Danielle Prophet, found her calling quite by accident. The art and craft of traditional tanning was not something Danielle imagined herself practicing. Immersed in the primitive and earth skills movements, tanning was a notion Danielle had heard of and seen, yet never endeavoured to undertake. That is, until one cold October evening in 2014. After finishing a sauna and stepping out into the night, a loud screeching and crashing was heard. A deer had been tragically hit on the road near her home. A friend and she searched quite thoroughly, but did not find the deer.
9 days later, while on a walk with her dog, the deer was scared up out of the brush. The poor creature was biding it’s time and wounded beyond survival. The deer was assisted in the dying process, as this was the only humane thing to do. In an attempt at making some offering of the animal’s life, Danielle set out to field dress (remove the guts and organs) so that the meat would not putrefy so quickly, and so that a predator could feast. In this very unskilled first attempt, the cut was not made deep enough, and only the skin peeled back. It was obvious to Danielle, that the skin was meant to be used, something humans have known for thousands upon thousands of years. Thus began the deep dive into an ancient craft and deeply woven practice of honoring the whole animal, and transforming the skin into an incredibly durable, beautiful textile.
Danielle sought out as many Traditional, natural tanners as she could find and studied under them, in proper apprenticeship style. She sought to infilitrate the current system of mass waste of animal skin and thereby salvage hides that would otherwise be thrown away. She is humbled and greatful for the relationships she has formed with local hunters, butchers and the near by abbatoir. Knowing that the skin will be used, often translates into better care and more intentional skinning of the animal, which means fewer knife marks and holes, and a generally better fabric to work with.
The process of tanning, requires a good deal of perserverence, strength and commitment. The work is often hard, smelly and challenging. Yet, the transformation is nothing short of miraculous as this raw, perishable skin is rewoven and stabilized into beautiful, luxurious leather.
Her work with braintan buckskin spiralled into creating Natural Sheep Skins. It became known to her, that every week, 50 plus sheep skins were being thrown away, as the global market is saturated and no one wanted to take on tending these skins. Being of a permaculture mind, it was obvious that this resource needed caring for. As a side project for a number of years, Danielle gathered up what she could tend to and made sheep skin rugs as a side project. This passion over took her, and she decided to quit her day job and delve fully into tanning. This required a leap of faith and trust that not only could she produce enough to make a livelihood, but that she would be able to sell them as well. After making a thorough list of what would be necessary to launch such a business, all things began to fall in place. Including, a fated call, later that afternoon, offering to provide space at a communal farm, for such a tannery to exist.
Danielle is extremely thankful for the opportunity to do the work she loves, to keep a tradition alive and to continue to learn about a craft which provides endless opportunities to continue to learn and remember the combined learning of the past.
Danielle Prophet is a mother, gardener, nature loving scientist, turned tanner and deep appreciator of ancient ways and wisdom. She lives in community with her extended family, tucked in the oak/maple/hemlock/pine forest and attempts to keep her ecological footprint minimal. Tending and tanning skins has become her primary mode of supporting herself and she is thrilled to be her own boss.