Leather Floral Designs and Flow

If you have been involved in leather tooling for any length of time, you hear people talk about “Flow.”  Many of us understand the premise behind the flow of leather floral designs, and many times we think we know what that means.  But for some of us, we simply do not truly understand the concept of flow.

This article is a summary of the concept of “Flow”  from our eBook “Introduction to Leather Floral Design” that I wrote in 2017.

Defining Flow

For me “Flow” has always meant simply that whatever I draw within a pattern it should have the sense of movement and seem to be going somewhere and coming from some place. 

This seems simple enough right?

When we are laying out a pattern within the boundaries of the item or the tooling window, we have to take into consideration first where we are going and second where we are coming from.  These are the first two questions that I ask myself when I begin my layout.

Once we have a piece laid out in front of us and have determined the answers to these two questions, now we can determine the steps that we have to take to maintain the flow of the pattern.  The flow of leather floral designs is not something that can be miscalculated because you chose the wrong direction.  In floral layout, left to right or right to left is independent of flow.  This means that we can have flow within the pattern no matter if one direction looks better than the other.

The flow of a pattern is set by deciding on a direction and taking the viewer on that journey without interruptions.  Once the direction is decided, then the pattern layout is now bound by those directional choices as we begin layout.  Decisions must be made according to the direction we have chosen.

I see flow as my ability, as the viewer, to hop onto any point within a pattern with my eye and follow the pattern all the way through the piece.  If I hit a spot within the pattern that dead ends and I am left with no place to go, then the flow has ended.  There are times when this is appropriate but for now let’s just agree that we would rather not see this.

This concept of flow is apparent in the Sheridan style of leather floral designs. leather floral designs

Tooling patterns prior to the official Sheridan pattern style have a certain flow about them.  The thing that Sheridan tooling does is amplify the flow to a point that it is in the forefront of the design and hard to miss.  Before this style developed into what we know today, patterns had flow but it was subtle and more of an accent.

In Sheridan style designs, flow is the key point of the layout in the majority of leather floral designs of this style. The flow becomes an “element” of the pattern itself much like a leaf or flower.

Take for instance a traditional oak leaf tooling pattern.  This style has been around for many years and it is a common choice among many consumers for its traditional look and appeal.  This layout has a sense of flow, but when you actually study the pattern and break it down you see that it is minimal.  The leaves and vine work are moving through in a particular direction but many times leaves and acorns cover the transitions and direction changes.  This leaves the bulk of the flow aspects up to the viewer’s imagination.

There are many leather floral designs that leave flow in the background.  These patterns have big bold flowers and leaves placed tightly within a pattern and there is very little vine work visible.  This allows the designer to bring the flowers and leaves into the foreground more and leave a subtle hint of flow for the viewer to try and follow.

Neither of the previous two are a bad thing.  These are just examples of styles that don’t put as much emphasis on flow as other styles do.  This is more of a preference of the designer and what they like to see in their work.  Either way you go, flow is a factor in the majority of leather floral designs and the thing that people want to learn and study the most.


The main take away here is that flow is the part of the layout that gives your patterns motion. 

This motion makes the pattern more interesting to the viewer and allows the artist to determine the layout through making decisions.  Although direction and flow go hand in hand they are two different aspects of a pattern.

Flow is the motion of the pattern determined by the answers to the questions “Where am I going?” and “Where am I coming from?”

Direction can be much more flexible once flow is determined.  With the flow questions answered, the artist can now change directions and make directional decisions with the confidence that the overall flow of the pattern can be maintained in the final piece.

This is somewhat of a safety net that allows the artist to free himself up to break a few rules during the layout process.

This article is a brief concept discussion on Flow and in the future I will dive deeper into the use of flow within patterns.  If you would like to see how I use the decisions for flow in my layouts, Click Here and see how I layout a floral pattern on a wallet.  This is a smaller pattern, but the concept of flow is clearly seen in the layout.

If you found value in this article and would like to dive deeper in the concept of “Flow” or to get a good foundation in the art of drawing your own floral tooling patterns for leather, then check out our eBook “Introduction to Leather Floral Design” and purchase your copy which also comes with a FREE 5 DAY FLORAL DESIGN MINI eCOURSE.  This mini course dives even deeper into the concepts of design right through your email once a day for 5 days after you purchase the ebook!

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