Author: Zoran Stupar
Translation: Silvio Lončarić
Anthony Loughan (35) from Portland, OR, is in a business that is definitely not on the list of something you would consider as a typical American job.
Anthony is a leather craftsman; and a self-taught one at that. Precisely the fact that he is self-taught made him think about perfecting his craft. The last couple of days Anthony has been helping Silvio Loncaric, the owner of a local workshop (Lion Holsters), at his everyday business and learning about some old and almost forgotten trade secrets. This workshop is the real deal since leather craft is their family heritage for almost a century now.
First destination – Florence
Had everything turned out as planned, Anthony would be studying in Florence right now. The decision to look into schooling in Florence was prompted after the end of a relationship. He decided to go to Italy, to the city with the richest history in arts and crafts. The Academia in Florence awarded Anthony a partial scholarship so he visited the facility to meet the master and see the conditions.
With previous experience in leather craft the Academia invited Anthony to skip the first year Atelier program and enter directly to the Master’s program. Upon visiting Academia Riaci Anthony decided that the facility was not up to his expectations. Tools were outdated and the space was cramped. Although the diploma from Italian university would offer provenance it was not an ideal fit. And the costs of living in Florence could be prohibitive.
The turning point was an unplanned journey with a becoming Japanese girl Sayuri. They met on a train from Florence to Venice. She then invited Anthony to travel to Vienna, Austria, and he agreed to extend his journey. After a few days in Vienna, Anthony realized that he was just a few hours away from Zagreb, a hometown of an inspiring fellow leatherworker Silvio Loncaric, the designer of Silkfatblues Custom Leather; that he had followed on Facebook. Once contacted, Silvio invited Anthony to visit Zagreb. The result – Anthony has spent the last couple of days helping in the workshop with daily duties and learning new skills.
‘Until I learned how to hand stitch traditionally I loathed it.’
‘The amount of talent in this household is unreal” says Anthony about his hosts. Besides the leather craft, Silvio’s bag of tricks includes photography, videography and music. Also, his brother, Lonac, is a renowned muralist. His father is retired but still supervising the craft and offering Anthony traditional instruction. When I visited them at the workshop Josip was showing Anthony how to traditionally hand stitch.
‘Until I learned how to hand stitch traditionally I loathed it’ admits Anthony. Silvio and his father Josip praise Anthony’s enthusiasm.
‘His work is great. Looking at this stitch it is just a little crooked, but a big improvement on his first attempt’ says Josip as he shows me Anthony’s work. Silvio’s response to the new arrival is of relief and gratitude for skill and attention for detail as much as for a good laugh and great spirit.
‘His enthusiasm is contagious!’, says Silvio.
‘For me, in Croatian the most important word to know how to say is thank you.’
Anthony might be staying in Zagreb until the end of March when Silvio has a deadline to deliver a big order they are working on. When he returns to Oregon he hopes to have polished skills and knowledge of traditional methodology and increased knowhow of production. Anthony’s gratitude for the welcoming nature and openness to share of Loncaric family is ‘through the roof’.
‘Within my travels I’ve tried to learn how to say please and thank you in the native language. Since I’ve been in Croatia I have realized that thank you is the most important phrase due to kindness and generosity of the Loncaric’s and Croat’s. I have trouble with pronunciation and spelling of Croatian language, but Thank You is the most important phrase to me. Hvala.’ (Although, he says it perfectly)
‘The Croat’s have been so generous to me; they have taken me in as one of their own recognizing that my intentions are to work hard and prove my value. That is probably the reason they feed me like I am going to war. (Laughter) I came to Zagreb with no expectations and an open mind for an experience. I asked for nothing but have stumbled into the best case scenario’, concludes Anthony.