Leather Factory Visit

A couple of days ago my friend Virginia arranged for us to go and visit a leather processing factory managed by someone she knows. Over the phone the employee she liaised with there was really fairly convinced that there would be little of interest there for me, as the leather they produce is all ‘very thick’ and she felt I’d not be wanting any of it.

As Virginia passed this back to me, I could tell she felt that could be so, too, and I had to remind her that well as she thinks she knows me, and thinks she knows my work, she really could not interpret what I’d find ‘interesting’. When browsing in a shop or a market, and asked what I am looking for, my answer is generally a polite form of “I’ll know it when I see it”. Sometimes there is a particular thing in my mind’s eye, but so often a material sparks an idea, and so it proved this time.

One of several the company, Zenda, operates in different countries, this factory is on the northern outskirts of Montevideo. http://www.zendaleather.com/ As modern as tomorrow, it’s huge. Which is hardly suprising considering the huge amount of beef that is raised here for local and export markets. As the animals graze on natural pastures and are gently moved around by men on horseback (gauchos) in a relaxed unhurried fashion, it is hardly suprising that it is oh-so-tender, and full of real flavour. Everyone who comes here remarks on the meat, and although prices are rising like everywhere else, the market price is controlled and so meat is reasonably affordable. And the very top cuts are still priced far lower than the equivalent cuts in Aus or USA markets.

The admin section was really like visiting a modern upscale mall, with a clearly architect designed interior of modern materials, soft neutral colours, sand blasted glass partitions, brushed metals and leather of course. The reception area, meeting and conference rooms featured some large paintings of one of our favourite local artists, Donner, on the walls. It is all so drop dead modern and gorgeous I could live there. I’d love to have taken snaps but didn’t like to as we swept through to the lower floor of the processing plant itself.

There, racks and racks, holding thousands of hides in various stages of processing were set out through a huge area, which was well lit, with exhaust fans operating everywhere over the processing areas, and barely a speck of dust on the floor. Very organised, efficient and orderly. We went over to a spot where there were many different hides folded and stacked showing a variety of colours and finishes, including some interesting stamped textures that really looked like the reptile skins they weren’t. Several there caught my imagination and so I bought these two whole hides, they don’t do offcuts – the usual order from furniture or clothing manufactures is multiples of 100 hides. The company even offers a cutting and sewing service to a client’s requirements, presumably as long as you’re talking grand scale – airplane seats for example.

The upper leather pictured has a bronze metallic finish, and of course, is right up my street emotionally speaking. A coat out of it would be fabulous! but I will use it in my art.
The lower piece reminded me of crazed ceramic, and is clearly the result of some chemical treatment which stopped just short of one leg corner, so I have shown the edge of that to give you a bit more of an idea: the pewtery metallic finish is intriguing. This is very inspiring, and I know there will be somewhere I will even use just this edge, too, although it’s only about 20cm long. I’ll blog with pics when I start to use it.

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