Past Program

Virtual, Italy | Form, Leather, Color & Craft

Since early civilization leather has been part of our life as a material of comfort and protection. It has found many forms in garments, footwear, weaponry, accessories, artful objects.

It has evolved to become a symbol of status, identity, craftsmanship. As it molds to us it changes forever, writing its own story.


Global Summer Studios
  • Virtual Course
Summer 2021

Course Dates: Jun 7, 2021 — Jun 25, 2021

Open to RISD students, Brown University students, non-RISD students

2.5 GPA required. Non-RISD participants see eligibility requirements below.

  • Leather
  • Craft
  • Materials Research
Academic Credits
  • Industrial Design
Course Numbers
  • ID-1544-01
Virtual, Italy | Form, Leather, Color & Craft
Providence, RI, USA

About this Virtual Studio

Video Snapshot

Course Description

In this 3-week, 3-credit remotely taught summer course you will explore FORM in its many expressions working with vegetable-tanned leather and plant-based pigments. You will gain knowledge inspired by curiosity and observation of architecture, art, bustling Italian life, found objects and hands-on material manipulation.

So what is it about working with our hands that bring us human beings so much purpose and joy? Is it the tactile sensation? The physicality of manipulating materials? The reward of seeing a solid, tangible result upon the completion of our work?

By virtual immersion into the new surroundings, soaking up impressions, smells, light & color, you will be introduced to FORM and COLOR by manipulating LEATHER in combination with found objects. Through working with vegetable-tanned leather CRAFT using hand tools and pigments you will create forms based upon your collected impressions and experiences virtually exploring this new place that will connect you to your past and future - by learning ancient skills of making combined with your own skill-sets and aspirations/interests.

The primary material will be vegetable-tanned leather for its unique properties; it lends itself to tactile explorations of techniques such as dyeing, wet-molding, etching, compression, stretching, folding, shaping. However, you are welcome and encouraged to explore alternative and additional materials throughout the process FOUND OBJECTS as a reminder of MOMENTS in TIME.


Throughout the studio, you'll engage with leaders in the vegetable tanned leather industry like Consorzio Vera Pelle al Digitale (Genuine Italian Vegetable-Tanned Leather Consortium) based in Tuscany, Italy. Designers such as Giorgio Testi and Diane Becker will lead virtual workshops and industry tours in Tuscany's leather district.

The studio will also engage with artists, designers, makers, and visiting critics such as:

  • Peter Yeadon (Professor, RISD Industrial Design / founder of the New York architecture and design consultancy Yeadon Space Agency) who will present a materials-driven approach to design innovation, using a selection of projects that are made of novel substances, including smart materials, nanomaterials, and biomaterials.
  • Chris Donovan, a leading luxury shoe designer in the US who completed his studies, as well as his current manufacturing production, in Italy.
  • Miguel Villalobos will also join the studio as a visiting artist.

Course Objectives

  • Basic sewing techniques for hand-sewing “LEATHER” objects, examining different seams and stitches by learning how to work with the hand-tools on hand
  • Exploring surface techniques for vegetable tanned leather. In particular painting and dyeing.
  • How is “LEATHER” made? Learning through experiencing the process.
  • Basic pattern making skills for “FORM” to develop prototypes/ideas/objects by applying the skills acquired.
  • Exploration of “COLOR” – plant-based pigments and it’s possibilities for leather and other materials.
  • What is “handmade” in comparison to “cottage industry” and “industrial manufacturing” – the evolution of making - the allure of the object made by hand. Understanding the revival of the “CRAFT”/MAKERS-Movement.

Learning Outcomes + Assignments

Following the course-objectives we will explore, research and produce a variety of objects that can grow into many directions by applying the techniques learnt in this course - incorporating the student’s individual knowledge. The objects can be footwear related. Experimentation, exploration and applying manifold techniques such as: (and not limited to)

  • Apply surface manipulation (embroidery, inlay/overlay, painting/dyeing, image transfer technique, casein dyeing, light influence on veg tan surface etc.)
  • Experimenting with the material “vegetable tanned leather” (wet-molding, folding etc.)
  • Incorporating “found objects” (per their own imagination – reminders of “moments in time”)
  • Research and explore “sketching” techniques – in pen … and paper (mock-up’s)
  • Document Work Process in sketches and notes – Workbook will also be on view for critique

The goal of this course is not a perfect single object, but rather a series of explorations to expand upon their personal skills, playfully gaining knowledge, sparking their curiosity to dance outside of their comfort zone. Aiming for a wide range of experiments, learning and exploring as many techniques as possible, creating as many samples and prototypes as students can.

For Final Presentation: Show process “book” for your projects, sketches/material explorations etc. as well as the final Projects.

Faculty Infosession – Q+A

More Info

Application + Registration

Course Dates: June 7 – June 25, 2021
Non-Refundable Deposit (Required at time of Application Submission): $500.00
Balance (After Non-Refundable Deposit): $2,500.00

In order to reserve a seat, a non-refundable deposit of $500 is required at the time of application submission. Students will have 15 days to submit the remaining course balance of $2,500.00. Students that fail to make full payment by their deadline will forfeit their $500 deposit and their seat in the course.

For RISD Students: Courses are not available via web registration. Students must complete an online application through this website.

Deadline Extended: Apply by May 2, 2021


All RISD students and other full degree schools/universities are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in Global Summer Studios. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course.

RISD Students

If your current cumulative GPA is 2.5 or above, you are eligible for registration. If your current cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, you must first contact the Registrar at to seek exception to this academic policy.

Non-RISD Participants

If you are a college student currently enrolled in another art/design college or institution around the world, or a professional practicing in the field, you are eligible for registration. We will collect a recommendation/support form from your institution/workplace.

In order to register for RISD Global summer studies, you are expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) as all coursework and critique is delivered in English.

Attendance Policy

Global Summer Studios are three weeks long and take place in June, and you are required to attend all program activities scheduled during the course. RISD Global Summer Studios comply with RISD class attendance policy. In case of unexcused or multiple absences, you may be removed from the course, given a grade of “W" (withdrawal) or a grade of “F” (fail).

Cancellation Policy

In case a virtual Global Summer Studio does not reach full capacity, the course may be canceled after the last day of registration (May 2) and a full refund will be issued to enrolled students.

Withdrawal Policy

Requesting to withdraw from a RISD global learning program, including RISD Global Summer Studios, prior to the start of the course is highly discouraged and requires a formal process outlined in the RISD course withdrawal policy. It is not possible for a student to drop a RISD Global Summer Studios travel course via the standard Add/Drop process after it has commenced. In the case of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances (and only after students have spoken with the faculty lead and RISD Global for approval to withdraw from the program), students should be aware that no refund will be issued.

Apply to Global Summer Studios

For summer 2021, RISD Global is offering 2 creative and culturally immersive art and design courses, taught virtually for 3 weeks between June 7 – 25.

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1:1 Advising Session

Have questions? The RISD Global team is available to meet for a 1:1 advising session. We can give you more information about your study options, help you figure out which program makes sense for you, and assist you with the application process.

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