Vera Knoot makes leather from unwanted goose skin

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Geese Project by Vera Knoot

Vera Knoot makes leather from unwanted goose skin

Dutch Design Week 2014: School of Arts Utrecht graduate Vera Knoot has developed a new type of leather from the skin of geese culled in the Netherlands due to overpopulation.

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Goose leather and vertebrae necklaces. Main image: Goose leather sample

Geese that used to spend the winter in the Netherlands are now staying all year round and damaging agricultural land, creating problems around airports and upsetting the balance of local biodiversity.

As a result the government has ordered the destruction of 100,000 birds a year – many of the carcasses are destroyed.

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Goose vertebrae necklace

"The fact so many geese are killed and find their final destination at destruction factories shocked me," Vera Knoot told Dezeen. "My view on hunting is positive as long as the animals are treated with respect. This is how I came up with the idea to make a final tribute to these geese."

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Goose feather necklace

The designer worked with a professional tanner who specialises in ostrich skin to find a way to turn goose skin into sustainable leather.

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Tanning tools. Photograph by Laura Cnossen

"In my view a product that will be treasured for generations is as sustainable as it gets – I became interested in vegetable-tanned leather because it's one of the few materials that becomes more beautiful over time," said Knoot. "And in this case, the natural structure left by the goose feathers gives the material a unique appearance."

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Butchering gear

Using ostrich skin as her starting point, a trial and error process resulted in using the same ingredients in different quantities, and the same steps with different timings.

"A goose skin is very thin but has a lot of fat, so the actual tanning doesn't take very long but the preparing and finishing needs more time," said Knoot. "Because of its thinness goose leather is very flexible and yet very strong. The pieces are smaller than traditional leather, but can be used for small accessories or as details on larger products."

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Goose skeletons

Knoot created a set of necklaces using the samples of leather, as well as spray-painted vertebrae and feathers from the dead geese, to demonstrate how different parts of the birds can be reappropriated.

The project has received mixed reactions. "Some people are completely against the hunt and are angry that I'm using the hunted geese, but in general people agree with my opinion that it isn't respectful to an animal to shoot it and then just destroy it."

Geese Project by Vera Knoot
Hunting trip. Photograph by Laura Cnossen

"The nicest compliment I've had is, 'You've made a last ode to the geese'. It felt really nice that people understand what I'm trying to communicate."

Geese Project was part of Vera Knoot's degree show after graduating from School of Arts Utrecht and was presented during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven last month.