Pour cette troisième rubrique, c’est le coréen Marco Rosso qui a répondu à mes huit questions. Perché dans son atelier, en haut d’un immeuble de Paju Book City, il m’a chaleureusement accueillie avec un bon café. Je me trouve toujours en Corée du Sud, à Séoul où je tâche de savourer le dernier mois de mon voyage coréen…
Bien à vous.
Cliquez sur « suite » pour lire l’interview !
You used to be a 3D computer graphic desginer, you also did video games, why did you turn to leather craft and design ?
Graphic design and computer graphic design and all kinds of digital devices are very fragile and do not last. You can’t touch them or smell them. I changed jobs after 16-18 years because of that ever-changing character. I started with animation; it was the most powerful energetic moment in my life. But things got harder. I always had to follow updated software, had to find investors, and they demand things meaningless to me. it was an endless job, I’m still a freelancer. People keep contacting me about projects. But now all my creativity and energy has gone to the leatherwork. This leatherwork is still not very popular in Korea. Korean people like luxury things – such as Gucci or Prada. They won’t buy a nameless bag or leather item. They like to show off. That is the problem with small leatherworkers. But I can control my work from the start up to the end. Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I started on my own and my conversion was very hard. I’m a very stubborn man. Now I’m forty, Maybe I grow more stubborn as the years go by. That is how I started: I also used to be a photographer. I had a training as a photographer. Then I sold all my digital cameras and I kept that old camera (a 50-year-old camera), which is so heavy and hard and has no ergonomic shape. And the camera case was worn out. You cannot buy those any more, so I had to make my own camera case. I had seen people do it, so I thought I could do just like them. It was my first leather work. You can actually notice that when you illustrate, whatever the job, as soon as you use the tools, you can evaluate your potential. When I made my first camera case, I instantly noticed that it was a thing I was quite good at. After my workday, I used to get home at 8pm, and I would start on my leather work. I studied a lot at that time, often until 3am. Then I would wake up at 7am and go to work in a game company where I was an art director. After 15 or 16 months of such everyday routine, I decided it was going to be my job. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way. For the time being, I do leatherwork, but nobody knows what is going to happen. Lots of people love what I do, but there are always money problems to make things bigger. The most important thing is imagination. If you have skills, the most important thing is the way you give life to your imagination.
So after 3D pictures, you now have a leather craft company named « Fabrique de Verne » why this name?
It comes from my admiration for the French writer Jules Verne who wrote at the end of the 19th century. He had a fantastic imagination, everything looked possible to him, and the Earth was a perfect stage for his fantasies. I wanted to keep that energy, that craziness, alive. I am sure that philosophy is the most important component when you want to invent, to design. However, to my mind, philosophy is based on literature, you compose your own from the conclusion you draw after you have read meaningful books. I am my own Jules Verne.
On your website character description you say that you inspired your work with the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, the golden age of the industrial days. BUT to choose what items you are bona design do you found inspiration from that period too? From objects from that period?
Yes. These bags, for instance, are very rare in Korea. They arouse curiosity over here. This was inspired by items created in the 1920s they were called lawyer bags, this bag has no inside structure, no inside pockets. It is just a display item. If I want to sell it, I have to design pockets, compartments, inside. If you saw the movie Sherlock, you saw Moriarty, he carries such a bag. I had to find the way to make these bags, because we don’t have them in Korea. Then I had a look at Japanese books, to discover technics to make them. There is a problematic to bags: you change the size by a small centimeter and it is not the same object anymore.
Are you sometimes inspired by actual designers ?
They are not leather workers. They are designers, I admire Hayao Miyazaki. But he doesn’t inspire my leather work. I like all kinds of Science Fiction films, I made games inspired form them. I admire the old Ridley Scott for his first films — Blade runner, Alien.
How do you chose the items you are going to make?
Basically, when you have a brand you have some lines. I cannot really say that I have a definite line. I constantly invent. My brand is only three years old. If people like an item I made, I pay attention. But I’m still in the process of defining my own line or identity. I still have too many things to make. I have bags and cases but that is not enough. It is not a hobby any more. I must work. Now in addition to creating, I must sell my things too. I hope I will find a good partner thanks to whom I will be able to share my workload. However, I’m still happier than when I was a CG designer.
Why did you choose to use only vegetable-tanned leather?
I don’t. I use both vegetable-tanned and chrome-tanned leather. But Most of my works are made of vege-tan leather. Because of its character and feeling. Most Chrome-tanned leathers are too thick and not soft enough. The treatment hides the original character of leather and its tone. I don’t like that. There are so many kinds of vegetable-tanned leathers. And it optimizes handmade leather craft. Big factory systems cannot make good products from vegi-tan leather. So that is my shop’s powerful point.
Is Korea a good place for designers?
It used to be a good place for designers, about 10 or 15 years ago. In South Korea, most talented and bright designers are poor. Who is going to support them? The country, the people, or corporations? If a designer wants to rent a place like here, it is nine times more expensive than Paju in Seoul. Young designers can’t afford such costs. Unless they stay at their parents’ place. Only set up designers are successful. Young people cannot have a good start here. They have no help with paperwork; they have not been taught to manage a proper, even if small, company. But when they are supported, they are used and thrown away. The system is too old. Supporters want their money back, nothing else. Civil servants always work for the result. They don’t mind about money. They might look for young designers but those young designers don’t know anything about the system. Schemers create a small company using the names of young designers and they get the money. The designers work and get nothing in return. Then the company is dissolved, once the money has gone into the pocket of the big-mouthed schemers.
What about the workshop you gave? How important is teaching to you and do you find inspiration in working with other people?
I didn’t use to like teaching, I did not feel ready. Now I feel I’m ready. It is like in Kendo (Kumdo in Korean), if you reach a certain level you get a licence to teach other people. However, if you never get that licence to teach, you have no possibility to improve. At first I met three students. They called me sir or master, they told me: « We really want to follow a leather class. There is none at school, can you give us private tuition? » I said I admired their enthusiasm but I could not initiate private tuition or a private school. I liked PaTi very much and I didn’t want to do it outside of them. So I had a talk with Ahn Sahng soo. He told me I could teach in PaTI. I accepted. But to teach, you need so many tools, one at least for each student. They would have to buy many tools under my guidance, it was going to be about 50 to 80 000 $. It is a lot, Ann Sanhg Soo found it very expensive. So, as a result, I started in Pati with 8 students in two groups over two days, which made 4 students at a run. I taught them for two months, twice a week per group. It was a nice experience, and it changed my mind about teaching. It also enriched my behaviour and my craft, my awareness to my craft. I had to show things I had always done without giving them a second’s thought. I had to observe my own movements to be able to transmit them to the students, to give the detail of what I did. I then realized that if you use a ruler and a cutter the proper way, you cannot fail. Personally I was very surprised about the sewing, the stitching. I had prejudices about the relation between young people and sewing. It is a boring activity if you don’t listen to music. So I thought they wouldn’t like it. And they loved it. It kept them calm and peaceful. It kept them away from all the noise they are used to. In fact it is a bit like gymnastics as we use two needles at the same time. I eventually taught the students this summer but I was not sure at first it would go the right way. I was very hard with them and we were not connected. The relation started on a very conventional par, the tools are dangerous and you have to be watchful. But In PaTi they are good and devoted students who stay overtime to learn more. Maybe someday Pati has some money and leather craft will be a regular class here.