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Leather working Course – Mod 1

Disclaimer: I know my readers are widely varied in interests. This post is firmly in the realm of nerd stuff, making things, and design. I promise I will make another fitness post soon, but if your are not into making things, feel free to skip this one. 😉

As I have mentioned, and you have no doubt gleaned from some of my other posts, I like making things. A medium that has long been interesting to me is Leather Working, and have decided to take an online class through Black Raven Armory.

As you can see , their work is completely breathtaking. Thus far the course is absolutely amazing. I’m only in Module 1, but already I am just enthralled with this methodology. The modules are released every 30 days, and the first 2 are all about design. As an engineering teacher myself, this makes complete sense.

Additionally, unlike many online courses this one comes with a private Facebook group, and you even get assigned homework. You also have access to Alex Agricola, who teaches the class. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan.  It’s also pretty inexpensive, and if you have any interest in making things (especially out of leather) it’s well worth it: sign up here.

I came across this class (and really a whole new world) through a new discovery. As I’ve mentioned previously I love Medieval Fantasy, and have experienced this genre in a wide variety of ways. One bridge I had yet to cross however was Live Action Role Playing (LARP). That is until I found Bicolline (Though the site is the Canadian Province of Quebec, most Quebecois speak English as well, so remain calm my monolingual friends), it is a massive, permanent site, and less than a 4 hour drive from my house. This is not the post to detail what is going on in LARP for me, but expect a lot of work on this topic moving foreword!

In the mean time, I will be using this blog to post some of  my homework for the Black Raven Armoury Academy.

As I am a teacher my posts on this topic will likely be more robust than expressly necessary, but I really want to learn this, and as such will be applying the best pedagogy I am aware of.

Without further ado.

Ranger Armor – Design Journal Entry 1:


This module is all about inspiration, where to find it, and how to build a portfolio of inspiring things when you do. It gives some specific steps to find inspiring images, and details how to make those images trigger your muse. I love this step by step approach, and have begun to really think deeply in terms of the aesthetic I am going for with my first piece.

My initial thought was Viking, but I’m sure I’ll end up with a pile of Viking Inspired work anyway, so I decided to go with a Celtic inspiration. My first items will be for personal use, and my LARP character is a (big surprise) Ranger. I am really thinking more of a D&D Ranger with some Tolkien influence. This had me thinking in terms of Celts as they seem more connected with nature than other historical models. Interestingly the Celtic Mythos and the Norse one have a lot in common so I am sure this work will come in useful with later projects as well.

The assignment was pretty interesting. I had little difficulty finding examples of most things, but furniture was tough. I also struggled with separation of modern “Celtic Inspired” stuff, and historic stuff. At the end of the day I am not really trying to make an historic recreation so, its more the feeling and aesthetic that make sense to me for the character. Once I stopped worrying about historical accuracy I came up with resources much more easily. This will be a very good concept to keep in mind moving foreword. I can also see how it would be possible to use the same technique with just about any aesthetic I want, even fiction.

The “big bucket” concept I’ve come up with is that inspiration can come from anywhere. In fact, yesterday I had a dentist appointment for a cleaning and caught inspiration from the ceiling!

Below each image is the description assigned by the homework.


celtic pattern widnow frame

Description: The above image has a good bit going on that I find interesting. First, I was originally drawn to the picture due to the central window. I like the idea of expanding patterns and I feel like this is a great example. We start with a complex star in the center, and then work our way out to the trefoils. The same sort of thing on a smaller scale is happening in the side windows, and I also like the way the spires seem to be concentric cylinders reducing in size.

moss covered gazebo

Description: For me, though there are certainly some interesting shapes above it is more about a feeling. I like the stylized clovers in the railing and how they are set into a square. I seem to be drawn to shapes within shapes. I also like the tops of the pillars, and how the arches are not simple. They take what could be a bland arch, and make them interesting. More to the point though is the feeling of the picture. It feels to me like the character I am designing this armor for would get married in a secret ceremony here while hiding from the evil overlord.

Thorny Arch

Description: The above was actually the first image I found when I was looking. It jumped out at me, and was the spark that began to develop the overall aesthetic. I love, love, love the stylized thorns on this, in looking at it what I see are the thorns coming towards the center where there sits a sword. It may be the central design for the chest piece on the armor I create. If it isn’t the chest piece on this armor it certainly will be on some set I do some day.

church window shapes

Description: This image above is all about that window for me. I really like the patterns, within patterns, within patterns. In this case it makes me think of a flower with clovers as the petals. I’m not a big fan of floral motifs, but I can really see the same idea recreated with some sort of stylized stars. This again show me that my personal aesthetic runs heavily toward repeating, nested, patterns.

