Celtic Cats Leather Wristband

The Celtic Cats wristband is hand tooled from my original design, inspired by the work of George Bain. This is made from hand cut veggie tanned cowhide, and lined with black goatskin leather. As well as being hand tooled, it is also hand dyed and hand finished.

This piece was specifically made for the Groam House “Inspired By Celtic Art – Virtual Studio Tours”. See also moncrieffleathers.com.

Two Dragons Sporran

This sporran is an example of a design of my own creation, inspired by the Celtic knotwork of George Bain, as well as the work of other such brilliant artists as Alan Lee. The dragon design is hand tooled into a 5 oz. vegi tanned cowhide, which was then hand dyed. The front piece is also embellished with a two loop Spanish lace. Although the design is based on classic elements of Celtic knotwork, this piece, I think, reflects less traditional line spacing and has more organic flow.

The overall form of the sporran is derived from the classic Hunting Style Sporrans of the 19th & 20th Centuries.

Celtic Dog Hunting Sporran

This is one of my first attempts of hand tooling an intricate Celtic design in leather, so I used an open source design for the piece. I was quite happy with outcome! I have since progressed to using design patterns which I have created, using original source Celtic designs as inspiration. This sporran is all hand cut, hand sewn, hand dyed, and hand tooled.

‘Celtic Web’ Sporran

This is a bit abstract in the Craftsman style of the early 20th Century, but the inspiration is directly influenced by the Celtic knotwork. The flap has a Celtic knotwork pattern that consists of a combination of cutouts and and stamping which visually provide the knotwork impression. The flap is hand cut, stamped and dyed from vegi tanned cowhide. The backing leather is a soft “Skye Blue”, a color inspired by a trip the the Isle of Skye.

The form of the sporran is in the “Rob Roy” style. The tassels are embellished with Turks Head knots, which also highlights the idea of Celtic knotwork.

This sporran can be worn as a belt bag, or on its own sporran belt, or even with a shoulder strap as a purse.

Keeping score

This has a comparatively simple Celtic design embossed on the front of a leather cover. It is based on a triskele (or ‘triskelion’ meaning three legs). The mix of brown tones enhances the circular design and makes it much more interesting. The back of the cover shows a plain, uncoloured geometric diamond pattern, accentuated by small depressions where the lines intersect. It’s not a Celtic design.

The George Bain Collection has a number of objects that weren’t designed or made by George Bain, his family or his students. This one was purchased by the museum as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures grant. It is a comparison for the leather work done by Bain and his associates. 

Pictish key pattern

At first glance this appears to be a leather book cover. It has clearly been folded, but there is a problem – there is no means of holding it in place over a book. Perhaps the fold reflects the way the piece was stored rather than its use.

This item is one of many that came to the museum in a wooden box, sent by the Bain family in 2011. But we aren’t sure if the leather was embossed by George Bain or Iain, his son. He started studying Celtic art after he retired in the late 1970s. The form of the key pattern is very similar to that on his greetings cards. Iain was an engineer, not an artist or illustrator, so the designs he produced are quite schematic. Somehow they lack the fluidity of his father’s work.

George Bain studied the key patterns on the Rosemarkie stones and used drawings of them in his study of Celtic key patterns. Presumably he used illustrated reference books as his source. However, it is possible that he visited Rosemarkie church to see them, while the family was visiting his wife’s home near Inverness. Today, all of the sculptured slabs can be seen at Groam House Museum.

See Bain’s Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 76, Plate 3 and
Iain Bain’s Celtic Key Patterns publ 1993

Belted interlace

This belt is made of five sections of dyed leather that are joined with over-stitched thongs. The longest section would lie around the back of the wearer. A silver-white paint line creates the open, single-strand, interlace design. The rounded buckle is cut from aluminium. It is engraved with a pattern copied from one of the stones in Meigle Museum. A green-blue colour is used to emphasise it.

This and another belt were donated to the museum by the Bain family, along with other small objects. All had been kept in a decorated, lidded box.

Two-colour belt

This belt, with its aluminium openwork buckle, has a refined design of two coloured interlace along its length. This is an unusual pattern. Each single strand is painted in two colours side by side. When two colours are normally suggested by Bain the design would be formed as two-strand interlace.

The dark-brown leather pieces, with yellow and green interlace, are stitched together. The buckle is engraved with a simple knotwork design highlighted in green and orange-yellow. These colours draw the eye to the simple figure-of-eight twist of knotwork.

Knots & spirals handbag

This unique dark brown leather handbag was designed by George Bain. It was hand-made by one of his students or a member of his family. Both faces have embossed tan panels only 10cm in diameter. A gusset between the front and back is formed from a single piece of the leather. The bag has a zip fastening at the top and quite a delicate handle made from three narrow plaits.

 On the front of the bag is a round knotwork design. Bain took inspiration from a very similar pattern on one of the Pictish stones at St Vigeans in Perthshire. On the back is a circular spiral design similar to that on the Pictish Aberlemno Stone. It has six spirals circling round a seventh at the centre.

The handbag is handsewn with prominent over stitching. It’s lined with a black fabric which appears to be stuck to the leather side panels, leaving the gusset unlined.