INTERVIEW WITH GUILDED LEATHERWORKER VAN SOEST;
A PASSION FOR CRAFT
Goudleer-atielier Van Soest is the only gilded leatherworker in the Netherlands.
The second-generation owner Sebastiaan van Soest continues to keep the aging craft
of gilded leather alive today. His mission is to give gilded leather a modern application and design.
VITA DI LUSSO loves this passion for craft and interviewed Van Soest.
You have succeeded your father as a guilded leatherworker. Were you already fascinated by this work as a child or when did you decide to continue the business?
“As a child I was often found in my father’s studio or at the location where he was working on the restoration of gilded leather. In the 1980s, for example, I was allowed to walk around Paleis het Loo and discover all the spaces. At that time, Paleis het Loo was still closed to visitors. With chalk I put arrows on the ground to find the way back. Can you imagine?!
The love for gilded leather and the passion for craftsmanship therefor started at a young age already. I often helped my father with restorations and learned from him. A few years after my father passed away, I was afraid this craft would slowly dissappear. So in 2014 I decided to start my own company.”
How is it possible that you are the only one? Is it so specific?
“Probably because there is no eduction for this craft. You really have to learn this from a professional. I was just very lucky that my father was a pioneer in the field of preserving and restoring gilded leather. The production of gilded leather went from father to son.
To work with gilded leather is indeed very specific. It concerns many different layers: leather, glue, metal, lacquer and also paints with different pigments. Every step must be coordinated and, moreover, these materials must meet special requirements.
Gilded leather is still relatively unknown. People often look at the painting that hangs on the gilded leather wall and often do not see the special work behind it. Until they come into contact with gilded leather. By doing what I do, I try to give gold leather the reputation it deserves!”
What exactly does a gilded leatherworker do and for whom?
“It starts with finding the right leather among the best tanners. Then silver sheets are glued to the leather with a special glue. The silver is then polished before it is finished with a specially cooked varnish. This is colored entirely to the wishes of the customer.
Then the gilded leather is embossed in a mold. This can be an existing pattern but also an own design or one specially designed for or by a customer. After printing, the leather is painted. There are so much possibilities in terms of finish. Both classic and modern.
My clients are mainly museums, hotels and restaurants, but also private individuals at home and abroad.”
Then you must have had very nice assignments. What was the most beautiful assignment so far?
“Very nice was the restoration of three gilded leather chairs from the former Queen. But also a big project in Russia for a private person, which unfortunately I can not say anything about. That sometimes is a pity; you make beautiful products, which cannot be shown because it concerns prominent people. But the customer’s wish of course goes first.
I am also very proud of the collaboration with Edward van Vliet and Gardelux. Together we developed some very nice folding screens. We showed them at Masterly-The Dutch in Milan last year, where Edward van Vliet exhibited his hotel collection.
The folding screen Homo Faber was exclusively produced for the first edition of the beautiful trade show Homo Faber in Venice. I was invited to participate in the exhibition ‘Best of Europe’. This exhibition is specially organized for the very best artisans in Europe, by Jean Blanchaert in collaboration with the Michelangelo Foundation. The second edition will take place from 14-30 September 2020. A true must see!”
And what can we expect from you in the near future?
“In addition to many restoration projects, I will present my products at ETC Design Center Europe in Culemborg for the first time on 3 and 4 February. I will also attend the Masterly The Hague art festival in the autumn from 19 to 22 September.”
Good to know! So if you are interested in the products from Goudleer-atelier Van Soest, then you know where to go. VITA DI LUSSO will be there in any case!