Hide Tanning

Our flesh and the flesh of the animals is the same. By them do we live and with them will we fall. Sacred hide tanning traditions bring us closer to the animals and to the life within all things. 

Sacred Hide Tanning Stands For:
Respect for all beings, in the physical and non-physical worlds
Tanning hides using nature's materials of leaves, barks, wood ash, eggs, brains, smoke, rendered fat, vegetable oils, water, & salt
Using all the parts of an animal's body, including meat, fat, organs, sinew, and bone, which can be given new life, as much as is possible
The expression of grief, gratitude, & the whole spectrum of human emotion in the face of death
Hard work, patience, diligence, endurance, creativity, & surrender 
Changing methods of tanning according to each climate & landscape, to align with harmony rather than technique
 
Harvesting tannic plants, and all other needed materials with care and respect for the seven and seven hundred generations 
 

Introduction to the Art of Ancient Hide Tanning

This 1-day workshop is an overview of the methods of natural tanning, & an introduction to the steps of the vegetable tanning process. Touch & smell some natural leathers & try some steps hands-on with squirrels.

Vegetable Tanning Rabbit Furs

This 3-day class is an introduction to the vegetable tanning method (also called bark tanning or tannin tanning) on small furs. This method creates supple, floppy, fragrant, and long lasting fur hides.

Hide Tanning Group Apprenticeship

A 6-month, small-group learning format of an apprenticeship style, where students receive instruction on their self-directed hide projects & incorporate natural tanning into their lives & homes.

Roadkill Wise

This two part, 1-day workshop answers all your questions about collecting, skinning, & butchering roadkilled animals. A great introduction to skinning for hide tanning, and to the art of meat aging & preservation.

Primitive Bone Tool Making

Learn how to make lasting, beautiful, & useful tools from deer bones using your hands, a rock, water, and plants. And learn about the all incredible awl! Make 1 or 2 projects to take home in this half-day workshop.

Fat Rendering

Render a pile of animal fat in the old way, meaning with a group of hands and hearts in the kitchen all day. You'll go home with jars of finished lard or tallow, & a handmade tallow candle with a wild plant fiber wick. 

About Victoria's tanning practice:

Victoria began her journey of natural tanning by brain tanning buckskins, mainly thanks to good books like Deerskins Into Buckskins by Matt Richards, and The Ancient Art of Braintanning by Stephen Edholm & Tamara Wilder. She owes her first lesson in skinning to the Mangy White Bushman. Because she found tanning small fur hides more difficult than other forms of tanning and couldn't find any good teachers or resources on that subject in the region, she by happenstance came to focus on that area of natural tanning. After a couple years of brain tanning small furs, she devoted numerous years almost entirely to vegetable tanning furs, a method sometimes called bark tanning, or tannin tanning. Using hand-harvested, local, wild growing plant leaves, barks, & roots, in addition to rendered animal fats, she developed her rhythms for tanning very soft, supple, strong, and long lasting fur hides and hair-off leathers. 

Today Victoria could be called a generalist natural tanner. She vegetable tans small furs, vegetable tans hair-off grain-on leather from small animals, vegetable tans large grain-on deer leather, vegetable tans grain-off deer suede, braintans deer buckskin, braintans small furs, & occasionally either braintans or vegetable tans large hair-on hides. She also works with rawhide, bone, and hair fibers. The animals she works with most include white tail deer, domestic rabbit, coon, possum, grey squirrel, fox, coyote, cottontail rabbit, chipmunk, groundhog, snake, and fish. Victoria teaches & writes about tanning.  

Victoria is strict in her practice about using no chemicals, additives, or extracts. The only materials she buys on occasion are salt & some olive oil or vegetable oil. She believes in localizing the art form of natural tanning to be in complete harmony with nature & human activities while requiring zero imports & producing zero pollutants. To this end she devotes great time and attention to experimenting with many tannic plant species in many different ecosystems, to discover which make the most sense, ethically & practically, to use for tanning in today's world. 

Hides tanned in this way are museum replicas. They are the same as the 5,000 year old hide garments found on Otzi the Iceman mummy. No chemically tanned leather can ever improve on the strength, long lifespan, beauty, fragrance, diversity, honesty, and spiritual aliveness of natural tanned hides.  

© 2020 by Victoria Greba 

Esmont, VA