Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Many of us are well aware of the limited number of leathercraft books that break down how to make leather goods. There aren’t many, so you may already own most of them!
While direct information on how to construct a specific leather item is great for discovering new techniques and skills, there is something else that drives many crafters to make their own designs based on ideas.
What I’m talking about here is inspiration.
Inspiration is probably what brought you into the world of leathercraft in the first place, and it can often get overlooked in you quest for direct actionable knowledge.
Every design you have seen or personally created came from inspiration. Either from yourself, or someone else that you followed.
In this blog post, I want to share some rich sources of inspiration outside of forums or social media.
What I want to share are my favourite books that have given me enormous amounts of inspiration. Books which have allowed me to build solid ideas for craft projects, many of which end up in the Masterclass Video Courses I create!
Now, these books mostly focus on bags rather than accessories. However, I feel that designs, colour combinations, techniques and the historical significance of bags, can bring fresh new inspiration to other popular projects such as wallets, belts and even watch straps.
Indeed many famous bags have taken inspiration from buildings, cars, pop culture and chance encounters!
Inspiration is all around us, so the more you expose yourself to it, the more ideas will flood through your mind so you can begin creating and experimenting.
So, here are my top seven inspirational books for you.
HANDBAGS: The Making Of A Museum
The first book that starts this list, is a book about a museum in South Korea (stay with me).
The book documents an extensive handbag collection from the Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul. The building that houses the museum is itself, a huge handbag!
Inside these pages you will find hundreds of handbags throughout history, from the medieval period up to today.
What stands out to me are the bags, boxes and jewellery cases of the 1800’s and 1900’s. It was a time where intricate leather craftsmanship seemed to have reached its pinnacle.
With incredible hardware (no doubt completed by jewellery makers), extremely fine stitching and eye watering detail. Some of these pieces will have you questioning everything you’ve ever seen!
If you can find this masterpiece and you love vintage English luggage, buy this book. At any price.
I received this as a birthday gift, and it has been one of my favourite books ever since. Attaché cases, briefcases, doctors bags, trunks and travel luggage, it’s as English as Downton Abbey.
The remarkable photography really does each piece absolute justice, and it’s a wonderful reference to look up makers who no longer exist (though some do!).
If you like to make vintage style leather goods or you repair and restore leather goods, this will be a worthy investment.
VOGUE Essentials - Handbags
This small yet comprehensive book on fashion’s greatest handbags is a worthy purchase if you want to gain inspiration for bags from a more fashion forward perspective.
Showcasing the most iconic bags from the 1950’s up to recent times, all your favourites are inside.
Even if you shun fashionable bags by famous designers, it’s a good insight into the types of designs that have produced the most desired, best selling and coveted bags of all time. Food for thought if you sell your work no?
Many of you may already be familiar with this book. Either you own a copy or you have been thinking about it.
Most mistakenly purchase this book thinking there will be designs and patterns inside that they can copy in order to make a bag. Unfortunately this is not the case.
The main reasons why you should own a copy are many. Ever wanted to know how long your handles should be on a particular type of bag? How about a list of reinforcements, leather and linings? Hardware? Handle types? All here.
Even if it only builds up your bag making vocabulary, it’s worth the price. It is still very much in production, easy to get and inexpensive too.
The Secret History Of The Handbag
Meredith Etherington-Smith / Caroline Clifton-Mogg
This large book houses not just the most iconic handbags in history, but the women who carried them too. Each story details exactly how some of these famous bags came into existence and the story that they carry.
If you like large full colour photos and plenty closeups of your favourite bags, this is a great addition to your library
Hermès - La Beaute En Voyage
Michèle Gazier / Jérôme Guerrand-Hermès
This is by far the most epic coffee table book I own. But at this price, please don’t put it anywhere near a coffee table!
Downside? It's in French, but if you love Hermès, you will fall in love with this book from the first page. It's mostly pictures anyway.
The photography is second to none and the bags, cases, luggage and trunks within are rarely seen anywhere.
The bags are from the Hermès archives and range from the breathtakingly beautiful to the downright bizarre.
Think of this book like a Rolex watch. Expensive at first, but it will only go up in value over time. Production has ceased and copies are hard to come by in any condition or price.
LOUIS VUITTON. The Birth Of Modern Luxury
If you like reading books that also work on your upper body strength, then this behemoth is for you. Weight = content, and this epic ‘must have’ book has it in spades!
The book starts out highlighting the history of the great Louis Vuitton himself, his story and the birth of the brand.
This book is perfect if you like to find a quiet place, grab a drink, and set aside a couple hours to absorb a truly great story.
Within its pages you will find all sorts of trunks, bags, cases and accessories related to the brand, as well as the story associated with them.
So, hopefully you're feeling inspired after reading this blog post on my book recommendations for you!
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P.S. In the guides, you will find all my recommendations for beginner, intermediate and advanced crafters. This means you can get just what you need and avoid spending money what you don't need! (Unless you have a tool buying addiction, in which case I feel your pain. Stay strong! ✊).