Saturday, 25 May 2013

Part 2 Hermes Festival des Metiers London Saatchi Gallery

This exhibition was unusual from the other exhibits that I had seen from Hermes in that it illustrated so many different crafts.  
This was the first time I had seen silk scarf screen printing.
Aren't these scarves hanging lovely as installation art?
The silk screen artisan plus one of the managers at the Lyon based silk press was there to present one of the silk screen sessions 
that take place 4 times a day.
These strips of scarves that didn't make the grade was hanging from the table.  I wanted to stitch them all back together.
This tasseled look could work for my bed.
They rolled out the silk that is made from Brazilian silk worms.
They set the silk properly and tightly with no air bubbles underneath to ensure a smooth print.
He installs the first print block.
Each press involves just the one color.
They chose a relatively simple scarf that required only 13 colors.
He was rearranging and doing the final clean preparation 
for the templates.
Even the floor was specially made for the exhibition.  
It was a felt like material with pictures of all the artisan tools.
The templates was to make the scarf "Geometrie Cretoise".
These were all the handmade and special recipes of color from 
the Hermes color laboratory.
We were all waiting for the demonstration to begin.
This scarf called Eperon d'Or was the scarf they made in the previous session.
Apparently it would not have passed the quality control test 
to sell as one of the inks didn't come out evenly 
so this was going to go in the reject bin. 
Looked good enough to me.
I was excited to finally see a scarf being made in front of me.
The artisan is pouring the ink on to the template.
He uses different rubber wipers depending on the ink and color 
so it isn't just a matter of pushing it up and down.
This is the first press!
The artisan is inspecting the touch on the fabric and 
the evenness of the template.
The second press was for a different type of black and 
setting the base graphics.
The third template only had the words "Hermes Paris".

The following finally was the first shot of color.
Et Voila!
I quite liked it like this.
He continued section by section diligently.

The templates are marked out with the design, ink name and the number order.

While letting the colors dry a little and only because this was a demonstration, there were other color variations of the scarf shown.

The consistency of each ink is different which requires a different rubber wiper that you can see the edges of on the right.

This section is partly the reason why Hermes needs the skill of the artisan otherwise automated machines that can print from start to finish use a lesser grade of color and only simpler designs.
To get to this stage took about 45 minutes and 
the scarf was only half done.

The other demonstration scarf was a reissue of a classic design.  This means that each collection consists of completely new graphics but Hermes also reissue classic graphics in a new coloration. That means that even if they may reprint the design it will never be printed in the same color combinations. 
That is why certain people collect specific colors and 
one can tell how old a scarf is.
A lady in the crowd had one of the original Eperon d'Or scarves from 30 years ago!
The end product being finalized and samples being rolled up.

That is the scarf ready to go!

Now this artisan does a special technique that lifts the silk thread ever so slightly to give texture to a scarf.  

She uses almost a surgical tool that lifts the thread to create a two dimensional texture.
This is a very old traditional technique that she thanks Hermes for keeping alive.  There isn't a huge industry for this technique as you can imagine.
Sorry about the pictures but as the photo above shows it is a very tactile finish that makes you want to stroke it.
She said that it takes her about 8 days to finish a scarf. She also said that while Hermes is expensive it is because she is one of the few people who can do this.  
These scarves are special commissions only or just for the window display at the main flagship store at 24 Faubourg.

This gem setter was making an exceptional piece.

She was working on some diamond pave domes.
There are different shaped and sized diamonds in that pillbox!
She was making the diamond Collier de Chien.
The whole bracelet takes her one month to make!
This artisan originally worked in a few Italian couture houses.
This machine helped her seamlessly meld two different materials together seamlessly.  In this case, she was working on silk and cashmere sweaters.

I am by no means justifying Hermes prices.
Actually I think I am...
After the tragedy in Bangladesh, this exhibition made me think that these artisans have a skill that machines still can not learn.  But they are paid accordingly and work in proper conditions and that filters through the cost of their products.  Some of these trades would not exist if Hermes chose to start mass silk screen printing or sewing in a third world country to save costs.  

This confirmed that I really must be more aware of what I buy.  
The terrible incident in Bangladesh ( among other many unreported incidents in Asia ) and the recent horse meat scandal, I felt that seeing how things are made and where they come from is now more important than ever.

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  1. Great post! Seeing how they're made and the time it takes certainly justifies the price in my mind. I love that they continue the craft rather than mass producing in China. Hope you're not regretting the giveaway...I can't wait to get my scarf even more after reading this ;)

    1. :))) too funny! No I am even more happy that someone else will actually wear it instead of it lying in my drawer being looked at once a week with guilt at why I am not wearing it. I think we all want modelling pics though Carla!!xx

  2. I am loving all of this Hermes business!! I explained to my hub last night how each and every Kelly bag/scarf etc is hand made - that this is the reason for the cost of Hermes items and how wonderful that they are keeping this 'hand-made/artisanal craftmanship" alive. Of course, in reality, there probably is a large factory with all of the artisans working alongside each manufacturing all of these items on a much larger scale. The exhibition serves to show us that they are all individuals - extremely skilled individuals, responsible for manufacturing these luxury goods. It feels as if they might be operating out of little studios in the eaves of roofs in Paris! I have really enjoyed these two posts... so well documented! x

