Leather for Artists
By Nick Pernokas
In the world of leather, accolades are given to those who can create the most unique or beautiful decoration on an object. So much the better if it’s functional. But there is another school of thought in design, and that is beauty through simplicity. This is hard to define, but the Japanese have a word for it: Shibumi.
In Toledo, Spain, there is a craftsman who is defining this concept by example, and at the same time is filling a need of which most of us are unaware. Javier Rodriguez was not always a leather craftsman; he was a chef in his own restaurant until the Spanish Recession forced him to close. Javier was also a talented painter and sketch artist, and in his free time he enjoyed traveling to France on his motorcycle and painting some of the things that he saw. One problem that Javier had was not being able to carry his drawing tools and watercolor set safely on his motorcycle.
Javier had always enjoyed making things, and one day he made a dog leash to walk his Great Pyrenees, Chanel, out of nylon cord. He looked at it and thought how much better it would look if it was covered in leather. Javier went on the internet and watched a video about hand sewing leather. Soon he had not only a leather covered leash, but a sheath for his mountain knife. With more studying of the internet and practice, he began to address the problems that he’d had as a traveling artist.
“It was then when I came up with the development of the models I make, with the aim of making it as easy as possible and with minimal space, to practice this hobby (painting) in any place,” says Javier.
Javier made his first prototypes for a watercolor paint kit that would contain everything the artist would need, including a cup. The entire set folded flat in an attractive leather case that could be easily carried in a motorcycle saddle bag or a backpack. He also made a similar kit for sketching. Artists who liked to work in nature responded well to these attractive cases. Soon Javier opened an internet page on Etsy to sell his “leather for artists” products. At this time he has nine models with more in development.
Javier named his business Charolaise Leather, in tribute to the French breed of cattle that is known for their beauty.
“My specialty is oriented to artists, watercolorists, cartoonists, illustrators and other artistic areas.”
Javier’s wife, Nines, is also an artist as well as a nurse. He has begun to collaborate with her on a small collection of women’s handbags.
Javier’s small shop is located at his home. He does everything by himself. One room houses his machines, tools and dyes, while the other one contains a large cutting table and his inventory of leather. The well-lit rooms also feature some of his paintings on the wall, many of which are of Arabian horses reminiscent of one that he used to own. Nina Simone, or perhaps another female Jazz singer, provides background music from a stereo under the window.
Javier primarily uses vegetable tanned cowhide. He offers 16 colors, which he mixes and dyes himself. He also uses small amounts of lambskin, pig skin and deerskin. Until recently, Javier hand sewed everything, but now he uses a sewing machine as much as possible. This increases his efficiency, as well as lets him use more colored threads to match all of the colors he offers. On case work though, there are still a lot of things that have to be sewn by hand.
The cases are meticulously constructed, and anything that could wear out is replaceable. Small brass fixtures allow the elastic in the pencil case to be removed, while the watercolor kit has a tiny row of air holes to allow damp brushes to breathe.
Javier goes to great lengths to finish his edges nicely. A Japanese sharpening stone is used to keep his edgers razor sharp, and part of his finishing process involves using a filleteuse on the edge. This electric tool puts a nice crease along the edge of the leather, as well as preparing the edge for the edge paint. When Javier is done, the edges look like ebony mirrors.
Because he does everything himself, Javier frequently alters the design or personalizes a case for an individual client. Names, along with the Charolaise Leather logo, are usually applied with a hot iron to the cover.
“I have no problem doing something unique for a client.”
As a final touch, Javier makes a cloth bag in which his products are shipped. These are attractive and his logo is displayed on them by monogram or leather patch. Many of his customers keep this cover as an additional layer of protection for their cases as they travel. Javier’s cases have indeed traveled. He has customers in many U.S. states, as well as European countries and Japan.
After looking at the Charolaise products, it’s obvious that the culinary profession’s loss was the art world’s gain.
Javier’s base price for his simplest case is just under $100.00. To find out more about Javier’s Leather for Artists, call 609142323, or go to :
Javier Rodríguez Martín
C/Greco n ° 5
Nines’ paintings can be viewed on Instagram at @nineskapaint