Although Inntravel routefinders David Lanfear and Linda Lashford spend much of their time on the road scouting out wonderful new destinations for our customers to enjoy, when they do return home it is to the spectacular Grazalema Sierra in southern Spain.
It was here that they first met Fernando Garcia, an artisan leather craftsman who lives and works in the area. They told that Fernando’s handmade bags are really rather special, and that a trip to both his Grazalema shop, La Venta Vieja, and nearby workshop is a must, so we thought we’d take a few moments to find out more…
Q: So, how did it all start? Have you always worked with leather?
No! I was actually an aircraft mechanic with a really stressful job in Madrid. It was when I decided to give it all up and look for more peace in my life that I almost ‘accidentally’ became a leather craftsman. I moved south, bringing very little with me, but I did pack my uncle’s leather working tools. I took over the management of a campsite in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and to relax in the evenings I started ‘dabbling’ with leather. That’s how FG Handmade Bags
Q: And what made you choose Grazalema as a base?
I wanted to live in a rural environment, amongst nature. But when I decided that I could make my living with my leather work, of course I needed to sell. And to sell I needed people and Grazalema seemed the ideal spot. It’s a beautiful village, surrounded by mountains right in the middle of the Natural Park, and at that time was already starting to attract tourists from both Spain and overseas. So I had my customers, without trying too much!
Q: Tell us a little about the process. What is it that makes your bags different from a ‘regular’ leather bag?
In the evenings (often over a glass of wine!), I draw up some of the design ideas that have come to me during the day. Then the following day I go into the workshop and choose the perfect hide for that particular design. The next step is the cutting, then the construction, the sewing and so on. So that’s the first thing that makes my bags different. I do everything myself. From the initial inspiration to the final product, that’s my work. There’s no-one else involved, nobody, so they are a very unique and personal creation. And I don’t make them to sell, if you know what I mean. I never think ‘today I’m going to make a briefcase because I know I can sell it’. I make a bag because the design has come to me.
It’s more like being an artist, really. I ‘paint a picture’ because of an inspiration, not because I have a potential customer waiting for a painting. Of course I also do a lot of custom-made work, where a client has asked for a particular bag. I am nearly always happy to do the work, but on rare occasions I say no, simply because the design is horrible!