Well, for once I am at a loss to describe how wonderful something is but I will try. What a warm, loving, wonderful family. Just being in their presence made me happy. We were welcomed like old friends from the moment we arrived. They answered every question, let us move around freely and told us about their lives and their love of leather. We laughed a lot and there was constant chatter between us which really tells you something about people. They are kind and generous and warm and wonderful.I am enthusiastic and pounce on things and they just smiled indulgently as I lugged the rolls of leather around to photograph, rooted around the shelves (with permission of course) and took almost 800 photographs. It’s probably not something they usually let visitors do so I felt very privileged.
The Van Der Speks say their factory is small but it isn’t. It is not a huge industrial production facility but there is a lot of storage space for leathers, inserts, other items and many things from the past. There is a posting section where the parcels are prepared, an office, a kitchen/lunch room and the factory which has machines ranging from modern to fifty years old. Much of the equipment and cutting boards have been altered specially for us. So each time we make special requests like bigger ring mechanisms or bigger binders, new tools are made. Also, each swatch is done by hand by Mrs Van Der Spek who cuts each piece of leather using a template and then holes and strings them. Mr Van Der Spek very patiently explained the machines to me and showed me how they worked.
Everything is done by the family or by five other people who have worked for them for years and years – some of them watched Petra grow up. The workmanship is outstanding and nothing leaves until Petra has checked it. Mr Van Der Spek sees the leather as it goes into production and Petra sees it as it comes out so if anything is wrong they pick it up before it is sent out.
When you hear handmade you often roll your eyes and think ‘yeah right’ but in this case every item has been made by a small family and their long term trusted craftspeople. Every stitch has been done at a workbench where you can see your own binder take shape. I watched at least three binders being created and 12 being posted off so I can say that the lucky recipients are receiving works of art made with love and many decades of experience.
One thing I can say is that the Van Der Speks love their customers and talk about us as though we were family. I didn’t think it was possible to love this brand more than I did but I do.