There are certain very rare moments when I see something so beautiful that I stop and just stare in amazement. Almost out loud, I’ll wonder, “who made this” or “how did they do that” before diving in to slake my curiosity. It was in this fashion on a non-descript Paris street that I discovered the leatherwork by Bertrand Montillet.
It was already late afternoon when we walked into Altan Bottier – a luxury leather shoe atelier in the 8th arrondissement. Amongst the crowded rows of derbys and oxfords, I was drawn to a small collection of envelope-shaped leather cardholders and wallets in a floor level curio cabinet. Though only dimly lit inside the case, it was clear how much care went into crafting each piece; the details were immaculate. The wallets were obviously made by hand, yet each one featured uniform saddle stitches and perfectly sealed edges. Every single piece was a tiny work of art.
In embarrassingly broken (but enthusiastic) French, I asked the storeowner for more information about the leather cases. After an entertaining exchange of Franglais, he rummaged through some cards on his desk and handed me one that read “Bertrand Montillet.” I barely had time to put two and two together before he reached into another drawer and revealed his personal glasses case. I had never seen anything like it before – at least not in leather. It was comprised of two cylindrical pieces, which were threaded on the inside (like a screw) with manipulated leather. That was the clincher: I had to know more about M. Montillet.
So four months and a commission later, I was lucky enough to interview M. Montillet about his work, his passion, and his underlying creative process. For posterity, the interview below is in both English and French but be sure to scroll all the way through to see a generous collection of his work. Thanks to Jacqueline Sime for the translations.
When I first saw the heritage-inspired wares and garments from England’s Tender Co., I knew I had found something very special. Recently, I got to relive that experience in discovering their lesser-known side project called “Trestle Shop”.
45° “Hands Free” Watch
In short, it is a very limited collection of experimental and unconventional pieces that were made alongside the Tender Co. line. The project is run by Tender designer William Kroll and his wife Deborah, who make each piece by hand in their London home. Speaking to the adventuresome nature of Trestle Shop, there is a huge variety of goods that are available from dip-dyed knit socks to hand thrown pottery.
A great example and personal favorite of the current collection is the natural sand-polished Cow Horn Comb. In the midst of researching button materials for the Tender Co. main line, they discovered that combs were traditionally made of horn because it is strong enough to withstand being cut into fine teeth. So in the spirit of doing, Trestle Shop crafted a handful of combs that are individually packaged in a riveted slip of English-woven mattress ticking.
Hand Thrown English Red Clay Coffee Mug Detail
By nature, Trestle Shop as a whole has an extremely limited stock that is also in constant flux. Often times there will be only one piece available in a given design, and designs themselves are always changing. This of course may make it difficult to own a Trestle Shop piece, but the exclusivity speaks to what the project is really about – namely artistry. Rather than settling into iterations of products that sell, William and Deborah are interested in investigating their own creativity regardless of how it manifests. For me, learning about their work has been a breath of fresh air that makes me eager to see what other side projects are out there!
You can see the rest of the current Trestle Shop collection by visiting their website. Keep in mind that their stock changes constantly with new creations appearing as quickly as they vanish, so check back frequently!
- Hand Dyed (Black Logwood) Leather Wallet Detail
- Brighton Design Archives Tee (image by William's great aunt)
- Hand Dyed (Woad Indigo) Boxer Shorts
- Natural Horn Comb & Mattress Ticking Case
- 45° "Hands Free" Watch
- Hand Thrown English Red Clay Coffee Mug Detail
If you are familiar with the work from Teranishi Handcrafted, you’re probably aware that they sell individually handcrafted, made-to-order leather goods rather than ‘products’. Everything is designed and made in a small studio in Vashon Island, WA with an incredible and consistent attention to detail.
Second Indigo Collection (Clockwise from Top Left: Bifold, Gradient Bifold, Tuck Wallet, Key Fob, & Glasses Case)
It’s no surprise then to see these characteristics carrying over in a recently released iteration of their Indigo Collection. Comprised of five different pieces, it is a limited and experimental run of leather goods which have all been dyed using natural indigo. This process is exclusive to Teranishi Handcrafted and has been ongoing for many months, so it’s really exciting to see such wonderful results!
