Sisters on ‘a mission’ to revive beautiful 17th century craft of gilt leather making – and the results are breathtaking
A workshop in Kraków is using 17th and 18th century techniques from Spain to revive the forgotten craft of gilt leather.
A decorative material known for its exceptional beauty and shimmering embossed patterns, gilt leather is a vegetable tanned hide, usually of calf-skin, covered with silver leaf, embossed and hand painted using the technique of glaze painting.
A hugely time consuming craft which involves numerous stages requiring substantial precision and manual labour, the designs were once used to adorn the most luxurious noble interiors, including castles and palaces.
Agnieszka Kosakowska and Ewa Zielinska from the ‘Consiste’ workshop in Kraków told TFN: “For us, gilt leather production is a mission rather than something we do for profit.
“We inherited the technology of how to produce gilt leather from our parents who started looking at methods of conservation for the material in the 1990s.
“The conservation of gilt leather is popular, but producing it is not.
“As far as we know, we are the only ones promoting ourselves as having our own gilt leather workshop.”
Average production time can take up to five months, with some items needing longer depending on the treatment and layers of lacquer used.
Establishing their workshop in 2014, the two sisters were initially inspired by their parents, both art restorers, who worked on the conservation of the historic Venetian gilt leathers at Krakow’s Wawel Royal Castle, where Agnieszka would also later work on the restoration of Wawel Castle’s gilt leather furniture.
Originating from the medieval Middle East, after being imported to Spain gilt leather became so popular that the city of Cordoba became the first continental European city to become famous in its production, with the golden age falling at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Other countries, including Italy and the Flemish countries also started to produce gilt leathers.
To date, the workshop has realised orders including interiors for a famous Kraków restaurant, a Gdansk wine cellar and a church in Podlasie.
The sisters, whose backgrounds are in art conservation and graphic design, are currently working on completing a folding screen and the design of their own range of gilt leather trinket boxes.
Their largest project was for the regal interiors of the historic Wierzynek restaurant on Kraków’s main market square.
Finished in 2015, Agnieszka and Ewa supplied over 150 parts, including full scale wall panels with a copyrighted pattern unique to the restaurant featuring two birds, ‘the Wierzynek birds’ from a historic painting in the restaurant, set within a pattern of larger birds of paradise.
The sisters said: “We want to target the luxury gifts market, individuals who want a special gift for someone and also hotel interiors.
“Our dream is to have a larger workshop with a showroom where an interior designer can easily come and see what they want.”
To find out more, visit the website https://kurdyban.pl/.