Is there such thing as 'ethical leather'? Ethical fish tanning at CERES Community Environment Park (East Brunswick, VIC, April 9)
5 students had the opportunity to participate in a day intensive workshop to learn how to transform a waste fish skin into a versatile organic piece of leather ready for crafting.
From a background with little to no knowledge of how to make their own leather, five participants with diverse backgrounds gathered on a stormy Sunday for a whirlwind workshop opening the doors to one of the world's most ancient trades. Equipped with handmade scrapers and using eco friendly ingredients (veg oil, eggs and soap) found commonly in most households, the scrapers hummed and experience flowed.
The general reason for students being there was a curiosity, with a burning desire at the core to be self reliant and utilise the whole animal if needed. Something that was so common in our ancestors across the planet with living on the land. In our day and age of the 'throw away' culture, these skills are becoming fewer and fewer (hence the popularity of the Lost Trades Fair just a month ago in Kyneton).
Close to the end of the workshop, participants mentioned a few times that "This isn't as hard as I first thought". And it's true. While it can be quite physically involved and more suited to physically apt people, traditional tanning using organic readily available ingredients is inclusive enough for even children to participate.
It was an incredible day at CERES despite the weather and as you can see below, students fish skins were ready to take home and continuing practicing.
Built on an old landfill over three decades, CERES is a hardcore (in the most gentle sense), learning and practicing centre for people wanting to dive deeper into sustainability and environment focused activities.
So how do animal products such as fish and other animal hides come into the equation in a world so devastated by over fishing and factory farming?
Well much like the same philosophy behind CERES and transforming waste into gold, The Bush Tannery strongly supports the utilising of waste. Most of the animal hides we use would otherwise end up in landfill, contributing further to greenhouse gas emissions and generally just disrespectful and wasteful practices towards the already sacrificed animal. Like our ancestors, the whole animal was used, no such thing as WASTE!
While it's hard to bare for some in regards to animal products and understandably so, often their synthetic or plant based counterparts are more damaging compared to making your own at home from waste readily available. Either way these workshops and practices are certainly contributing towards the necessary transition in remaking the way we make things.
What happens after you take the fish skins home from a workshop? See below image that John took, a recent participant on the course at CERES.
If you're interested in making your own leather and want to go a bit further than just fish, there is a 'Bark tanning' workshop coming up in just over a months time (May 20th and 21st). So if you're reading this and wanting to learn, now is the time.