I've toyed with the idea of doing custom pet portraits in leather and I decided to try it out. I asked my fiancee if he could take a picture of his mom's favorite horse the next time he visited his parents' house, and he brought me back a nice, though slightly blurry, photo of Tully the thoroughbred.
Normally I start by making a sketch which is then turned into a pattern. The pattern is what I use to inscribe the basic design onto the leather itself. This time I used the photo reference from my iPhone and sketched with an awl lightly onto the leather. After cutting the major lines with a swivel knife and some tooling, I was really happy with the dimensionality I was beginning to see.
I didn't want to complicate the background too much as it is a small piece and I didn't want to distract from the portrait, but it definitely needed something. I decided to pyrograph some Celtic knotwork to add some interest. I also used a matting stamp around the horse's head to help visually separate it from the smooth background. I later found out that Tully was born and bred in Ireland, and my fiancee's mother had actually met the breeder there when they visited many years ago.
Then it was on to painting! The photo was a bit overexposed so it was even harder to get a true-to-life color match, but I know that Tully is a bay with a white star.
This photo really clarifies the scale of the leather cameo (I forgot to take actual measurements but I'm estimating that it was about 1.5" wide by about 2.5" tall).
It was originally intended to function primarily as a brooch, and it does in fact have a pin back attached, but after I was laying out the felt and other fiber notions I wanted to use, I realized it would make a good ornament, so I added an eyelet to the top so it can be threaded with some ribbon and hung.
Here's what it looks like as an ornament:
My future mother-in-law really liked it, and I freely admit it made my inner, 12-year-old, equine-obsessed self very happy to make it.
A (slightly belated) Happy Holidays to you and yours!