BeanScene Magazine

Lovely leather

From the November 2014 issue.
Lovely leather

At the Santa Croce Monastery in Florence, Scuola Del Cuoio combines a centuries-old history with the ancient, artisan tradition of leather production.

Florence’s past is closely tied with the artisan production of leather goods, for which it is now renowned throughout the world.

After years of abandonment, the Santa Croce monastery was given a new lease of life following World War II. Franciscan friars came up with the idea of converting the monastery into a leather school to teach orphans about this age-old craft. And with that, Scuola Del Cuoio was born.

Marcello Gori and Silvano Casini owned a nearby leather workshop specialising in fine products such as desk sets and jewellery cases. Seen as a perfect fit for the project, they were invited to take part in training the orphans.

In 1950, the Gori and Casini families closed their workshop and relocated to the Santa Croce Monastery. Hand-crafted leather handbags was the primary focus and this still forms the mainstay of the business, with the addition of other leather items such as briefcases and jackets.

Following the passing of the school’s founders, Laura – together with her sisters Francesca and Barbara, and son Tommaso – continues the legacy left by her father Marcello and uncle Silvano. As she explains however, Scuola Del Cuoio is not what many visitors imagine it to be. “Because of its name, people expect to be able to purchase products made by our students, but this is actually not the case. There are two entirely separate elements to the business – the school and the artisan workshop.”

The school welcomes students from all over the world. And despite hailing from various countries, what unites them is their passion for leather and willingness to learn.

“At the school, students learn how to treat leather and produce leather goods. Whatever they make, they can keep…They are free to use leather in the quantity they need and can waste whatever they need to in order to get the product right,” adds Laura. 

Once a student completes their leather products, they are reviewed, and students deemed to possess excellent craftsmanship may be offered an internship. Those who excel may be offered a permanent position in the workshop. 

Leather used in the workshop is always of the highest quality and must be produced and tanned exclusively in Italy. Laura and her son Tommaso are tasked with sourcing the finest Italian leathers and only those that make the cut are brought into the workshop, where skilled artisans transform each piece into something truly special.

“We use a very selective process to choose the best leather for our needs. When purchasing leather, we go for quality but also base our selections on what is required in the final product being made,” Laura explains, hinting that those looking to purchase a high quality leather product should not be looking for a bargain.

“It can be difficult for people to tell the quality of leather when a product has already been made. You can tell how good the quality is when you cut the leather and go beneath the surface.”

To read the full story, pick up your copy of the November/December 2014 issue.

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