“Leather is a passion renewed with each piece I make” - Portrait of Maïa Reynaud, Technical Director at Maison Jean Rousseau
by Maïa Reynaud
As a student of fine leather goods, Maïa Reynaud had not yet graduated from the prestigious École Boudard in Paris when her high standards led her to the ateliers of Maison Jean Rousseau. Now the technical director in our Parisian boutique, she puts her passion to use every day to create high quality tailor-made work.
I was five years old when I discovered leather. As a horse rider, I lived in harnesses and bridles. When I was lucky enough to own a horse, I took the opportunity to repair the saddles and bridles myself. What a pleasure it was to work with leather – a material that is both flexible and resistant, a living material that has always offered me the opportunity to express myself.
At seventeen I had mentioned my desire to work with leather, but I was instead encouraged to follow a more classical path that lead me to university. As I was about to become a professor of fine arts and art history, when chance, or possibly coincidence, put me on the path to a “high-end art saddlery and leather goods” course in Franche-Comté, in the east of France. I was living in Brittany, and I had to travel across France to apply. To my surprise, I was selected.
I then left the university, Brittany, and everything, to fulfil my passion. I am finally where I belong. On Friday night, I’m scrambling to have to wait until Monday to return to the workshop. Even today leatherwork captivates me, in particular, traditional hand-stitching which is passed from one generation to another and gives full meaning to our profession. Each craftsman has his own gesture. This is the charm of craftsmanship, but no one is allowed to make mistakes: our customers are connoisseurs who would notice the slightest misstep.
“Leather is an intelligence of the hand, but also of the heart.”
At Jean Rousseau, we have the opportunity to intervene at the genesis of each piece. I remember a man walking through our doors carrying his great-grandfather’s wallet. The leather was threadbare, but the sentimental scope of the object was so great that we studied the skins, the colors, and the cuts of the wallet that we were going to make on the basis of this patriarch’s one. As we handed him our work, his eyes were shining brightly. We had spent time together defining his dream creation. Although he knew what to expect, the magic had still worked. This is my most touching memory. It illustrates the fact that leather is an intelligence of the hand, but also of the heart.
In the workshop as well as in life, I believe in doing things the best way possible. What’s important, is finding the passion that can inspire us. So for me, it’s leather. It has been seventeen years since I left the college halls for the scent of beeswax and I have never regretted it. Seventeen years that I have lived a passion renewed with each piece I make.