I love to discover unique local artisan goods while traveling because they always hold such happy memories of my time in that place. It's important to me to support both the local economy and small producers whose livelihoods depend on the goods that they pour their hearts into. On a trip to Portugal in 2016, I came across this wool felt fabric while perusing a shop in Porto.
The felt fabric used in Maragold products is a handmade artisanal fabric made entirely of wool. It comes from sheep that are indigenous to the Serra da Estrela mountains in Portugal, an area with rich history tied very closely to the production of sheep products. It's a fascinating material because of both the history it has endured and the unique characteristics it embodies.
This versatile, easy-care felted wool fabric originates as protection from the elements for shepherds in the mountains. It repels dirt, has thermal and water repellent properties, elastic memory and is fire and abrasion resistant making it an extremely durable material.
Only recently in 2010 was the industry restored after years of deterioration due to the rise of synthetic materials in the 1960's. This caused companies in the area to go bankrupt, sadly leaving entire families in poverty and forcing them to flee to find work elsewhere. Many have since returned after the legacy was revived by those who recognized the heritage and cultural value of the Portuguese wool industry.
Maragold Designs is honored to showcase the heritage of this incredible textile and advocate for the growth of an important industry.
Evidence from wall painting and artifacts found in Egyptian tombs suggests leather production dating back to 5000 B.C. proving that humankind throughout history has found value in the durability, versatility, and timelessness of leather. With the use of modern technology, the production process has become much more sophisticated, yet both the function and traditional vegetable tanning method remain closely rooted to the earliest origins.
The black, taupe and white leather used in my first release is from a tannery in Tuscany which is certified by the Consorzio Vera Pelle al Vegetale, an organization of tanneries that guarantees quality and production excellence of traditional vegetable tanning methods.
Of the various tanning methods, vegetable tanning is the most traditional, natural and environmentally friendly method. This process highlights the natural individuality of each piece of leather and is a slow process which takes patience, experience and a skillful combination of knowledge and technology to properly execute. Due to the craftsmanship and technique behind each piece of vegetable tanned leather you are truly purchasing a one of a kind item and supporting these skilled producers.
Vegetable tanned leather is free of toxic substances and instead uses natural compounds (tannins) derived from the bark and leaves of plants. Given the natural composition, it can be easily and safely disposed of at the end of its lifecycle. Most importantly, production is strictly monitored to ensure lower environmental impact and more sustainable practices including the recycling of raw hides as by-products of the food industry.
Expect some variation and natural pattern and texture to shine through. This is not a flaw, but rather a mark of individuality. While durable, vegetable tanned leather will soften, patina and show scratches/marks over time but please know that this evidence of wear is regarded as one of the many benefits and only adds to the unique character and enduring quality. The natural tanning process does not compromise the leather’s resistance and promotes an ageing process that enriches the look of the leather over time, truly enabling each piece to have its own personal expression.