One of the joys of being a professor is travel to interesting places for conferences and to give research seminars. Much of the travel is exhausting and pretty mundane, but some of it is fabulous! When I get a chance to travel to especially interesting places, I always try to spend a few extra days on vacation after the conference.
A few years ago I had a meeting in Florence, Italy. (I know, it is rough, but someone has to do it…) The meeting was interesting, and my talk on chemical communication of worms was well received. (Believe me, it is less obscure than you think…) As you may know, Florence is known for fabulous leatherwork, so I definitely took time after the meeting to visit some of the local shops.
My favorite stop was the in the shop of the craftsman shown here. I hate to admit that I forgot his name, but I definitely remember his work and his story! He learned his craft from his father and grandfather and has been making beautiful leather goods in the same shop that his family has had for decades.
I bought a wonderful coin purse from him. The work really caught my eye because of the formed leather and finish. I asked him about the finish, and he explained to me that it was rubbed leather with standard dye. I’ve done a lot of molded pieces in my life but nothing that looked quite like this.
As I mentioned in a recent blog, I’ve been working a lot lately on leather boxes. One of the keys to my new design is fairly intense rubbing and forming over wooden blocks that are cut to the right sizes. I realized that this would be a nice chance to explore the sort of finish that I found in Italy. I’m very happy with the result and really owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful craftsman in Florence who shared his knowledge with me.
I love my job as professor and I love my craft of leatherwork. Sometimes the demands of the university keep me from getting into my shop as often as I would like, but I always need to remember the great opportunities when I travel to meet other scientists and the associated joy of meeting other craftsmen and seeing beautiful places.