Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Warsaw glove maker: Czeslaw Jamrozinski
Of all the places I visited in Warsaw, the one that excited me most was a very small, very unglamorous glove shop. It is run by Czeslaw Jamrozinski. Or rather it is him, for the shop isn’t big enough to hold more than one person, and neither is the workshop behind it.
He comes from a family of glovemakers, as you would expect. No one enters this trade on a whim. His grandfather worked for a big glovemaker and it was his father who struck out on his own, opening up a shop in Kalisz and then, after World War Two, in Warsaw. Like many artisans I met in Poland, including shoemaker Januszkiewicz, he had trouble with the authorities after the War for his role in that conflict, and was in prison from 1945 to 1948. One of the certificates that sits on the wall of the shop is for Czeslaw’s father, congratulating him on 70 years of craftwork.
None of this, of course, was the reason I was excited to meet him. Although it’s always nice to have a good story. Rather, the reason was that he found gloves that almost fit me, and then showed me how he could make some that would be perfect.
I have embarrassingly slim wrists and long fingers. Artistic, my mother would say. Feminine, retort others. Whichever adjective you prefer, the fact remains that gloves are hard to find. Anything that is long enough on the fingers will be far too big on the palm and the wrist. Anyone that likes well-fitting clothes will know there is a particular pleasure in tight gloves. It may even be a little kinky. This pleasure has been denied to me.
Anyway. Czeslaw tried a couple of sizes on me, resting my elbow on a green felt pad on his desk and then pulling the glove on, finger by finger. He would loosen the leather a little before doing this, using the wooden “baguettes” you can see pictured above, pushing them up the fingers a couple of times. Apparently it’s just needed on new leather; this is not technique to stretch them permanently.
By trying various models he got a good fit, particularly in some beautiful chamois leather versions. Indeed, the leather was important, because this was the only craft I saw in Poland where access to good raw material was not a problem. Chamois, by the way, was originally the skin of a mountain goat but is also used to refer to skins treated with oil or whale blubber. Makes it all soft. Czeslaw works almost entirely in deer, doe or lambskin.
With all the gloves, the fit around the wrist was not quite right. So we decided to make some: they only cost £35, after all. Czeslaw measured two points on the palm, the wrist, the distance from thumb to index finger and then the length of each finger (interestingly, only in relation to the finger next to it, rather than the total length). He used an old French ruler that he said you only found in the glove trade. It was made in Grenoble, apparently, in 1934. He must be the only man in Poland still working in inches.
Czeslaw explained how he cuts the leather with his shears, having marked the right places on the hide, and we discussed a few points of style. The ‘points’ for example, the lines on the back, were created to make the hand look longer and so more elegant. Not really a problem I have. So we went without those. It will be a nice unbroken piece of brown lambskin.
The making will take two weeks. I’ll post pictures when they’re ready.