MAKER SPOLIGHT#1: Vladimir Petrov
Brief Introduction of yourself and the company
AM: Please tell us a bit about yourself, your previous professional experience, where did you learn the trade how you got into it and where are you located?
VP: My name is Vladimir Petrov, I’m from Serbia but for last almost 20 years I’m living in Oslo, Norway. My professional life is pretty colourful, I have a decade long experience with different printing techniques and desktop publishing and more than two decades as a programmer, IT architect and manager.
6 years ago I found the peace in leather working.
I may say I started learning about leathers and techniques by accident, when someday I got my first expensive watch (yeah, I’m kind of a watch geek). The watch-strap was too short for my grizzly sized wrist and I couldn’t find good straps that I was satisfied with, therefore, I decided to make my own which brought me into the game :)
Living in Norway has many good sides, but if you want to learn something about traditional crafts, then, you are on your own.
I made my first steps in the trade watching numerous video tutorials on Youtube, "Nigel Armitage" ones were among the most helpful to me, I also got some good books, I particularly liked the one from Valerie Michael.
Having no real tutoring in the craft was tough and it took me a lot trial and error to get a grasp on the various techniques, I also started connecting with other artisans (Louis Chelli was one of them) and their advices were priceless.
AM: Tell us about your company, how and when did you get started?
VP: I started my company about 4 years ago when I was confident enough in my skills. As you may guess, my first pieces were watch-straps. Many watchmakers in Oslo got to know my work and customers also started to talk about the quality of my straps. Today, even though my focus shifted to more complex pieces, watch strap is what I do the most.
AM: Tell us a bit about the products you make, your making process, the leather you use, any personal preferences?
VP: For the last couple of years my appetite has grown and I do bags, pouches and wallets.
Unlike many other crafters, I’m making made-to-order and bespoke products only, therefore, I have no stock of finished goods. My goods are created and crafted completely from scratch, this also requires vast amount of time spent with the client to design the product.
My goal is to craft a product that makes my customer 100% happy, this is quite challenging as every single piece is unique, it is comparable to make a prototype each time, but harder since there is no room for error and the product must be perfect the first time!
I cut, assemble, stitch and finish all my products by hand. I use computer and laser plotter to precisely draw my templates, a combination of traditional and modern techniques.
If I have to choose two leather types I would say goat and calf. When it comes to exotics, ostrich is at the first place followed by lizards.
AM: How does the customer get in touch with you? Do you sell through Internet? Do you also have a boutique or a distributor?
VP: Majority of my customers get to know me through the internet. Very often they find me on Instagram. For now I only have a workshop since my working style doesn’t require a boutique.
AM: What is the craziest/toughest project you had to create for a customer?
Oh, that was one of the latest bags I have made, a customer required piped edges with stiffed and narrow sides. Until the very end I didn’t know if I’ll be able to turn the bag inside-out. Luckily I made it, but said to myself: never again!
AM: What are your future plans/dreams for the workshop?
VP: My place is getting really crowed with all the leathers I stock, templates and tools, a new, spacious place for my workshop is an emerging need.
I am also thinking to invest in a belt type leather splitter and maybe a stitching machine since certain designs are very hard to make entirely by hand.
Let’s talk a bit about technique:
AM : What type of product do you enjoy making the most and what about your favorite step in the making?
Maybe sounds like a stereotype but I like making bags, always challenging, always something new to learn, to improve etc... I like the earliest stage of the making, thinking about the design, going mentally through the whole process of making, all the parts, the assembly, the finish etc...
I never begin making a bag without having a complete and clear picture in my head.
AM: Any favorite tool?
VP: Oh, my knifes, especially skivers, I’m totally dependent on them… and pricking irons too :)
AM: In your opinion what is the toughest technique or step in the making of a project?
Two things I find tough to master and the first one is the saddle stitching, a good stitching must be harmonious, every holes must be stabbed with the awl at the same angle and every single stitch tightened equally. It is easy to comprehend the technique mentally but it takes a lot of time and practice before body and hands work together to make a proper stitching.
It takes even longer if you’re on your own without supervision of the master artisan!
Other technique I find tough sometimes is pattern making, you have to think and calculate all the allowances, bends and lengths accurately. It is so easy to forget some of them and you usually notice the error too late when the leather is already cut:)
AM: Your most valuable advice for beginners?
If you have a chance to get a professional tutoring, grab the chance, you’ll spare yourself a lot of time and frustration. Look what other artisans make and think about how it is made, if you are uncertain, ask them directly, many of them are quite friendly and love sharing their knowledge, but most of all, try getting better every days, pay attention to details and challenge yourself with new products.
More creations from Vladimir:
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