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Bark and Brains: Make your own leather and buckskin

  • Holistic Survival School 38 McDaris Cove Road Weaverville, NC, 28787 United States (map)

Humans have been using the skins of animals for hundreds of thousands of years and because of this gift from the animals and the plants we are able to live in normally inhospitable environments. Join us in this 4 day class and learn the ancient art of making two types of fabric from your local landscape:  brain-tanned buckskin and bark-tanned leather.  

brain tanned buckskin class

Students in this class will spend 4 full days working on a deer hide (buckskin) and also a fish skin (bark tanned leather).  Students will learn both processes with hands on knowledge.  Furthermore, we will discuss, troubleshooting, acquiring hides, sewing with natural materials, and what plants we can acquire tannins from. Students will go home with 2 beautiful and finished hides.  This class is must-learn for hunters and anyone who wants to celebrate and honor an animal's life. 

Since the bark-tan process normally takes ~3 months for thick animal hides, we will be tanning fish skins to accelerate the learning process.  Students will leave this class with a finished brain-tanned buckskin as well as a large piece of fish leather.  


Buckskin is the soft pliable, suede-like material made from the hide of any hoofed animal (goat, deer, cow, etc). The buckskin process involves scraping off layers of hair and skin, adding oils, and adding lots of elbow grease! The finished product is a material that is more durable than leather and can be made into moccasins, clothes, bags, etc. This is the same process that Ancestral people have been doing for tens of thousands of years!


Bark tanned leather is natural leather that uses tannins (tannic acid) derived from plant materials.  This material yields strong, water poof leather that is indistinguishable from store-bought leathers.  This process can be used to tan any animal skin (bear, goat, fish, deer etc).  

fish leather




Price:  Early bird (Before August 1st) $350  After August 1st - $400


On-site camping is available. Students are responsible for their own food and camping gear.

Daily Schedule: These times are generally and may be varied depending on hides, weather tiredness, etc.

Thursday- 9:00 am - 5:00pm - Introductions, intro to buckskin, bark tan, general process, scraping deer hides (physical) and processing fish skins

Friday 9:00 am - 4:00pm - Wringing and dressing hides

Saturday 9:00 - 5:00pm -  sewing holes, softening (physical), working fish skin

Sunday 9:00 - 5:00pm - Making smoke sack and smoking hides, oiling fish skin. Enjoy your finished product.

There is some wiggle room for times. So if you have a scheduling conflict, email Luke at and we might be able to make it work.

HoSS never wants people to feel limited by money.  Work Trades are available. 


Students 12+ are welcome with accompanying adult and their own ticket

Cost: Early bird Ticket: $350   Regular Ticket: $400

bark tanned deer leather
Earlier Event: September 1
Make your Own Pack Basket (2 days)
Later Event: October 3
Build your own Osage Bow (5 days)