When I was in college for fashion design, we were assigned to create a garment using leather and suede. Working with animal skins presents certain challenges — you can’t buy continuous yardage, only hides; ripping out a seam leaves holes; it can’t be ironed. I decided to come up with a way to make the plain cowhide a little more exciting as a “fabric.”

That’s when I had the inspiration to get my hands on a woodburning tool and brand a design into the suede. Woodburning, or pyrography, is the process of drawing on wood by burning lines into its surface with a soldering iron-type tool.

I was recently inspired to try the technique again, this time on a leather bag. By using this tool on leather or suede, you can decorate and personalize anything from belts to wallets to shoes. Swap out different tips to create a variety of detailed lines, or experiment with traditional drawing techniques such as shading, crosshatching, and stippling. You’ll be surprised how much detail can be achieved and how addictive this technique can become!