Tree of life arch

Description: The window arch above makes me think of the tree of life, but more flowing than I usually see it represented. I actually like the side pieces a bit more than I like the central one. They are just different enough for them to stand out for me. I really like how they hint at the tree of life without having an actual example of it. I think that subtlety is important in design. I feel like you want your pieces to evoke feeling, but the more general you can make that feeling the better. Essentially, as opposed to someone looking at a design and saying “yup, there’s the tree of life” they should look and go “hunh, that feels like the tree of life.”

window snake arch

Description: In the above picture there is a minor detail and a major one that I like. The minor detail that I like is in the repeating diamonds. I think that could be interesting as a brigantine kind of thing where you quilt metal diamond shaped cutouts into leather armor. The major detail I like is the detail around the arch. I like that pattern as it makes me think of snake skin, or dragon scales. I like that the scales are smaller on top, and get larger down the sides. This could be a good thing to keep in mind later.

celtic cross and ceiling supports

Description: Though the central feature of the above picture is the Celtic cross, and any exploration of Celtic imagery simply needs to have some version of the Celtic Cross I’m more interested in the way those lines intersect in the ceiling. It is mindful of a star to me. I especially like how the “arms” of the star radiate in a curved way. I could see a similar design on a pauldron. The knotwork on the cross is pretty good, but is also very standard. I am rather partial to the versions of the Celtic cross that include the circle, but the ceiling is far more interesting.

mossy stairs

Description: The image above here is about a couple of things for me. Primarily it is a feeling. It feels like to sort of ruin that a ranger in armor would be exploring in order to free someone, or find something. I also like the light, the colors, and the way the front stairs seem to be floating and flow right into the back stairs. This sort of a perspective on the lines of the stairways is something to keep in mind. On close examination it is an optical illusion, but one, I think that can be re created. I think this would be another interesting set of lines on a pauldron.

thorn window arch

Description: The center image above is what this is all about for me. Again, it is mindful of the tree of life, but includes an allusion to thorns. I think that if I were to use a tree of life sort of motif in this design (which it is looking more and more like I will) I think it will simply HAVE to be a thorny tree. These sorts of stylized pointy thorns really sing out to me as the sort of thing that would decorate the leather armor of a warrior who spends their time in the deep wilderness. They have an incredibly close connection to nature, and it’s serenity, but are also the thorns that protect the living from those things that want to consume life.

Mossy Tower

Description: The above image is yet another of those that speaks to me on several levels. On the surface it is once again a feeling piece, and in fact may be the same ruin as the other “mossy” things above, but it has some design elements that I am in love with. The three main features are the railing, the upper arch, and the supporting pillars. With the railing I like how it has both rigid and flowing lines that blend well together. I like the way the pillars spiral, and might use that technique for snake scales, and the top of that window arch with the graceful curves is really interesting.

outer arch crosshatch

Description: In the above image I am chiefly interested in two features. The crosshatching on the arch was what drew me to the image to begin with. I could see such a pattern crawling along arms, or up either side of the spine. Upon further inspection though I also very much like the horizontally repeating pattern below the mosaic of the people. I think that could make a very interesting shape to make individual lames for lamellar armor.


Tree of life knot chair

Description: This chair, or throne has a sort of tree of life knot on the front. I can’t really make out the side, but there’s a good bit of knotwork. When I pulled it I found the knotwork interesting, but it is too fluid for what I am thinking. I could see altering the knotwork on the front to a more simplistic design, with less rounded lines, and adding some thorns, but really now that I’m looking at this the again, I am not loving it.

lion and knots chest

Description: The above chest has a couple of interesting things going on. I’ve always loved the English royal lion so there’s that. Then there’s the scroll work. Even though it isn’t knotted it is still interesting. I don’t know that it fits the aesthetic fro this design, but it could be a feature in a different design. This is also not a great picture over all. I really struggled finding inspirational furniture on the internet. I think that maybe I’d be more successful finding inspiration in furniture in person.

dragon arms chair

Description: This is a difficult image to view because it is small, but if you look carefully you can find a that the arms end in really cool stylized dragon head. I also kind of like the idea of extending that line all the way around the chair back, and having a two headed dragon. Dragons are literally always cool, so I am sure I will end up with some dragon stuff on the designs I make.

