Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Series on Leather Craftsmen: Interview with Gad Tal

There is a definite resurgence in both the search for handcrafted and highly detailed goods, and the opportunity learn the trade itself. The use of locally sourced materials and locally produced products, combined with the immense skill of the craftsman has crossed multiple segments – from shoes, to neckwear, to watches and fine jewelry.

In what will be the first in a series of posts about leather craftsmen specifically, I spoke with San Francisco based artisan Gad Tal, who owns Tauro Leather. Having apprenticed with a Master Craftswoman who trained at Herm├Ęs, Tal currently focuses on made-to-order or small production pieces, doing all of the work himself. The result is not only of the highest quality, and personalized to the customer’s needs, but also holds the result of Tal’s years of experience and dedication to his craft.

Here he answers a few questions about how he got started, what his process is, and how long your custom piece may take to produce.

MR: Can you describe your background and what lead you to be interested in leather craft?

GT: I think my interest in leather craft can be attributed to growing up in a home where creativity and productivity were always encouraged. My mom was an art teacher and she gave me plenty of room to explore my creative interests, whether that involved painting murals on my bedroom walls or disassembling and reassembling household appliances. I love working with my hands and I enjoy the physical aspects as well the artistic aspects of building things. When the occasion arose to apprentice with a highly regarded leather artisan, I quickly jumped at the chance and took to the craft like a fish to water.

MR: What were some of the key learnings you received from your apprenticeship?

GT: I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to apprentice with (Hermes trained) Beatrice Amblard. During those five years, I acquired a knowledge of the coveted techniques used by the French fashion house and spent a great deal of time mastering the craft. In addition to learning the actual techniques, the greatest skills I acquired were an impeccable attention to detail and a reverence for the use of the finest materials.

MR: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

GT: I feel my design aesthetic is constantly evolving. I believe this is important in becoming a good designer. By studying the finest form of my craft, I am able to apply my technique in various manifestations and achieve beautiful results. I tend to create designs that appear simple, but upon further inspection reveal a well-thought out pattern. Many of my designs are constructed from a single piece of leather shaped and stitched to form a three dimensional object. I appreciate the challenge of creating these types of patterns. Another aspect of my designs that I enjoy is the marriage of craftsmanship, sophistication and elegance with an almost raw aesthetic. By raw, I mean to say that the origin and intrinsic beauty of the materials and craftsmanship are proudly displayed. I select leathers that I know will take on a natural patina. I hand-stitch nearly all of my work using a traditional saddle stitch. These are a few of the details that contribute to my over-all design aesthetic.

MR: Where do you source your materials from? How involved are you in processing the materials you use?

GT: In regards to leather, I purchase from local distributers who offer hides tanned in U.S. tanneries. Aside from supporting the local economy, this allows me the opportunity to hand select each individual skin for it's desired characteristics and appropriateness for it's intended use. I look for hides that will be complimentary to my designs and take on a rich patina with use. I feel the quality of the leather is parallel to to the design itself. In regards to hardware, I tend to take the minimalist route, favoring functionality over ornamentation. I often use pieces intended for equestrian use, as these are designed to last and often work well with my designs.

MR: On average, how long does a piece take to craft?

GT: A simple wallet, for example, might take a day to complete, where a bag could take as long as a week. There are many steps involved which many people may not be aware of. The leather is usually split and skived to achieve the desired thickness and reduce bulk. Edges are burnished using a hot iron and finished using a labor intensive process of repeated sanding and application of dyes and beeswax. These steps produce a smooth finish that is infused into the leather, rather than "painted" on. These are only a few of the techniques that differentiate this French method of leather working versus the typical western style. Although most people are not aware of the many steps involved, the outcome is apparent in the end product.

Variation of Bag No 1 in Saddlebrown, with iPad Sleeve

Bag No 1 in Equine

Wallet No 51 in Natural Ring Lizard

Wallet No 54 in Saddlebrown

When asked what his advice would be to emerging designers, Tal answered to “do what you love” and to “master your craft”.

To learn more about his work, and to inquire about ordering a piece for yourself contact:

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