I can’t wait to be part of this community and to share what I know.

JCCFS: Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

CK:As my work is predominately figure carving, I draw inspiration from spending time in the beauty of God’s creation. Our favorite places are Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park. But any time in the woods, no matter where it’s at, is time well spent. For several years I have also had the opportunity to work with the American Wildlife Refuge. This is our local raptor rehabilitation facility. While most of my time is doing the necessary work around the facility, I also have the opportunity to catch injured birds and release rehabilitated birds back into nature. It is very rewarding.

JCCFS: What’s your favorite piece of work you’ve made recently?

CK:The last leather art piece that I made was of Rasputin. He is one of the educational birds of the American Wildlife Refuge, and he is a Great Horned Owl. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him at several shows, and he always generates a lot of interest and questions. This provides a great chance to share information about these birds and the great work that the American Wildlife Refuge is doing. The ability to realistically carve him in leather is something that I’ve worked years to learn. And now I have the opportunity to share this knowledge with others.

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


Christopher’s Most Recent Piece “Rasputin” 

Upcoming Class with Christopher Kearns

Realistic Leather Figure Carving for Beginners

November 17th – November 22nd , 2024

Learn how to tool realistic figures in leather, such as birds, animals, flowers, and more. Use the decorative techniques you learn to make coasters, key rings, pendants, or other creations. By the end of the week each student will make a small purse or belt bag with a figure of their choosing tooled into the front flap. Beginner to intermediate students welcome.

Christopher in his studio
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