On our group’s first full day in Florence, we traveled to the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School of Florence) and we were able to observe local artisans execute their craft right before our eyes. Our guide explained many unique aspects of the leather school which impressed me, the first being that the school actually began as a monastery but then was eventually transformed into the leather school. The owner of the school had the idea of letting students use their own creativity and students began designing pieces that they would enjoy making rather than forcing the students to create certain pieces based on a mandate or quota. Furthermore, the original owner of the school also let these independent artists sell their work to consumers so that they could profit off their own work while the factory would make commission for supplying the artist with a platform and resources to produce. The artists in the school use the Doratura technique which is an ornamental decorating process in which the artist embellishes an object with a thin layer of gold (generally 22 karat in the leather shop) when they produce their goods. All the work is done by hand and the leather shop continues to be a family run business. The guide explained how students learn the leather crafting techniques from scratch so crafting students do not need to come into the school with any prior experience. The school’s history is unmistakeable and has helped them build a respected reputation not just in Florence but across Italy. The school is a family owned business and the guide explained that many of the imprinting tools were over eighty years old so they can continue with classic designs.
With regards to the supply chain in the Scuola del Cuoio, it is rather direct. The leather school orders different cuts and types of leather from a tannery that has already treated and colored the leather. The school emphasized how all of this is done in Italy. Once the school receives the leathers from the tannery, they allow the artists to use their supplies and sell them to independent customers or in the shop within the store. The leather school as a whole supplies luxurious leather goods to customers and tourists who can afford it. Having a store in the school makes sense since it allows those who are immediately impressed with the work of the artists to support them and their craft on the spot. As I walked through the store I saw many American tourists so one could argue that after the citizens of Florence, tourists may be their second biggest customer market. In general, the primary products that are produced in the school are purses, wallets, bags, jackets and shoes. There are obviously other products that are produced based on custom orders but it seemed that these were the focused products in the gift shop. I was surprised to hear that many of the students end up going back home to influence their community. The school receives students from a variety of places including Korea, France, and the United States (along with many more). These graduated students will go teach their craft to individuals back in their town or will open up a small shop to produce goods for other citizens back home. I found this idea to be interesting as I just figured that the students would work in leather production somewhere in Florence rather than going home and teaching others the craft. It’s inspiring to think that people across the globe are benefiting from students in a leather school in Florence.
With regards to Company and Professional Issues: the company seemed to be formal and organized in their structure. Each individual artist was working at a station and had the set materials they needed to let them finish the project in front of them. I assume that this model is common for companies involved in the luxurious leather goods manufacturing industry as most of the business revolved around custom orders or in house sales. The only creative space in this type of industry would be whether the artist is able to express their own designs or if they are mandated to complete certain projects by certain dates. The leather school has been established for many decades so this may be due to the company’s rigid history and reputation.