By hand, from the heart
An increasing number of people in China are beginning to develop a keen interest in handicrafts, seeing it as an extension of their personality and a way to preserve traditional techniques
Hugo Qiu, embraced this new trend is Hugo Qiu, a 36-year-old parttime leatherware maker who owns his brand Muke.
Qiu, who prefers to be called a craftsman instead of the boss of his own business, first became acquainted with leatherworking about a decade ago when he attempted to create a camera cover for his own use. He failed on his first attempt.
Determined to master the art of leatherworking, Qiu did extensive research into the craft and self-taught himself leathercutting and hand-stitching techniques in order to create goods such as wallets and bags.
After years of practice, Qiu is now well-known in the leatherware industry and his handmade Muke wallets command prices ranging from 900 to 2700 yuan. Today, he spends about three to four hours every day at his studio that has about 50 types of leatherworking tools and equipment.
“My items may have simple designs but they are made with fine leather and feature intricate stitching. They can be used for a long time,” said Qiu, who counts himself to be rather lucky as he has a regular clientele that keeps him busy with orders of between five and six pieces every month.
Qiu said that it is the dedication to creating unique products of high quality, instead of earning income from his passion that truly matters to him. He added that he prefers to take his time with crafting items so that he can be focused at every step of the process, ensuring that his clients as well as his own expectations are met.
For instance, Qiu admitted that he is still working on a wallet that was ordered by a client two years ago, citing his own dissatisfaction with the product as the main cause of the delay.
“I treasure the spirit of craftsmanship and this is something that will last until I die. I want to make small amounts of leather products that hold my feelings and ideas,” said Qiu.
“I am always delighted when clients send my products back for maintenance. This shows that my work is valued and it also reminds me why I became a craftsman in the first place.”
Chen Jing'ao works on the keel of his first handmade boat, which he used during his marriage proposal.