Thursday, August 06, 2015

Beatrice Does Leather - Your Imagination Is The Limit

As we pushed the stroller to the park yesterday we passed lots of little shops, but one particularly caught my eye.  It had stunning purses on beautiful stands.  Not many.  But exquisite.  I thought, "How much must each one cost to have a store here in San Francisco with just a small selection?"  So I went in to check.

A woman came out from the back, and I noticed there were people back there working.  They actually made the items (there was more than purses) right here.  We started talking about the shop and the process of making these purses.  (The description below is from both our talk and her brochure.)

Beatrice (or Bea) Amblard is from Paris.  She got an apprenticeship at Hermes after finishing a course at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Paris.  Hermes sent her to their new San Francisco boutique in 1987.  After 14 years at Hermes, she went on her own and started April In Paris.

She's also added a school to pass on the centuries old traditions of leather work that she has learned. I understood that she has students who have some difficulties (such as dyslexia) in regular school.  That makes perfect sense to me, because I believe we force everyone into an academic track even though some, perhaps many, would be much better off in some other track, where they use other than academic skills.

Each work is unique.  She said she interviews customers to find out about their lifestyle and how they would use the item that will be made.  Each item should fit perfectly into the customers' lives.  Bea was passionate about her art and what she does.

This doesn't come cheap, of course.  There are lots of hours put into each item.  And she uses only the best materials.  The red alligator purse I pointed to (in the photo above) was the most expensive (of course that was the one I picked) at $15,000.  A bit out of my range.  But San Francisco has lots of people with plenty of discretionary income.  (And lots with none as well.)  And there are customers coming from the April In Paris website as well:  And she sees these as pieces of art, not disposable consumer items.

Her trademark is a play on her name Bea.  And it's on all the pieces. 

I enjoyed talking to her and I only thought to pull out the video late in the process and the rest of my party had gone off to the park so I felt I needed to go.  But here's the short video I made.  While I'm a little amused by most of the cutesy, high end coffee shops and other pretension stores, I felt that this was the real thing.  This was someone maintaining an old craft, maintaining it at the level of an art form and was able to make a living doing it.

Do go visit the website.  There are lots of examples of the work.

And also visit the website for the school.  When she talked about passing on what she has learned to the next generation and preserving the art form that has survived centuries, I thought about the school in the temple in Luang Prabang where monks were taught the skills  [bottom of the post] that would allow them to maintain the art in the many temples in that ancient Lao capital.

'Your imagination is the limit . .'

So is your pocket book, which for most of us won't be made by Bea and her team. But it's ok.  People who buy these things are preserving an old art form. 

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