Tree of life and snake wrapped chair

Description: I actually like two features in these chairs. First there is a thorny arch thing happening in the upper chair backs. I really love that aesthetic, and am certain to use it in this particular piece of armor. Next, that spiral figure wrapping around the legs made me think of some sort of a snake wrapping itself around something. Maybe as part of arm or leg armor, or a scabbard, maybe a quiver. Basically any cylindrical thing could use that sort of a wrap as a feature.

Thorny Chairback

Description: The above chair has the sort of stylized thorns I have seen in other things. In this instance it is more subtle than in the others, but it is still there. I wanted to pull it in case I found that I wanted a more subtle nod to thorns, but really I think this is too subtle. Again, I had a tough time with furniture. I might try re doing the furniture part of the exercise, but maybe not. The furniture seems to be providing a lot of anti examples which are helpful as well in narrowing down the specific aesthetic I am interested in creating.

lots of shapes chest

Description: There’s a lot going on in this picture. I particularly like that it is a collection of patterns that are related but different. The panels, and even the sides are different. I really like several of these shapes, and will likely use them, but this is important for the general idea of different images sharing the same aesthetic. They are very different, but it takes a minute of looking closely to realize that they are different. From a design perspective this is an incredible concept. It might be that SOME of the designs are repeating that tricks you into thinking they all are.

hardware shapes

Description: This chest is all about the hardware for me. I like how many of these end pieces look like sword hilts. I think that such a design would be great for where the end of a strap is attached to a large piece of leather. Maybe even making these sorts of designs as a repeating pattern in metal for decoration. At the very least I think they would work well as book binding reinforcement.

circle clover bedroom set

Description: The design elements that really jumped out at me in the above picture are all of the clovers enclosed by circles. I don’t know if I would use the clover shapes specifically, but the idea of one simple shape enclosed in a circle is compelling. I could certainly see replacing the clovers with either some stylized tree of life or star. I think I want to work on how to incorporate stars, thorns, and the tree of life into this first set of armor as motifs.

bench side and back

Description: With the above bench I was looking at both the side and the upper back. The side has that complex floral motif again, which though I find oddly compelling doesn’t really fit here. Next, on the side there is the repeating “pawn” shapes along the bottom. Those are interesting, but again I don’t see them working in this design. Even those radiating rectangles at the top of the bench are interesting, but I don’t see them for this piece.

tvine backed throne

Description: This image of a throne is all about the upper and top of the back for me. I love the vine-work on the chair back, and could certainly see some sort of thorny vines being part of this design. Maybe with the thorny vines being more prevalent in the lesser pieces like graves and vambraces, but certainly on it somewhere.  I also like the designs at the top of the chair back, but I don’t know why, or what I’d use them for. Overall I think that this particular piece is the most useful of the furniture series in terms of what I will use in my armor design.



Description: The above image is an interesting version of a knotted star. I like how the different points intersect and weave together on this one, but I think the star design is a bit too angular for this piece. I also like the color variation, and may do something similar when and if I put some form of star on this piece of armor.

flowing 6 pointed star star knot

Description: The above star is more flowing than the first one. I like how it looks viney. It is rounded, and not terribly busy. Some scholars are of the opinion that the rangers of Tolkien have a six pointed star as their symbol.  Others say 8. I am of the former opinion, but I don’t know if a six pointed star is actually the aesthetic I am looking for with this “sort of Tolkien” ranger armor. I very much like the natural look of this one though.

pointed star

Description: The above Celtic star is interesting to me because it has fluid, natural looking knotwork, but the points are of a traditional shape. I like the combination of knot and point in this. I really want a six or 8 pointed star if I end up using it, but whichever way I go I think I’ll certainly do natural flow into standard points. I also like the uncomplex nature of this knotwork.

stylized dragon

Description: Dragons are cool. Knotwork is cool. Knotwork dragons need to be extra cool, right? Honestly, I don’t know. A lot of the Celtic imagery is incredibly busy. I just don’t know if its too much or not. I like this dragon representation, particularly its circular nature. I think if I end up using much knotwork I will definitely have to tone it down significantly.

