It’s always fascinating to me to talk to people that really love what they do. This to me is so inspiring, even when I am unfamiliar with the process. There is a certain look that appears in their eyes, their speech becomes a passionate monologue and their hands rest on their heart several times, because that is where it all comes from and it is evident in the quality and beauty of the work.
Papini Leather is this beautiful little shop along the Arno River next to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. This was a frequent stop for us while we were in Florence, because of the warm welcome we received from Cecelia (pronounced: ch-chel-ee-ah), the owner. Her store is filled with beautiful leather goods that her family has operated since 1896. This craft has been passed down through the generations, acquiring popularity from people like the Royal Family and Presidents of the United States. Just a humble little shop with world recognition.
Cecelia was gracious to let me take photos of their store and the tools they use to make and stamp the product. She loved telling us about the process and she opened drawers to pull out wallets and bags in the array of colors they offer. Something for everyone, as they not only had vivid blues, yellows and reds there was also shades of those colors, even in purple, green, and orange. It was a feast for the eyes and I struggled picking out just one thing, in one color, and one style.
Cecelia was also there with her daughter, sister and husband all working together in the shop. I loved seeing the family working together and supporting this tradition. For me this whole experience felt special, but I couldn’t help but worry. Not a lot of worry, but a question about the future of the craft. As we experienced in our travels, there are techniques and skills in some of these places that are being lost and discontinued. Not because there isn’t a want or need for these works, but because the world is changing and an expensive handbag from Italy next to a cheap handbag that kinda looks the same made in China….well, you know my point. I know that there are several crafts people who are worried about what they do being lost forever, because the heir to the company was called to something else that could support a family more than the craft. This is true for leather workers, lace makers, beer makers and paper makers alike. How can they keep up with fast fashion? This is a tricky thing.
Well, I know you support art, or else I wouldn’t be writing this to you. But maybe you know about an art show, craft fair, local artist, farmer, baker, etc. Maybe you can go pay them a visit. Ask them how they are and ask them about their craft. Really connect with them and what they do so that their story sticks with you. Because art takes time, knowledge and passion and that’s some good energy to take up some space in your life and hopefully bring you joy.