Dip-Dyed Gradient Bifold (Vegetable Tanned Leather)
This second collection consists of familiar favorites from Teranishi: the minimalist bifold, glasses case, tuck wallet, and key fob. Aside from the gradient bifold, each piece is crafted from Horween Chromexcel which is prized for it’s dynamic visual and tactile properties.
Indigo-Dyed Linen Thread From the Vat
The leather and linen thread is dyed by hand in a vat of natural indigo. Once completely saturated, these materials achieve the rich and unrivaled blue that set this collection apart from other leather goods. After dyeing, the linen thread is coated with natural beeswax for posterity and the pieces can be stitched or assembled.
It’s worth pointing out that this project is ongoing, so be sure to check the Teranishi Handcrafted blog for details and updates on future works. In the meantime scroll through the gallery below for more images of the current collection – including some shots from the studio.
- Waxing Thread by Hand
- Indigo Glasses Case & Protective Bag
- Gradient Bifold Components Fresh From the Vat
- Clockwise from Top Left: Bifold, Gradient Bifold, Tuck Wallet, Key Fob, & Glasses Case
- Dip-Dyed Gradient Bifold (Vegetable Tanned Leather)
- Indigo-Dyed Linen Thread From the Vat
Since launching his brand in 2006, Issac Reina has produced a wonderful portfolio of small leather goods. His design concept places a huge emphasis on both practicality and “unsophisticated” elegance. This wallet from last season is a great example of his approach.
The “One Leaf” wallet is crafted from a single piece of navy blue, italian vegetable-tanned leather. Reina nonetheless creates compartments for credit cards by folding the leather over onto itself and stitching everything into place. It’s a minimal, yet innovative design that is certainly easy on the eyes. As for actual usage, it would be interesting to hear some user reviews.
Bark-tanned deerskin pre-patina
Everyone knows the devil is in the details. Naturally, I prefer to take a more optimistic stance on that subject. In designing something, I find that details offer opportunities to truly shine through your work. After years of exposure to different artisans and products, I’m happy to report that I’m not alone. The leather goods from Barrett Alley are among the most carefully composed pieces I’ve seen to date. To start, he sources materials from the best suppliers throughout the world – and even throughout time. Often he will include hard to find antique textiles in his work, bringing together different times and traditions of craftsmanship.
“Umakake” – or horse blanket – accent
For his Devilish Deerskin No. 4 wallet, he relied on a hunter-harvested deerskin which was naturally bark-tanned in Texas. As if the materials weren’t unique enough, the inside is lined with a Meiji period horse blanket which was hand-woven and dyed with pure indigo. Finally relying on waxed linen thread for added durability, everything is cut, stitched, and finished by hand. How bout them details?
- "Umakake" - or horse blanket - accent
- Bark-tanned deerskin pre-patina
- Wallet Interior
- The single hunter-harvested deerskin used for the limited run of 10 wallets
3/4 Profile with removable strap
Apparently Australia is brimming with great companies. First it was Bellroy wallets, Feit shoes, and now Tailfeather leather goods. In addition to looking amazing, this travel wallet is a great tool for travelers to maintain cards and devices on the go. I’d be curious to see how it would wear in as Kangaroo leather tends to mould itself tightly around your goods for added security. While it is a beautiful design, my one gripe is the use of lasers to cut edges and etch the logo. Call me old fashioned, but I’d pay more for a completely handmade version with added character to supplement an already wonderful piece.
- Back profile with vanishing strap
- 3/4 Profile with removable strap
- Room for your notes, your passport, your cards, your phone, & coinage.
An interesting (yet impractical?) spin on a wallet. Not only do the cards orientate vertically, but there is a third section of the wallet which acts as a coin purse. Neat idea, but I think I’d rather not have to sit on something so bulky.
Front profile (zipped coin compartment)
The vast majority of products at Truman Handcrafted can be characterized as minimal, practical, and beautiful. This recently discontinued cutaway bifold is no exception. Cut from 4-5 oz Wickett & Craig vegetable tanned leather and stitched by hand with waxed linen thread, this wallet is sure to welcome use and abuse with a wonderful patina. Be sure to check out what’s in the works at blog.trumanhandcrafted.com. According to Teppei (the owner) there are new designs in the works for 2012. Judging by the clean lines of yesteryear, I’ll go out on a limb to assume they’re awesome.