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.

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

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.

A circular handbag

There is no specific record of who made this handbag but it is very similar to one made for Jessie Bain. We think that bag was crafted by her husband, George. On one side of this handbag is a Pictish key pattern set inside a frame of concentric circles. On the other side is a complex knotwork design based on four interlinked circles. Both designs were also used on Jessie’s handbag.

The width of the handbag (the gusset) is handstitched to the circular front and back pieces using cross-stitch. It is another decorative feature, as is the strap. Although broken, we can see that it was made from a complex five-plaited leather strip. The handbag is closed with a metal, copper-coloured zip.

Patterns in bright green

This leather handbag was designed by George Bain but possibly made by one of his students or a member of his family. Using bold, bright green paint on the inserted leather panels highlights the embossed designs. On one side is a complex of embossed spirals, a design that is repeated on another of his bags. On the other is a series of key patterns.

The spirals are in an interlinked group of seven, set in a circle. This design is a mirror image of that at the centre of the cross on the Pictish Aberlemno cross-slab which stands in the churchyard. There, the three strand spirals (triskeles) turn clockwise. However, on the handbag they move anti-clockwise. The design on the other side of the bag is from Bain’s reconstruction of the key-pattern on the Pictish Collieburn cross-slab.

Bain often uses specific details from both Pictish stones in his Methods of Construction. He clearly studied them in great detail, but probably did so from early-20th century book illustrations. Travelling to visit them was difficult in the 1920s and 1930s.

Knotwork cover

George Bain worked in all sorts of materials, including leather, lino and wood. This leather item is decorated with one of his designs. It is a hand-tooled notebook cover with embossed knotwork border and centrepiece. The simple central panel includes the initials C and B in lower case letters. Presumably Bain made it for one of his daughters, Chirsty or Claire.

The knotwork pattern is very similar to those in the Book of Kells and other early medieval gospel books. It uses one continuous line, symbolising Eternity.

Inside the leatherwork are two full-size pockets. Opening a notebook at its middle, its covers can be slid into the pockets. The two thongs that run vertically down the spine of the leatherwork fit down the centre pages of the book. They keep it in place.