In 1995, we stood in the station near the airport. I was reluctant to return the packsack to you. It is full of my memory and my hardship. The trace of rubbing is still there, but it has not broken. Now it has become part of my body. It is a ring on my arm, smelling my sweat. Nothing can replace it…… This is a popular song of Eason Chan, Your Packsack. What kind of a bag can become part of body and stand long-lasting? Let’s walk into the corner of Chaozhou Street of Taiwan to find the answer in a story of handmade leather.
In the afternoon after a thundershower in early summer, I walk in the quiet and peaceful alley of Taipei. Just a block from here, it is the famous Yongkang Street. Here you can have a taste of the well-known mango ice and the Din Tai Fung steamed dumplings. However, all these can not attract me. I come for visiting the『Qianchuan Handmade Leather』hiding in the Chaozhou Street.
It is a store operated by a post-70s boss. The moment I open the door, I get attracted by the smell in it. The flavor of tobacco mixed with the wild flavor of feather comes to my nose, from which I smell of manliness. Then I am shocked by a houseful of handmade leatherware. It seems that I have traveled to the time of western cowboy. The cowboy style will come alive in this room once the wild music is played.
All the leather articles in this store are made by the boss Shuyan Zhang. He introduces that all the leather materials are imported from Italy, and he will never select raw materials coming from unknown origins. He has learned the fabrication technique from Japanese craftsman, so he creates his works carefully, delicately and steadfastly.
The longer time you stay with the leather, you become more affectionate to it. At last, you get reliant on it. I ask Shuyan why he has devoted himself to the leather industry for such a long time. He says that he fell in love with leather at first sight and got so obsessed with it that he decided to make it as a life-time career. In the song Your packsack, Eason expresses the sentiment of missing. The packsack has accompanied him to go through a lot. As long as it is by your side, the past will be still vivid in your mind.
Vegetable tanning is an ancient technique for feather fabrication. It was firstly found in a pair leather sandals in Egypt, and then had carried forward the leather art in Renaissance. This technique is to process fur into leather in order to make it non-perishable. Just like a fine wine goes better with age. The longer time you use the leather, the more personalized it becomes, thus proving the declaration of leatherware that time tells.
This is the first works of Shuyan, the priceless treasure for the store. It is placed in the store in memory of his regretless choice. Five years has passed since the store was opened. However, Shuyan enjoys his creation and is quite content in the store even in adversity.
People who come to customize leather articles are mostly of foreigners. This one-fold wallet is a best-seller. It is simple both in design and fabrication, which is reflected in its simple geometric features. However, it stresses a good proportion. Formed integrally, the wallet is stitched with fewest threads. The reduction of fabrication procedures has brought the performance of leather into best play, thus making the wallet both light and solid. Many foreigners who have stayed in Taiwan for a long time will return to their native lands with the one-fold wallets as presents to their families and friends.
I walk in Chaozhou Street with curiosity. There is no noise and disturbance of tourists, but only the typical peaceful and relaxed atmosphere of Taipei.
Any store in the street corner is either a 60-year-old store or a high-taste store in low-key design. Such a good artistic atmosphere makes you feel content even having a walk in it. Welcome to Shuyan’s store to enjoy the good old times the next time you come to Taipei.
Address：No.20-5, Ln. 141, Sec. 2, Jinshan S. Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan
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