Sunday, 1 July 2012

Leather Factory - from Buffalo to Bag

Hello world,

My sister Ola has recently developed a great interest in working with leather. She makes the most beautiful bags with natural edges, even people I don't know come up to me and ask about it :) Anyways, the point here is that through her interest, I got to tag along with her as she was shown around leather shops, tool shops as well as a factory in which buffalo skin is turned into many different leather goods.

Having visited Mumbai's area of Nagpada in the quest of finding buttons, clasps and studs in order to decorate and finish off the leather projects, we drove to Dharavi to find and purchase leather of different colours and textures. Dharavi is one of Mumbai's biggest slums. It really is something to see. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. Yes, it is not the cleanest place one can find themselves in, I will not lie about that, but Dharavi holds within itself one of the greatest recycling programmes, pottery makers, carpenters, just to name a very few. Standing in front of yet another shop I got bored and started taking pictures of the ground. I liked the button in the sand, especially as we were in an area full of material and leather shops, and the necessary accessories.

We later moved a few meters to buy the essential tools in leather making. Here on this street, we spent a good twenty minutes, enough time for the mother of the two men governing the shop to try and hook us up, something the guys were not too happy about :P

All these metal tools are used to punch holes in the leather in order to make sewing easier and in order to decorate the leather. 

Going into one of the leather shops, the first thing that came to my mind was a leather library. Here, there were shelves upon shelves with rolled leather pieces, lined up according to their colours.

It was great to have the founder of the leather factory (which we will come to in a moment) with us, as he was able to explain everything, from the different uses of leather texture, how to spot whether a piece of leather is of good quality or not all the way to showing us how even the little scraps of leather can be used and do not need to be thrown out. 

As my sister tried to absorb as much knowledge as she could, my mind and feet started to wander around the shop. Here, on one of the walls, in bright red, the "om"symbol decorated in the shop. A very important symbol in Hinduism, I do not wish to explain it here at the risk of offending anyone with my shallow knowledge on this subject. 

The Factory 

After zigzagging through remarkable little streets, between houses and cricket fields, we finally reached the factory. A lot went on outside here. Massive turbines, tanks with hair removal cream (let me explain this rather random ingredient - it turns out that the quickest way to remove hair from a fresh buffalo piece of leather is indeed by soaking it in large amounts of hair removal cream) and piles of leather in different stages of their process met our eyes. Our noses were not too comfortable in all this as the smell both from the fresh leather pieces and the chemical smell of the cream were not the nicest to be around. Every piece of equipment was large, making us feel like little oompa loompas.

After bathing in the hair removal cream for a given period of time, the large leather sheets were then thrown into a turbine which helped separate the hair from the leather.

The blue hue of these leather pieces is explained by the bleaching qualities of the hair removal cream. They are later dyed into whichever colour is needed.

Here, a rather interesting way to expose all electrical units in a city prone to heavy rainfalls in the summer..

The now hairless leather sheets were moved into the next stages. Here in this room, the leather was cut by hand while deities watched over the business. Chemicals line up the walls, piles of leather ready to be turned into the demanded goods and plenty of other objects I just can't identify.

The material is used to every single last possible bit. This following photo depicts a box full of pillow cases made out of scraps. A great idea to reduce waste.

Walking out in the evening, our heads full of leather knowledge and excitements of the day, this awesome, full of 'graffiti' car bid us goodbye, as we drove into the sunset and straight into the best beer place in Mumbai, Cafe Mondegar.

Till later world.