8 pointed star

Description: My favorite part of this star is the 4 interior points. I think, if I end up using a larger star as my central chest design I would take the pointed 4 point start above, and add internal point like this one has, and sharpen them. by combining these two ideas I think I will actually get the exact shape I am looking for.


Description: This is an interesting image. I like that it is a sort of stylized dog. it has some knotwork, but it isn’t excessive. With a bit of alteration I might be able to make a wolf out of it, or eliminate some of the knotwork, and use it as is. Both the tongue and tail seem a bit much, but would be easy enough to eliminate.  I can see this as being ornamentation on a scabbard more than on a piece of armor though.


Description: This image has a lot going on. I certainly would not use all of these elements together because, oh my god busy, but each element is interesting in and of itself. I like the style of knotwork around the edge of the circle. I could see it as a line as opposed to a circle, but the same knot, maybe running down an arm, or a shin. I like the idea of the dragons, eating one another as well. It seems to be a sort of eternity symbol. I also like the central spiral, and could see using that in the center of a different circular shape.

lots of knots

Description: This is an example of several knot shapes with stylized dragons. As they come from the tattoo industry I think they will work quite well on leather. The way these heads work is interesting, if simplistic. I could see a lot of these as central on secondary pieces, but none are quite right for the chest except maybe as secondary images.

tree of life

Description: The knotwork tree of life is about as classic Celtic as it comes. The only image more “Celtic” would be the Celtic cross. Even though it is SUPER busy I like this design, mostly because it isn’t readily apparent that this is a tree of life. I could see something like this as circular “cloak holders” on a leather chest piece. I could also see this sort of image in several other places. I may need to “unbusy” it a bit, but it is interesting.


Description: I grabbed the above image because it is a bit more realist than the other dragon images I found. I wanted to spend some time with it to see if I would prefer realism to a more stylistic model like historical sources. Though I like the scales, and wings on this, I’m not a big fan of the knot incorporation, and really dislike both the head and claws of this dragon.


Star Ring

Description: This ring is all about the star for me. I am hoping to be able to make some sort of Celtic inspired star for the center of the chest piece of the leather armor. it feeds into both the ranger motif from Tolkien, and the idea of a celestial worshiping culture that I envision for the LARP character I am designing the piece for. I super love the 8 pointed design from an aesthetic perspective.

Plain Torc

Description: In addition to being gold, and the fact that I can definitely see using some kind of gold paint to pick out interesting details on the armor, I like the vine motif here, as well as the beadwork on the female end of the Torc. Vines, and flower motifs seem to be very prevalent in the historic Celtic stuff. I don’t love flowers for armor, but I do love vines, especially thorny ones.


Description: This shield is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it seems to be made of bronze, which makes me really like the idea of inlaying brass (especially aged brass) into the armor. I also like the whirled circles, and the triptec nature of them. I also find it interesting that there seems to  be gems inlaid into protective gear. I may use that idea, not with real gems, but if I can find something appropriate I might add it.


Description: I like this whole design even though it is incredibly busy. I like that it is of a darker metal, and shows a good bit of “tooling” it gives me an impression of what leather with tooling will look like. I also like the center star even though it is really only 4 pointed. Interestingly there is a design on the tips. I hadn’t considered this before, but it might be a cool addition to the piece I am designing.


Description: This is piece has all sorts of interesting aspects. Primarily, of course it the rope-work. As this is a round object translating the look to a chest piece might be a dodgy proposition, but certainly rope-work wrapping around other pieces will be a thing. I also like the vine motif again being repeated around the ends of the torc as well as the bead work.


Description: This bowl has so much imagery on it that I just had to add t to the inspiration post. It has so much going on. Everything from representations of people, to different kinds of animals, and even just a general sense of ancient Celtic style. Of particular interest are the image of the stag on the back of the bowl, and the image of the man on the front. The man is interesting because it gives a bit of glimpse of the people, and the image of the stag is something that can be simply ripped directly. Any culture with a hunting focus would have lots of stag decoration.


Description: Another inspiration rich example. I like the simplified knots in this one. Most of the knotwork I have found thus far seems busy to me, but this seems just about right. I also like the beaded gold on this one, and am even beginning to see some uses for semi precious stones in my designs. Even if the stones don’t go on the leather itself, once I begin forging or casting my own buckles and such I will absolutely consider adding semi precious stones to it.


