Interview with Anders Björklund

Anders Björklund

Knowledge and craftsmanship through experience

Anders Björklund is a well respected craftsman within the saddlery industry. We feel extremely privileged to have a craftsman of his caliber working alongside us daily, helping us execute our vision of Tärnsjö Garveri – A House of Leather. How does he use his expertise to help us deliver an exceptional product?

You hold the title of Master Craftsman. How is that different from being a journeyman craftsman?

You must pass a very demanding exam to demonstrate your level of knowledge and skill. You also must have had your own business for at least six years with a documented level of knowledge in estimating and bookkeeping. There are several disciplines within the craft of saddler and I hold a master specialization in the field of interiors and furniture.

What do you enjoy most as a craftsman?

It depends, but I enjoy any project that brings together the right combination of architects, carpenters or other craftspeople working together on developing sustainable solutions. Regardless of the size of the project, I always enjoy working with the material – leather. There are so many different varieties of leather and each one is best suited for a specific use. To understand the properties of each variety and how to use it is very satisfying!

Why did you pursue a master certification in saddlery? How did you get into leather working?

I have always enjoyed working with my hands and started out as a welder. When my back told me that enough was enough, I shifted direction to saddlery which was only a hobby at the time. Today it is my life…

When crafting an exceptionally beautiful product, is the design the most important element or is it possible for the craftsman to make the difference between plain and extraordinary?

First and foremost you need talent to execute both things exceptionally. I also believe that beauty means something different to every person. I personally think that a simple well-crafted object with an obvious purpose and function – without being overdone – is the most beautiful. A seam should hold something together and a rivet should do the same. Without purpose, there is no soul.

Is anything in particular needed to become a good saddler?

To become a really good saddler I guess that you need the same things you would need to become a really good football player or painter: talent and a mentor to learn from.

Understanding both saddlery and industrial production, do you think it is possible to justify a price of say, 1800 USD for a briefcase? If so, what is needed?

Absolutely! If someone understands your product, they will accept the price. Leather, like any other product, comes in different qualities and therefore different prices. To create a beautiful product with a high level of craftmanship requires knowledge and TIME! Quick and good seldom hold hands…

What can someone ordering or purchasing a hand-crafted product from Tärnsjö Garveri expect?

”Handicraft is a way of producing something by hand. The one executing often masters the whole process and the end result varies greatly due to the craftsman’s skill at the task and the individual capability or talent.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Tärnsjö Garveri offers a combination of craftsmanship and industrial production. They can do this because their staff is diverse, skilled and very experienced. The market’s demand for variation makes it difficult for craftsmen to adhere to their desire to produce exceptional quality. Striving for the extraordinary requires time, determination and experience. Most people today have little or no knowledge of any craft and have a difficult time understanding what goes into a hand-crafted product. As an “old-school” saddler, I am sorry to say consumers often desire the exceptional but only want to pay for the ordinary. I see it as part of our job at Tärnsjö Garveri to demonstrate the difference and help our customers understand what they are purchasing. And also, to deliver value.

How, if in any way, is Tärnsjö Garveri unique?

They offer a unique raw material, and the rare commitment to satisfy the customer on the customer’s terms.

What is the difference between great craftsmanship and good craftsmanship?

Time. Knowledge. Material.

What would you say is the reason why Tärnsjö Garveri has outlasted similar businesses that are no longer in existence?

I am not sure, but my guess would be their ability to offer both leather and custom products would be a good explanation.

Affordability is often talked about. Does the concept of affordability apply to Tärnsjö Garveri and their comparatively more expensive leather?

Within the craft I represent it is widely accepted that Tärnsjö Garveri leather is exceptional. It is fantastic to work with since it is easy to shape, beautiful to look at, and very nice to hold or sit on – which makes it perfect for furniture.

Could you tell us about your greatest experience as a saddler?

As any good craftsman, I would tell you my most important experiences aren’t normally labeled as good memories. But as a craftsman, I am very proud that my expertise is sought after and it has taken me all the way to the South Pacific; French Polynesia to be exact…

Who, within your line of work, would you say inspires you the most?

I don´t know if there is anyone in particular but I can´t answer that without mentioning my mentor; Ingvar Samuelsson. He has and still does mean the world to me. Also, the Swedish saddler Johannes Palmgren is worth mentioning. Honestly, I am inspired by anyone who is exceptionally good at what they do!

Why should I purchase a product from Tärnsjö Garveri? What am I supporting, what do I get and how can I tell the difference?

I am not sure I understand the question but my answer as a craftsman would be: If you purchase a product from Tärnsjö Garveri you are a person who understands and values the knowledge, time and effort that goes into making the difference, which is evident through the product’s simplicity and purpose.

Needle and thread or sewing machine?

If I had to choose, needle and thread used with hands. It is more flexible and therefore it gives you a better chance of crafting a true masterpiece…