Did you know crocodile skin shoes must be coloured and polished with great care since the leather is so delicate? Have you ever seen exactly how long it takes to meticulously engrave letters on glass, hand-paint porcelain or fix gemstones in an invisible setting? Did you know forty different skills go into creating a single watch? In this exhibit Homo Faber shines a spotlight on the human hands behind the brands, offering visitors an unprecedented opportunity to see master artisans from twenty European luxury houses at work. Watch as they demonstrate the rare techniques and exceptional skills used to create products of the highest quality. You’ll come away with an understanding of the true meaning of luxury – an embodiment of the skills, experience, passion and cultural traditions of European artisans par excellence.
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The twenty very special techniques on show are inspired by the list of artisanal professions outlined by the Institut National des Metiers d’Art (INMA) in France. Each is demonstrated by a European luxury house whose history and ethos is closely linked to the technique on view. Whether a world-renowned maison or an exceptional atelier, these companies all share the desire to place craftsmanship at the heart of what they do.
Specialist papers are printed, folded and hand-collated before being sewn, glued and cut. As a final touch, the paper edges are sanded and gilded. The diaries are hand-lined in silk and their calf leather covers are glued on by hand, while albums are entirely handmade.About Smythson
The engraver carefully holds the glass object against a copper wheel with an abrasive paste applied. Changing the wheels, speed, order of cuts and other variables he can create every required shape and pattern. A simple letter takes about an hour to engrave.About J. & L. Lobmeyr
The master uses natural raw materials such as horn, bamboo and exotic wood to create bespoke handles for cutlery. To prepare a bamboo handle, the craftsman takes the raw bamboo and cuts it to shape. He then burns it over a flame to darken the wood, before polishing it with beeswax on a machine.About Lorenzi Milano
The artist draws on wax paper, which is then perforated so the design can be traced onto the fabric using a sponge soaked in blue ink. The fabric is then sent to the home of the artisan, who will spend many hours embroidering the fabric by hand, before returning it to the factory to be trimmed, washed, ironed and checked.About Embroiderers from Madeira
For over a hundred years, inventive Parisian artisans have created exceptional embroideries requiring unique skills. These specific embroideries are a combination of traditional techniques acquired over centuries, using needle or hook, and new techniques created by the House, like the vermicelli and volume embroidery with innovative materials.About Lesage
The artisan first covers the metal base with a layer of dark colour translucid enamel, before applying decoration in white enamel using a very thin brush and needle. By varying the thickness the enameller can create stark white or subtle shades of grey. The final design is fired, changing the colours and revealing a three-dimensional effect.About Vacheron Constantin
The artisan works with the client to elaborate the style of frame and choose the materials to be used, before a minimum of 12 facial measurements are taken from the client. Made by hand in a ten-step process, the frames are shaped and polished to absorb or reflect the light in a particular manner, then fitted until they become a part of the features and identity of the wearer.About Bonnet
The only surviving silk mill in Florence, which has been operating continually since 1786, uses hand-operated antique wooden looms to make made-to-measure silk fabrics in Florentine tradition, including ermisino, a Renaissance shot taffeta hand woven in three classic weights of thread of different colours.About Antico Setificio Fiorentino
Up to ten artisans skilled in many different techniques can work on a single fan. For pleated fans, the master fanmaker pleats every leaf in a mould and unites it to the frame by fixing the brins, or sticks, one by one in the centre of each pleat. Once mounted, the leaf is hand trimmed.About Duvelleroy
To set gemstones in a way in which no fixings are visible – the so-called ‘Mystery Set™’– the master artisan creates tiny gold rails 0.2mm thick and cuts grooves into the gemstones by which they can be inserted on to the rails.About Van Cleef & Arpels
Using time-honoured skills, the master carves semi-precious stones and ornamental gems to create miniature sculptures.About Cartier
After blowing and shaping the melted glass, the masters apply traditional engraving techniques. The precious Battitura technique involves the use of different sized grinding wheels to create various patterns on the glass surface, giving the object a tactile dimension. Another famous technique, Incisione, requires the use of a special grinding wheel to create fascinating linear sequences.About Venini
To create a nib that perfectly matches an individual’s writing style, the artisan works through 35 different stages, rolling, stamping and shaping the 18 karat gold nib with painstaking patience, before engraving it with the emblem and the number 4810, Mont Blanc’s height in metres.About Montblanc
Each leather bag is created by a skilled craftsman who is responsible for every aspect of the construction from start to finish. The pieces of leather are sewn together by machine and by hand, and each completed bag bears the individual signature of the craftsman who created it.About Alfred Dunhill
Through a complex and delicate process , the master perfumer works with precious scented raw materials sourced from every corner of the world to create the desired bespoke fragrance.About Aquaflor
These painters work without templates, so it can take up to 15 years to become a master. Every shade of colour required for their own designs is mixed by the painter himself from paint powder produced at the company’s own laboratory. Many of the necessary skills and knowledge are passed down by word of mouth to the next generation.About Nymphenburg
Developed to meet the individual needs of each rider and his or her horse for both competition and leisure riding, saddles are the result of proven expertise in harness-making and saddlery since 1837. From the saddle fitting to the final adjustments, each saddle is entrusted to a single artisan and handcrafted from the finest leathers in the Paris workshop.About Hermès
Velatura is a manual and artistic shoe colouring technique. Colour is applied in subsequent layers, one on top of the other, until the desired hue arises. The result is rich and dense, and non-repeatable as a fingerprint, because it is made by hand.About Santoni
The artist’s artwork is converted into a full-scale numbered design on paper by the cartoonist, who specifies the colour composition to be used. The finest wools and other yarns are selected and then custom-dyed using the water of the Creuse river. The tapestry is then woven entirely by hand using traditional tools.About Robert Four
Only a handful of watchmakers have mastered the techniques required to make the smallest mechanical watch movement ever made, the caliber 101, which is tailor-made and adjusted by hand with expert precision.About Jaeger-LeCoultre
The Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship is an international, nonprofit institution based in Geneva, Switzerland, which celebrates and preserves master craftsmanship and strengthens its connection to the world of design. The Foundation seeks to support men and women who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work.