Painting may not seem like the most intriguing or even challenging parts of producing a Lotuff bag. In looking closer, though, it’s a process that involves much more than quickly glossing over an edge with a brush.
Because our leather is vegetable-tanned, the suede underside that becomes exposed upon sealing two split pieces together can appear lighter because the dye doesn’t seep all the way through. These exposed edges are what we paint in order to avoid discoloration, but also to increase durability. The more layers of paint that are burnished onto the leather, the thicker the seal becomes, and if one layer begins to chip away with time, others lie underneath.
One aspect that makes our particular style different is the act of painting many thin layers of leather instead of one thick bound layer like other manufacturers tend to do. This ensures that over time the edges won’t split open or peel easily. Although it might seem counterintuitive, if damage does begin to occur, it’s actually much easier to repair painted edge layers than bound ones. All that’s necessary is another coat of paint for reinforcement.
For some of edges, we choose a contrast color. As edge painting essentially generates a visible, structural border for each bag, this is especially difficult to do. If the painted line isn’t perfectly straight, it’s very obvious and can alter the product’s entire shape.
Despite the precision required, though, there’s no one universal approach to painting a Lotuff piece– all of our artisans have their own methodology. It’s not a process that requires classical training, just a fine degree of control and a willingness to practice until perfection is achieved. The artisans, being most in tune with the process, are also the ones who notice when improvements are needed: one mentions that the aforementioned additional layers of paint started being added to external pieces after she noticed the paint on her own bag wearing off in areas after heavy use. Perceptiveness and dynamism are key at all formative stages, but with painting more than any other, these skills help build the framework of a Lotuff bag.
- Liz Silvia