Robert and I were lucky enough to catch the travelling design show Hermes Festival des Metiers at the Design Exchange last Friday.
Whomever came up with this idea was a genius. (My husband claims it was him and I then countered by asking where his Hermes pay cheques went to and if he couldn't get me a deal on a Kelly bag. That fantasy was short lived.)
The idea is simple.
Show off some of the dedicated talented artisans working as they lovingly create the masterpieces behind the famous brand Hermes and impress everyone with their amazing skill and the amount of detail and quality that goes into each piece they create.
I think there were about 10 artisan stations. Here are a few that I thought were the most interesting…
The glover maker was on a break but the punch he uses to cut the gloves from the leather looked very old school.
The jewelry maker worked almost exclusively with a microscope hand setting one by one 999 diamonds in each piece. Literally he taps a tiny hole just large enough for the diamond to fit into the gold. Then he hand shapes small hooks in the gold to hold the diamond in place. Finally he rounds each one of those hooks with another tool. There is no glue used at all. Each diamond is hand set with skill and precision.
He is choosing the diamond here, which BTW he picks up by licking the end of that tool a bit. There is a bit of saliva on each one of those hand set diamonds!
And here he is setting the diamond with the help of the microscope.
He was making one similar to this…
Each one of those pyramids have 999 diamonds in them.
I tried to find the price for this but couldn't. Let's just say I know I won't be getting it in my stocking this Christmas.
Then we saw the porcelain painter. Originally from Spain.
The cool thing is that this is all free hand.
And as you can see this border she is putting on is in silver and must be perfect each time as it cannot be touched up.
Painting like this there is no "back" or "delete" button. Just a steady hand and nerves of steel.
We only caught the end bit of this handbag demo. From what I saw you would never ever in a million years need to worry about any seams coming apart on your Hermes handbag. Each hole is hand pierced. Then it is all stitched by hand, beginning and ending with fancy triple stitches that are then sealed with glue and finally pounded down with a hammer. It won't be coming apart at the seams.
They had this in their display just to taunt me. This is the exact Kelly bag I would purchase should we win big at the lottery. You know why they had it chained down.
Then there was the really cool part…the screen printing process for the scarves.
This all begins with an artist. Which by the way is never on staff at Hermes. They acquire all of their artwork through licensing, which is to say the artist sells their rights to Hermes for a particular image. I was quite shocked to learn this. Each of the designs that the artisans recreate are not new and never their own. Often they are very old images. If you know copyright law they are no longer required to pay royalties to artists after the work is over 100 years old.
Once they buy the artwork an artisan must divide the image into around 43-47 plates or screens. She does this by tracing with clear acetate paper directly on top of the artist's image.
Each screen she creates represents one colour on the final scarf. It is up to her to choose the most important colours in the image and divide them into screens.
She has about 9 layers of clear ink drawn screens on this one image. In the end the final image will be 100% ink. So she knows she hasn't missed a spot on the artwork.
This is one of the final scarves created with the image. They often play around with the colours and do not match them to the artist's originals. This offers Hermes to bring back the design a few years later by simply switching the colours.
Once her ink drawings are turned into proper silk screens with the help of some ultra violet light and special chemicals they are placed into frames for the silk screening process that is also all done the old fashioned way.
The printer places the screen onto the large hand operated movable frame, lines it up correctly
drops the ink down and pulls it up and back down the image with a large squeegee using very precise equal pressure.
The screen is removed by an assistant and cleaned, then he waits till the ink has dried enough before he starts on the next screen on the same image. He does that around 47 times depending on the artwork. Making sure those images don't offset during the process is truly an art.
They wouldn't give away the secret as to why the ink doesn't bleed everywhere on the silk. He did mention though that the inks have a type of gum arabic that would make more of a paste like substance and help with the problem of bleeding.
Another interesting tid bit is that each scarf will take a year's worth of work just to create the screens.
Also once they make a run of that particular scarf you will never see the exact same printed again. Several years later they may decide to reuse the original image but change the colours so it looks more current.
I think this is around $15,000 worth of scarves here…
After the exhibit we headed to a great roof-top bar in Yorkville, Toronto at the Hyatt.
Doesn't hubby look dapper?
This rooftop bar is the perfect place to go if you want a great view of the skyline of Toronto and if you like to pay $50 for 2 drinks.
Robert calls this vintage hat his Heisenberg hat.
I cherish dearly the Hermes scarf Robert brought me from France ages ago shortly after we were married.
Are you lucky enough to own any Hermes pieces?
If you get a chance to see the exhibit I would highly recommend it.
Plus…unlike everything else Hermes this is actually cheaper than dirt…