Photography by Lucas Lacaz Ruiz
Veronica is a Brazilian artist who graduated with a degree in fashion and design in 2010. Right after graduation Veronica was invited by one of her professors to work as a designer in a small leather shoe factory. That was her first experience with this material and the manual crafting process. The high level of knowledge that she gained while working with different kinds of leather, learning how to handle it and how to use the relevant tools marked this period as very important for her career.
The motivation, dedication and love that the craftspeople she encountered had for their work was what really motivated her to remain in it. Those very same behaviors she observed are the ones that made her fall in love with leather and with the manual process. Veronica decided to do a Master’s research to investigate the intangible heritage of handmade footwear in Brazil. Her research introduced additional manual techniques, which triggered a new stage in her learning and career. Among those techniques Veronica discovered cut-out leather, which is very popular in saddlery but not very spread out in Brazil. So she decided to go after any tools or people through which she could learn.
Veronica had the chance to travel to Tennessee, one of the southern states of the US, where she realized that leather crafting was a very popular technique and she connected with local artists who could teach her something about it. One day while surfing online she ran into Knoxville’s Cody Hixon’s website and decided to send him an E-mail to ask about the possibility to get some lessons. Cody answered immediately taking her as an apprentice and receiving her warmly in his workshop where she spent 5 intensive months learning the craft and interacting with many wonderful artists.
Veronica has always liked manual work. With an engineer for a father and an architect for a mother she grew up surrounded by objects designed and created by hand. During her Master’s degree she spent time doing digital design but her interaction with her shoemaker teachers was crucial for her decision to stick to handwork. “Nothing can match the love put into an object made by hand,” she says. For Veronica leather has a particular appreciation not only because of the added value from the handwork but also for its characteristic odor, different textures and the possibility to work it with different tools and machinery.
“Leather is versatile, durable and can be an essential material in various industries,” she adds. After learning about leather crafting in the US Veronica traveled to the United Kingdom to learn the technique of golden finishes for bags where she had the opportunity to be mentored by Jason Stocks-Young.
Today Veronica owns a brand called Passos Leatherworks dedicated to the creation of leather objects made by hand in order to promote ancient leather techniques and apply them to a new time to present new possibilities. Passos Leatherworks’ main focus is on fashion accessories such as shoes bags and belts and demand varies according to her participation in fairs and size of orders. Alongside, Veronica continues to research the footwear sector and has been working for over four years in projects related to leather costumes, especially for Christmas.
Veronica says: “Today I am very grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to take such trips and for having placed so many talented people along my way. I can see that over the years many countries have been developing and improving their leather craft in different ways and the way we work with leather in Brazil is very different to other places. Leather changes, suppliers change and availability of tools changes but sharing these different possibilities, especially in the digital age, is what keeps knowledge of manual labor in leather alive.”