For many thousands of years vegetable tanning of leather was the mainstay of leather production and until modern materials like glass, metal and textiles were developed vegetable tanned leather was needed for almost every part of our society to function. The process is usually slow and gentle, taking many months with the hides suspended into pits in the ground. Ancient guilds often demanded that oak bark tanned leather remain for at least a year. When tanning with sumac extracts entered the UK from Iberia in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I commanded that the Guild of Leathersellers monitor its use. Her Portuguese doctor was given the sole rights of importing instead of being paid for his medical services: Shakespeare went on to portray him as his famous character Shylock.
While some of the ancient guilds still exist and proudly support the leather industry, the advancement of the making of tanning extracts fell to the producers in the 20th century and the Tanners Extract Producers Federation (TEPF) was founded.
The TEPF looks to spreading best practise amongst the producers of tanning extracts and is dedicated to helping tanners utilise all the features and benefits of the process to make the best leather for consumers to enjoy and for designers to work with.
We also undertake advanced research in the extraction and use of tannins and to ensure no part of any tree cut or coppiced is wasted.
We talk regularly to tanners, designers, brands and retailers about trends and developments that we need to lead or to follow; and emerging end uses for which adjustment or improvement is required. Feel free to contact us with any queries and to discuss potential projects and collaborations or view a list of TEPF members.