To make something by hand is a statement: that a machine can’t produce what a pair of hands and a set of tools can. Aside from his laptop, no tool in Jonatan Staniec’s Wood Green studio predates 1900. Rolls of uncut leather, linen thread, wax, brass implements – the very portrait of a Victorian leather workshop fill the space he works in.
His family’s home in the north of Poland is where he took interest in his father’s business, a leather-worker who used modern machines to make modern bags and rucksacks. Returning home, he was struck by a sentimental notion, that of transforming raw materials into something tangible that people could cherish and grow with over time. It was a sentiment that nevertheless made business sense.
“Quality leather goods are beyond trends and fashion – they always were and always will be in demand.”
It would have been easier to learn the trade from his father, using chemicals to dye the leather and machines to cut and sew. But he opted for the hard road, discovering for himself, through trial and error, the art of the saddle-stitch, of using vegetable tanned leather and natural wax and old-fashioned linen threads to make each of his pieces. Inspired by the maker movements in America and Japan, he came to England to try and find a way of showcasing his talents.
Stainec found that working with his hands and creating something from scratch gave him a profound sense of joy. It was a collection of hand-made wallets that brought his work to a wider audience. He had been selling them door-to-door in East London boutiques and caught the attention of Shoreditch’s Labour & Wait.
Watching Jonatan work, sat on a wicker chair threading, gluing and finishing a wallet, there’s more going on than an artisan creating something beautiful and long lasting with his hands. Every piece that Jonatan makes, whether it’s wallets, iPad cases or cardholders, is the vision of a man who has found his calling.