MOAWS_glueing_1000pxWhat are the hallmarks of good stitch-work?

I am a hand stitching zealot with very strong views about this! Saddle  stitch is key to everything we do and every product we make is entirely  hand stitched. Saddle stitch is conceptually a simple stitch, but it  takes years to become both good and fast, and a life time to be anything  like great. I would look for a thread size and stitch pitch  ppropriate  for the item in  question, perfectly even and correct thread tension on  both sides of the work and a regular stitch angle throughout, along with  small, neat  oles made by the awl. Its been our experience that these  skills are impossible to recruit for, even from the technical colleges,  so we had to form an apprenticeship scheme to train them in house to get  the stitch quality we wanted. As with all things the stitch is truly  formed not by the fingers but by the brain, the person stitching has to  care about every individual stitch in order to develop a good technique  - to enjoy and care about the process and each step that makes it up,  not simply the outcome being a line of stitching that is technically  correct.BLT_LEAD_NOOIL_1500px

How would you describe a typical day?

I tend to spend my mornings designing, working on non leather creative work, such as photography and dealing with correspondence and my afternoon at my workbench. My non work time is around family life, looking after our two year old, walking the dogs or feeding the horses. I tend to carry a camera everywhere so a certain amount of time is spent on photography too.Alligator Wallet0281_1500px

What would like to make in the future that you have not made yet?

We’ve only just scratched the surface so far! Anything that is possible to be made beautifully from leather and wood is fair game, and I doubt I will ever run out of things that Id like to make. There will be plenty of things left for Bertie to design when I have retired I suspect!silver_west_end_side_stacked_1500px 2

What does ‘quality’ mean to you and how a person can recognize quality?

This is very difficult to answer simply because the overall quality of a product is dictated by the qualities of all the individual components to make it up, so amazing leather in 90% of a product could be let down by the remaining 10%, or the thread or metalwork could spoil something otherwise amazing. I would encourage people first of all to think holistically though, to judge an item on their first impression. Amazing leather (and metalwork) should look, feel and smell like amazing leather, if on first glance it looks amazing it’s worth then thinking more about the details and constituent parts. If people are interested in leathergoods it’s well worth their time to develop an eye for good leather, how it moves, behaves when flexed, how it should look when viewed closely. Its difficult now because so much leather is bad, but pick a brand who you believe is trustworthy, even if far out of your price range and learn from what they use and do and apply that knowledge to other items.blue_calf_L&R0097_1500px

How does the bespoke service works?

It depends on the customer really, but for true bespoke someone comes to us with an idea, we draw it, exchange swatches of materiel by post, make it in coloured card to make sure it looks and works as its owner would like and then make it in leather. If the item is destined to be in an exotic leather we may well make a non exotic version first to make sure the owner likes their design in the flesh so to speak before we execute the design in alligator or other precious leather. True bespoke, where both us and the customer as we must both commit to getting all the details right which can be very complex in a large product. We also customise our existing designs for a semi bespoke product, for instance adding or subtracting card pockets or note compartments to our wallets and that’s a fairly straight forward process of us being sure of the customers requirements and as we know the designs of the wallets intimately we’re able to modify them quite easily._DSC6255

Which other craftsmen do you like?

Instagram is an excellent source of inspiration and pictures of others work, and I like the images of Simaprague and my friend Peter Nitz, as many people do for instance. I enjoy the work of Hermes, who have a background in saddlery like we do and have amazing attention to detail and quality of leather in their high end pieces. Much of my favourite work is from the old saddlery firms from before World War 1 though, probably the height of the saddlery trade, in my opinion.

What are your favorite places to spend your evenings?

At home! My evening routine is putting our son Bertie to bed, and then a little time to relax with Dawn.

What is your favorite word?

A very hard one! On balance I’d say “can”.

What is your least favorite word?

Following on from the above, “cant” – I like positive people!blue_calf_L&R_stack_1500px 2

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Light and beauty, quiet and good design. I am lucky that I’ve been able  to create a life where these things are the rule rather than the exception, though light never cooperates fully!

What turns you off?

Ugly, badly made things and mediocrity in general. I have no time for them and cull them from my life at any available opportunity

What is your favorite curse word?

I tend not to swear, at least in public! If I do it may be the word ”Bugger” though – I am English after all..

What sound or a noise do you love?

Curlews, Lapwings, and/or the wind, the sound of the English wild places.

Blunt knives._DSC3907

What profession would you not like to do?

Probably anything that forced me into a path of mediocrity or making plastic tat. Anything done well is some satisfaction though, so maybe I could make the best plastic tat in the world. I’d prefer not to try though I think..

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hello Charlie, let me hold the gate open for you.

See also Part 1 of the interview

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Saint Crispin’sMichael_Jondral-1056_932x932Bontoni

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Charlie_deskCan you tell us more about your career and the way you founded Equus Leather?