Description: While the stylized fish is the first thing to jump out at me, it isn’t what I am interested in from a design perspective. In terms of design, I actually like the lines on this more. I like the linked dents around the fish, and both the diagonal lines, and the way the maker again used the idea of linked holes to give the piece texture. i think texture is important in any design.

spiral torc

Description: Two aspects of this Torc are interesting to me. First we have some spiral motif. I haven’t seen much in the way of representations of spiral in ancient Celtic items thus far, and I really like spirals so this is pretty cool in that respect. Next, it appears that the spirals are somehow linked together, and wound around one another,. This idea will take some further examination, but it is also really interesting.

copper Torc

Description: The main thing that I love about the above piece is that it is made of copper. We so often see brass, bronze, gold, and steel, but I think copper certainly has a place for working gear providing that a great deal of strain isn’t placed on it. I also like the linked counter spiral designs, and certainly see applications for those in this piece. I like the lines on the fastener for the Torc as well,. They remind me of flower petals.

Armor and Clothing

warrior 1

Description: This picture is good for general appearance of a Celtic warrior. Unfortunately the image is not good enough quality to zoom in very far, but it still gives us an overall impression of some of the design elements of their working gear. Brigantine or chain mail armor makes me want to incorporate those elements somewhere, and the general design of the helm is likely what I will use.

warrior examples

Description: I don’t know if these warriors are Celtic in origin, or if they’re viking, or something else entirely. What I like about this is that is shows a good bit of the feeling I am looking for here. A connection to the natural world, the use of scale mail, spears, different sorts of helmets. Even the way these dudes are wearing their cloaks. All useful for the feeling of this design.

warrior with spear and armor

Description: I like the  sort of raised bead things that this guys has on his armor. I could certainly see doing something similar, maybe with brass rivets, or even through tooling. I don’t think it has any practical value to the armor, but it adds texture which is interesting.


Description: These guys are almost certainly Celts and I think this page comes from an Osprey book about them which I may end up buying. The primary importance here is in the ornamentation on the various pieces of kit. There are a goodly number of flowing lines, and spirals on this gear. The helmets are interesting as well. I like the central ridge.


Description: On this image the most striking details are the sun/star motif on the shield and how the artist at least alludes to both standardized gear and mail armor. I find it interesting that so many of the images I’ve found of the Celts show them with spears. Particularly the idea of multiple spears.  It bears thinking about if armor for a spear-man and a swordsman would be different.


Description: I almost didn’t use this picture because I really think this is straight out of someones imagination. That said, I like the use of furs, which is certainly something I will emulate eventually, and the hem designed on the tunic and skirt. I think that having a similar sort of design around the thigh guard of the armor would work well.


Description: There’s lots to like about this one. I like the use of contrasting colors here, I like the decorative elements, I like that is shows a deconstructions of the sword, and I like the helmet A LOT. This is my favorite helmet thus far. Again we have some sort of floral star design on the shield, and a twisted Torc. Both of those elements are interesting.


Description: There is less detail here than I’d like, but there is a little. Again, we have the star motif, but we have it alongside the moon here. We also see some tartan sorts of patterns, and a stylized dragon head. Other than that we have some reinforcing themes like border knot work, and a clear example of several layers. I also like the general feel of this piece.


Description: I’m noticing that most of the pictures I have in this section are short on detail and long on feeling. There is certainly some interesting things going on with the shields. but this picture gives us (someones interpretation of) the people themselves. Clearly with historical imagery all we get is artist representations, but they are still incredibly interesting for getting a feel for the people who I am making this armor for.


Description: Definitely the shield decorations on this one, also the stylized dragon head musical instrument, and the standard, which appears to be a golden boar. The helmets are also worth noting, but the major design element here to consider is the mantel on the left chieftain. I had not considered shoulder protection of this sort, and it is definitely worth thinking about when it comes to designing the shoulder protection for this piece.

Bonus Pics From My Dentist’s Office

Description: I just love the lines in this ceiling. They remind me of a lot of the architecture stuff I found above. All very flowing, and scales like at the same time with some thorn and floral motifs as well.

Mood Board

As I am a bit more digitally oriented than I am physically, I decided to make my mood board on google’s Jamboard app. This way I can just have it up on a monitor to reference.

Leather working Course Mood Board 1 1


In addition to all of the inspiration above I bought the two books below. I think they will really help me with knotwork, and both Celtic and Viking stuff.







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