An education

By Elizabeth Varnell, Photograph by James Chiang | August 19, 2010 | Story

It's unnerving to study with a master—especially if you're a novice in his field and don't speak his language. As the style director of this magazine, I got a front-row seat in Dominique Michaux's workshop at Hermès to learn a few leatherwork techniques from the world-class artisan, whose unlikely transfer from France to the leather-goods house's Grant Avenue boutique earlier this year to restore our local glitterati's cherished Kelly and Birkin bags earned Hermès a nod for serendipity in this month's “The Best of the (Brave, New) Bay Area 2010".As photographer James Chiang snapped away, sometimes inches from my fingers, Michaux showed me how to make a leather card holder by hand. He taught me the proper way to thread needles, as well as how to measure and mark where the needle would pierce the leather; showed me how to hold two pieces of leather together with a wooden claw; taught me the technique of sewing stitches through both sides of a hole simultaneously; and pointed out the soldering tools, which seal the leather's edges. After an hour of wishing I had three arms, I began feeling pretty good about my handiwork, until I turned the card holder over and saw loose (no!) stitches. No matter—Michaux simply poked around until the stitches lay flat. Turns out you don't have to be perfect when an expert's looking over your shoulder.


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