South Africa Leather Academy
The SA Leather Academy (SALA) was established in Vanrhynsdorp on the West Coast. It evolved from Leather Classics; an organisation founded in 1983 in Gauteng. Since then, we have relocated to Wellington in the Boland, a town with a rich heritage in the leather tanning process and the production of leather goods. This relocation represents a spiritual homecoming.
Due to its service to the craft industry, the Academy has been recognised by the former Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) and awarded the 2012 award for Contribution to Creative Industries by the Western Cape Arts, Culture, Language, Heritage, Museums, Geographic Names, and Archives Services.
The Academy also published the first and only Manual on Leather Craft in South Africa, as well as the only S.O.P. Manual on the Maintenance and Renovation of Historical Leather Artefacts in Museums and Private Collections.
For years, the Academy has pursued a development programme to produce leather handcraft tools as well as fittings and fasteners to increase the financial independence of artisans. To assure quality consistency, SALA has begun reusing vehicle valves, rockers, and scrap metal to manufacture these tools.
Through a process of design development, SALA has altered the appearance of leather artisanship, shifting from using only vegetable-tanned leather to employing supple leather in hand-crafted designs. This enabled the Academy to devise a ten-day training course that teaches new artisans how to work with any type of leather.
Meet the legend
FRIK VAN JAARSVELD
The Leather Academy’s long-standing champion, affectionately known as “oom” Frik van Jaarsveld, has tirelessly dedicated himself to upholding the standard of high-quality leather goods, staunchly advocating against the influx of inferior imports into the market.
Frik’s life story is as vibrant and rich as the products he meticulously crafted. From his humble beginnings in Namibian and South African orphanages to his schooling at a farm school in Bronkhorstspruit, Frik’s journey has taken him across the globe as a member of the SA Navy and later as a naturopath and a dedicated member of the South African Defence Force (SADF). His adventures have included managing a restaurant in De Rust, renovating workers’ cottages on a game farm, and embarking on a grueling 1000km trek through the Namibian desert to raise awareness about endangered desert rhinos and elephants.
Adaptable and resourceful, Frik’s foray into leather craftsmanship began modestly when he crafted a belt for a friend. However, his passion for the craft led him to delve deeper into its intricacies upon leaving the SADF. Drawing inspiration from the time-honored traditions of 17th and 18th century European leatherworking, Frik sought mentorship from renowned artisans, including an equestrian leather crafter for the King of Norway, whom he reached out to via the internet. With years of experience under his belt, Frik often served as a consultant for top manufacturing and retail companies, offering strategic insights and contributing to product design.
However, due to declining health, Frik is no longer actively involved with the Academy. Despite this setback, his legacy and contributions to the world of leather craftsmanship continue to inspire and resonate within the industry.
“I do not see what is; I see what can be, and I am thankful for that. Your imagination is the only limit to what you can do. If each piece you make is perfect, then the whole will be perfect too.” Frik van Jaarsveld
Meet your instructor
INGE JANSEN VAN VUUREN
Inge Jansen van Vuuren, a self-taught artist, had immersed herself in various crafts for years. She delved into traditional techniques, explored new methods, and delved into the intricacies of creating fresh and captivating concepts. From decoupage to mixed media painting, from mosaic to crochet, she mastered them all, infusing her creations with creativity and passion. Inge’s repertoire extended to glass staining, pewter work, upholstering, and mural wall art, showcasing her versatile skills and boundless creativity.
Her natural talent for teaching led her to establish a small Art and Creative Craft program for young children, where she imparted not just skills but also fostered self-discovery and expression.
In early 2023, Inge crossed paths with “oom” Frik through a mutual acquaintance. In a casual conversation, he broached the subject of her potentially succeeding him as the instructor at SALA, recognizing her shared passion for leather crafting. With a fervent dedication to mastering new challenges, Inge eagerly accepted the offer, under the condition that “oom” Frik would patiently impart his wealth of knowledge and expertise in leather craft. Thus, she embarked on a journey to inherit oom Frik’s legacy, assuming the mantle of SALA instructor and owner, and welcoming students from around the world to learn the art of leather craft under her tutelage.
“It was the best decision. I enjoy the craft and learn from “oom” Frik every day. We work well together because we both value the craft. I’ll always be thankful to “oom” Frik for introducing me to leather, and to God for this fulfilling opportunity that allows me to teach with love and compassion.”