Low-Waste Cutting

There is a big issue in the leather industry…wastage. So much leather is used to make retail goods that there are industry standards for what percentage of the hide will go to waste based on the products that are being made. For instance, if you’re making wallets, a full twenty-five percent of the animal hide will not be usable because of perceived imperfections. And that’s because of the market’s perception of what the consumer will tolerate. But we believe that plenty of consumers are concerned enough about supply chain sustainability, and that’s why we try hard to practice low-waste cutting in our workshop.

Our goal in the Todder workshop is to make sure we produce as little waste as possible. We decided early on that the first thing we need to do is educate our customer base and instill the Wabi-Sabi mantra in their minds:

“The term wabi-sabi comes from two japanese words and refers to that which is imperfect, impermanent, aged, humble and authentic. Both nature-and human-made objects may have wabi-sabi- qualities. Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic that values the passing of time, the seasoning of time and the elements, the handmade and the simple.” Wabi-sabi Art Workshop by Serena Barton.

Okay, so what are we getting at? Every single hide we receive is different and unique in its own way. There are many characteristics that make each hide truly unique: fat marks, stretch marks, tick bites, scars, branding marks, and more. For a while this was making our crafters’ jobs pretty difficult as they tried to avoid these imperfections when cutting. Early on we realized that these imperfections should not be avoided and actually incorporated in our goods. These little marks are what makes the goods that you purchase from us completely one of a kind. Not only has our adherence to the wabi-sabi principle made our products more beautiful but has allowed us to reduce our waste. When we reduce waste in our supply chain, we are not only being mindful of sustainability, we're able to make full use of our materials. What this means for our customers is that we're able to offer lower prices on our goods because we're making the most of what we've got.

Here are few other ways that we strive to reduce waste at the workshop:

  1. Designing our patterns so that they nest on a hide to eliminate as much waste as possible.
  2. Consciously cutting. Every single hide we cut is like a game of tetris!
  3. CNC Knife Cutting - This piece of machinery allows us to achieve huge yields as we cut entire hides at once by mapping out all of our cuts prior to cutting. It enables our crafters to fill in empty spaces in the hide with various small leather goods like keychains and coasters.

Even with the most unusable parts of the hide we’ve brainstormed to find outlets for more efficient cutting. For example, we use these parts for sample making, for training purposes (that we will still sell through instagram), for personal halloween costumes, etc. We are always looking for new ways to lower our impact and make the most of our materials, if you have any ideas please share!