'Festival des Métiers' ; a rendezvous with the Hermès craftspeople

May 24, 2013
As an artist I am especially interested in the process and technique involved in creating a work of art. There is a science behind everything; and proper understanding and application of this science is what makes magic happen. I once read that magic is poetry and math come together. On the topic of 'art' I think that's what Hérmes' creations are. There are those who dismiss Birkins and Kellys as overinflated, overhyped handbags, that you can buy leather handbags at; I don't know, Topshop? that serve the same purpose. To that I say, either you get it or you don't. They're not just things with handles that you shove stuff in...each Hérmes creation is a thing of beauty born of hours of dexterity, respect, incredible detail at the hands of highly skilled artisans who take pride in their perfect stitching and minute paint strokes. The difference here is respect for that kind of work, and it's that level of pride that makes a leather handbag or a silk scarf a work of art.

To those who don't understand what makes a Kelly so special, perhaps a glimpse into the Hérmes atelier would shed some light. How grateful I am to the Saatchi Gallery for allowing an oppurtunity to see the Hérmes craftspeople at work, by setting up a 'mini atelier' of sorts at 'Festival des Métiers'.

Lacking access to mummy's collection, I was left with only the option of wearing an Hérmes scarf. I am too poor to buy my own Birkins but that doesn't stop me from appreciating them. An appreciation of art has nothing to do with monetarial wealth...it's about love and taste.

Close ups of the artisan's hands making magic happen---

Birkins to be; leather cut into shapes and ready to be hand-stitched into design icons---

Exquisite creations were laid out throughout the exhibition, for everyone to inspect and admire---

Works in progress---

Tools of the trade---

There were 8 or 9 tables, each with an craftsperson or two working at a different object---ties, scarfs, watches, handbags---with a translator at the ready, to answer questions about the artisanal work. I was especially drawn to the lady painting these plates.

She explained that each colour needed to bake for 10 hours in the kiln, each at different temperatures. She'd start in descending order, first with the colour that needed the highest temperature. A plate with seven colours would take 70 hours to bake. The paint is so toxic that she has to work at night, so as to spend as little time as possible around the fumes. The details are so minute that my eyes hurt just trying to take in all the little strokes and lines. The artisan merrily told me, "I started this job 4 years ago, now I need glasses!"

It's that kind of dedication to the craft and incredible amount of work that makes Hérmes so expensive, so exclusive, and so special. As an artist, this experience has been respectful and inspiring. As a consumer, my love for Hérmes is so much more, and now I can better justify why one pays what one does for their creations.



  1. "either you get it or don't"

    how true. i admire the craftmanship hermes has to offer. i admire it even more after reading tungate's luxury worlds... :) and of course the book you recommended to me back then.

    1. I am putting Luxury World's on my Amazon shopping list right now! Thanks for the recommendation x

  2. i love love love the blue hermes bag in the making! such a dreamy colourrrr :D

    1. Do you want me to go back to the exhibition and beg the craftspeople to sell that bag to me? ;-)

  3. AnonymousMay 25, 2013

    i live the way you captured the making.
    each of em is so detailed. :)

    1. A beautifully-made thing is a joy forever :D x