My wife and I founded Equus as it is currently set up 10 years ago. I  have been involved with leather work since I was 18 and set up my first leather business at 20. At the time I rode horses professionally, so my  interests were in saddlery, and I was luck enough to train with a Master Saddler at the time.MOAWS_ali_stencil_1000px

When my riding career finished I went to University, worked in industry for some time and then founded Equus. We were asked to set up a stall at a friends garden party in aid of the Red Cross, so I thought I’d make a few belts. They sold far better than I anticipated and from that time I put my saddlery skills to use, building  business around belt and leathergoods informed by my equine and saddlery background. I’ve always been lucky enough to have Victorian leathergoods from my family around, suitcases, jewellery boxes and similar, and the quality and attention to detail in items for this period is amazing, and something we always try to emulate.MOAWS_stitching_above_2_1000px

I know your wife is involved in the business What is her role?

Dawn has been involved in the business since the first day. She’s an  excellent organiser, much better than I am, so as the business has grown she’s been key to making sure customer service, order management, logistics, the financial aspects of the business and many other things work as they should do, which really are the key elements to the business working well.Open0643_1500px

Who was the first person that influenced you most?

In my aesthetic I think most of the craftsmen that influenced me, in particular when I was first starting out, died long before I was born and remain nameless. My family have lots of old leatherwork, saddlery and travel items around, and I developed an eye for the stitch  techniques and quality I wanted to achieve through them. I was also lucky to train with an ex Giddens (later a part of Swaine Adeney Brigg)  Master Saddler.IMG_9659

What memories do you have of your first order?

I remember being surprised people where full of enthusiasm for what we were selling. I made the first batch of belts more for fun than with the expectation of selling many or in fact any. I hadn’t picked up my tools for some time after a break, and I thought it would be fun. I didn’t realise at all that that moment was a fork in the road of our lives.inout

What is your favorite item from all items?

The answer to this is nearly always the most recent design I’ve completed or that I’m working on. What I really enjoy is bringing a design to life and working through the technical issues around making that design as good as it can be. Once we’ve worked all the bugs out I tend to feel it’s time for me to move on to the next new product. Overall I like to make our wallets most I think though. They are complex and taxing technically, but each process is quite short so my mind and body stay fresh.

Charlie_reflecting What tanneries do you work with and why?

All our non exotic leather is sourced in France or England. We’ll always try to source here in England first, and all of our Bridle leather comes from here, from JE Sedgwick and J&FJ Baker. Obviously supporting our home industries is important, but most important is that they are the best tanneries in the world for the types of leather they make.BTL_PLAIN_closed_1500px

Sourcing the best leather of a given type is key to making great products, so a lot of work goes in to building relationships with the best tanneries in the world,  wherever they are. I’m very keen on aniline leather that has great patination and ageing characteristics, so for example we work with Tannerie Degermann a lot, who produce the best calf of this type in the world, as well as firms like Bodin-Joyeax for instance.IMG_8462


I think the very best leather has always been difficult to find. In some  aspects it has got worse, in particular for thicker leathers where the  restrictions on the age a cow must be to enter the food chain has had an  effect on the availability of good leather, but other areas like calf  leather is unaffected. Quality is a function of attention to detail, if  the right tannery is selected and the right relationship is developed  with that tannery amazing leather is available, though the price can be  very high now as the competition for good leather is so strong and  Hermes and Vuitton own and control so many of the tanneries.

To be continued…

about-shoes-on-the-danube6_574_383(…) Miklós Voglhut will not be a name synonymous with the majority of people but his story is just one of many linked to the Shoes on the Danube. Born in 1898 to an artistic Jewish family he decided from an early age that a career in music and theatre was what he wanted to pursue; his brother was a clarinet and saxophonist whilst his nephew was a well renowned jazz musician. His individual career gathered pace, but by 1924 there was large scale anti-semitism sweeping across Hungary and Europe, this led Miklós to change his name to a more Hungarian sounding stage name… and so Miklós Vig came into being (Vig in Hungarian means cheerful or merry).about-shoes-on-the-danube3_574_383

He was a student of Géza Boross and his talent was discovered by Dezső Gyárfás and Antal Nyáray. He had his first major successes at the Intim Kabaré as a soloist, and later performed frequently in other cabarets including the Budapest Operetta Theatre and Budapest Orfeum. Although he made many recordings, he became most famous as a singer of popular music on the radio. A 1935 article in Színházi Élet describes Miklós as a singer of popular sentimental songs.about-shoes-on-the-danube8_574_431

According to Gramofon (the Hungarian Jazz and Classical music magazine) Miklós was considered part of the first generation of recorded Hungarian musicians. When Deutsche Gramophone found themselves falling behind the competition, they signed Miklós who ultimately became their first dance-music star “beloved all around the country.” As a comedian, he performed in the early 1920s at various cabarets including the Rakéta Kabaré – occasionally with female partner Annus Nagy.

In the harsh winter of 1944 despite the fact he did not have a Jewish name and had married into a catholic family Miklós was rounded up along with others from the ghetto by the ruling Arrow Cross Party for Jewish activities. Like many before him and many more after him he was forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river; a firing squad then shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away. This was a common practice that occurred during 1944-1945; although the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg did save many more from this terrible fate.about-shoes-on-the-danube4_574_383

Sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay have created a moving memorial to these Holocaust atrocities that sits in front of the magnificent Parliament building on the edge of the river. What visitors will see are 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron. Different sizes and styles reflect how nobody was spared from the brutality of the Arrow Cross militia (the shoes depict children, women, businessmen, sportsmen etc.). Behind the sculpture lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench where at three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”…

Read full story here


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