Introduction of Leather Artists - Masters in Great Style
Written by: Zinnia Su-Jao Hsu in March 1999
Introduction of Leather Artists - Masters in Great Style

Toshikazu Yazawa

After retiring from a train conductor, Mr. Yazawa attended YMCA leather craft school in Tokyo in a venerable age of 50. Since then his creative energy started to be exploded. He has been lecturing in the KYOSHIN ELLE leather craft Institute for more than 20 years. During this period, he has won many grand awards and was ever on the board of trustee in Japan Leather Craft Association. His expertise about vege-dyeing and hand stitching has been implanted on any daily use objects in a persistent elegance. Simple life, strict teaching and delicate craftsmanship forms his style, nobody can compete these qualities. Born in 1925, now he is 74 and is still dedicated to the research and development on new skills and instruments in this field. Apparently the spirit of a typical Capricorn is transpired in this Japanese national master.

Jun Nakahama

Mr. Nakahama was enthusiastic about baseball as a child and was also fascinated by radio when he was bigger. Coincidently baseball gloves and radio cases were both made out of leather with a smelly scent. His obsession with the leather scent seemed to be the motivation for his future engagement in leather art.

When he was a journalist, once he had to interview many crafts centers, museums and artists for a report of “beauty in lives”. By this contact his childhood passion about leather was awakened. Immediately he gave up the

press without any hesitation and threw himself into leather art in 1974, in the age of 33.

Such as sporty gestures from his memory of childhood, affections from his life experiences, sympathy for animals and so on, all turn into his creative inspirations. He is definitely an artist in possession of a writing style and original ideas. By appreciating his work and sensing his creative motives, it always excites you like an impassioned current inside of you for a long. His specialty of applying Urushi (Japanese traditional lacquer) as a medium represents leather in a new form without losing its nature flavor. Such an achievement cannot be accumulated simply by time, endurance and techniques.

Peter Main

Peter Main, a pioneer on leathercrafts in Australia, not only the master in his own country, also possesses a good reputation internationally. The objects of his work are digested from the natural resources of his motherland, such a characteristic establishes an unique art in terms diplomacy. By using the wood carving technique for a foundation, he is an expert to play with vegetable tanned leather with very delicate carving and multiple assembling. His stylish dry brush and detail paintings realistically recreate color dimension and lighting effect in his own language. He is highly self-disciplined and believes that new knowledge, new concept and new technique are the principles to lead his students. My comments to his work is, "The secret of sky and the glamour of could is in mind. The mind is the instrument."


Form and function are emphasized in Selim's work. "Stillness and eternity", "practical and decorative" are the center concepts always illustrated in his creation to reach the aim of harmony. History and future are overlapped in his work: you see antique color meets modern line, or traditional function with contemporary form. He freely draws up the idea of Yin-Yang from nature. Reading Selim's work is like reading his philosophy, in stillness, with some Zen and a touch of oriental flavor that makes you refreshed. Selim, a 56-year old artist lives in Ibiza Spain, whose book entitled "Antiquities of tomorrow" contains his mature thoughts, a book worthy more than a book.

Rene Berends

Rene has settled down in Munich Germany after traveling around the world for years. He and his wife Mrs. Doris Strehl-Berends run a studio named "Bear Gallery". In his early traveling years, he found himself attracted by leathercrafts accidentally, since then he has started to work on leather bags and has become an expert after years. Meanwhile he also devotes himself on the promotion and interactions between other leather craftsmen. To achieve his idea of "Together, we are stronger", in 1990 he linked leathercrafts lovers all over the world and founded "LEDER-GILDE e.V." Now he actively travels around to open up more spaces for leather workers. Though the difficulty of this mission is not a fairy tale to tell people easily, it never blows out the passion of this Dutch German director and turns into a power of progress. Behind his golden frame glasses, his witty eyes tell you where the faith is. The curly moustache on his face smiles to anyone and anything in front of him. I feel lucky and honored to have such a companion in the other end of the globe, whom is always striving for the art of leathercrafts.

Jose Bernardo

Born in 1953 in Argentina, educated in Spain and Morocco, Jose Bernardo resides in Mexico nowadays. He has been devoted himself to leathercrafts for a long time and has developed it into a status of art. In Jose's world, leather is an organic element, which can be transformed into any kind of creative imagery, an incredible inspiration of ideas. His work speaks immense deep insides itself, because of the nature influences and his diverse life experiences. Jose introduces new textures on leather represented in a sense of silk, sands or brass, and so on. When you see the imagery of all kinds of textures made out of leather put together not orderly, you actually hear the harmony and rhythm.

Robert Beard

From musicians, movie stars to presidents, collectors of his leathercrafts work admire his crazy ideas, the artist named Bob. The transformable and flexible nature of leather makes him believe that leather is the only beautiful medium for his creation. Recently he emphasizes on the 3 dimensional scenery and Bird necklace, meanwhile he tutors this special skill in the States and overseas. He actively participates in international workshops and makes efforts on communications of artists and hobbyists. He learned from his past experience that sometimes tools limited the performance of leathercrafts, therefore he has dedicated himself to study the tools and then becomes an expert. He takes orders of people’s special needs as a challenge. As a famous creator of “Pro-Series Tools” adds one on the various roles which Bob has played.

Robb Barr

In 1997, Robb Barr visited Taiwan and tutored a workshop in Taipei for several days. The leather workers here have learned about him through that opportunity. His father a German American and his mother an American Indian delivered him a very colorful racial background for his creation.

For 10 years before he becomes famous, he could have given up without his mother's encouragement to fight for all kinds of difficulties. Unfortunately his mother couldn't wait to see his success in her life. Every time he mentioned her, his eyes were always with tears of love to her.

In 1998 the year of tiger was a turning point to Robb, he had a heart transplantation surgery successfully. Before 1998, sharing with all he had with others was the most bliss in his life. He was a very love-giving teacher and was never afraid of his pupils being superior to him. After 1998, besides the same perception, one more thing added, a thankful heart. "Thanks hope never gives up me. Thanks faith always stands by me. Thanks all my friends who pray for me. Thanks for the advanced medical technology. Thanks for God's miracle. Thanks for the power of love to deliver my rebirth. I will cherish my new life with my new heart of love everyday." he said to me in his letter. My prayer for him never stops.

Robb has published three teaching videos and will do four more in the future. In the tapes he generously shows all the techniques of his expertise. Such as his unique curling cutting skill by multi blade knife, animals sculpturing, dying, etc. They are essential references for leather workers.

What a bliss of the year to meet numerous leathercrafts artists around the world. As a lover of leathercrafts for over 18 years, I deeply believe that each of them have dedicated their life time to the enthusiasm of leathercrafts that brings them to the stage of nowadays. I found the characteristics of great leathercrafts artists in common are, a sensible yet passionate heart, a pair of tender yet strong hands, immense patience and meditative thinking.
Form now on towards the next Millenium, let all of us be accompanied and supportive to each other.

I like to thank all my international friends for your generous support of the precious documents and pictures. Without them, there will not be an opportunity to share for the leather lovers here.