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Creating the silhouette 

Leather Carving Techniques

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Creating the Silhouette

The leather carving process is an arduous balance between perfectly sharpened blades, perfectly supple leather and a masterful hand. These three elements are the key ingredients to a beautiful puppet. In some regions, the leather hide used for carving puppets is not moistened before cutting which saves a boatload of time and study but compromises the final product. 



The most intricate carving methods use a push-knife method through the slightly moistened leather for the most control. The process of perfectly moistening the hide can take up half your preparation time and many of the ‘newer’ methods (400-600 years old) have done away with that by using thinner leather and a pull-knife or sawing-knife method of cutting. 

Cutters usually start cutting towards the center of a design and work outwards. For those using a push-knife or pull-knife method, all cut-outs are left in place until all cuts are finished. This keeps the integrity of the piece in tact as you manipulate the leather. 



Because the leather is translucent, one can trace the desired pattern onto the leather with the printed design underneath. Expert cutters always use the aid of straight edges and curved rulers to score their designs perfectly.

Follow this link to watch a few short clips of leather carvers in action. Or visit the Making Videos page. 

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