    1. Thanks Jenny! Actually each bag is made from start to finish by one person. There is no person who just does one thing perse. Each Kelly takes two days for an artisan to make. They have factories but they were saying they each have their own proper work area. The lady who had that special skill does in fact work in the offices of Faubourg!! The watchmaker has a place in Switzerland. So while they do have big plants it isn't in the traditional mould of factory. They all seemed happy and proud. A few were thankful because without Hermes supporting their skill they would be out of work and their talents useless. I have to say talking to them really put everything in a different perspective. It wasn't just PR either bc the hand drawer of porcelain would otherwise be stuck at the architects office just drawing for the most part boring old buildings...Thanks for coming along once again Jenny! xx

  3. Loved this post - the silk screening has always particularly fascinated me. I too have been thinking a lot about where my things come from, and about supporting manufacturers that are local, or at the least have proper conditions for their workers. Wish I could go to this exhibit - it sounds completely fascinating and I love that they are showing the craft that goes behind an item from Hermes. Incidentally Mr AV was in New York this week for work and thought he might get me a keyring from Hermes, except they were $800. So he passed on it. Which was a good thing!! There are a lot of things I'd prefer from Hermes over a keyring..... (didn't get anything from Hermes in the end... maybe it was the thought that counted?!) xx

    1. Thanks Heidi. Silk screening and the porcelain were the two that particularly fascinated me as well. In fact I want to go for the third time because I am going to get a better view and see the nuances of it. I might start my own silk screen press and copy them... This reminded me that nothing comes cheap and pound for pound Primark makes a huge margin on their sales and yet those poor people are risking their lives...
      But I agree, I would get 2 scarves over one keyring! I can never find my keys anyway. But yes definitely thought counts so points for Mr AV hehe xx

  4. I'm so jealous you got to see the scarves being printed! It would have been amazing to see it in person. I totally agree with you about appreciating Hermes more after seeing the process. Yes it is very expensive but they are really special pieces. Who knows where most of what we wear/use everyday is made and especially in what kind of conditions. You can wear the Hermes pieces proud not only because of their beauty but because the craftsmanship and tradition that goes into it! x

    1. You should go - tomorrow is the last day. It is honestly sooo interesting. And there were many ladies who were wearing scarves that still looked amazing some up to 60 years old ( the scarves ). I hope you make it! xx

  5. Ahhh! They are so beautiful all hanging together like that! Love those colors.

  6. Great job....... I love Hermès!!!!!!
    Have a relaxed sunday darling!

  7. Holy moly, what a lot of work you have done with these Hermes posts!
    I appreciate the precise artisan work placed on the Hermes pieces, and all that time justifies the prices - if only they were a bit lower.
    I´m sure that new apprentices are learning to do the work of the ones, who still know the handwork, otherwise the company would not thrive.
    I´d rather own one good bag, than several mass-produced. It need not be a Birkin ; ).
    The Hermes scarves are beautiful, but I have never been able to wear a flat silk scarf in a way, which pleases me.
    Others do it better.
    Thank you for all the hard work accomplishing the Hermes series!

    1. Thank you Mette! It wasn't hard work at all because I genuinely enjoyed it plus knowing you want to "report" on it makes one pay better attention. Yes I wish the prices were a little lower too but I suppose without profit it then becomes an untenable charity. But I also prefer quality over quantity. Perhaps it is getting older or society changing but now I relish my scarves more and more. Plus they make great heirlooms! x

  8. Very informative! I'd love to have been there with you - we could have stood guard at the Hermés Reject Bin ready to dive on the less than perfect scraps! I also love that temporary flooring.

    1. Oh yes it was so informative I think I could do it myself...

      There was already a proper guard for the reject piles!!! They think of everything :)

  9. Yes this method looks very similar to the one I watched when they were making silk ties at Beckford Silk - it's fascinating, particularly when you are not that creative or skillful yourself. I wonder what actually happens to the silk that doesn't make the cut, I can't imagine they throw it away!! eeek

    It's such a difficult issue isn't it - this 'Made in Britain' and 'Made in Sweat-Shops' debate. I do believe we should utilise the skill we have at home, and that's why I respect Zatchels and Cambridge Satchel Company, because all of their products are made in Leicester using skills leather artisans, but then I also have consideration for the workers in Asia; where would they be getting their income from if it wasn't for Primark and Topshop etc?

    Anyway hope you have had a great weekend xx

    1. I know what you mean bc those industries also provide an income that might otherwise not be there. But I would rather pay a little more for Primark and they just treat the workers better. I don't know anyone endangered - paying wages is almost a separate issue but one must first be safe...But lately we just have had so many reminders on how the manufacturing process has become tainted is all. But you're right - a complicated and layered issue! But have a lovely bank holiday weekend xx

  10. Loved these other posts about the exhibit! You are so right about seeing how things are made and encouraging artisans and old-world skills to continue on. I love that Hermes does this. If only more companies would do this. Consumers also need to appreciate the value of quality items and not quantity!

    Great post!


    1. Thanks so much Kim! It served as a great reminder to think twice when purchasing items. If we do it with blood diamonds I suppose it should be more prevalent with clothes because we buy more clothes than diamonds right? xx

  11. I like the idea of museums having workshops like that. It's great fun to see the process up close and personal. From the outside one would never guess how many steps they go through to get to the end product.

    I wonder if robots will replace humans entirely in processes like these eventually?

    1. The exhibit was an absolute hit. Everyone enjoyed seeing how things were made and it was the adult version of taking the kids to a farm shop with cows to see where the milk comes from. I think robots can do a lot but I don't think it will have a knack for beauty and creating art. ( Well, that's me not being tech savvy!)


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