Meet the Maker: Gerli
What is your position in Stella Soomlais studio?
I am the Head of Production, meaning that I supervise that everybody knows what to do and everything gets ready on time. Since last year, I have also been a social media specialist.
What does your typical workday look like?
Usually I start my workday already at home or on the way to work in a trolley bus creating social media posts and writing quick replies to colleagues in Slack. Once at work, I will drink my morning coffee and catch up with new orders, check the situation in production and make changes in the plan if necessary. The situation can change quite fast, so keeping everybody up to date is one of my priorities. Rest of the day I take new pictures, plan the next posts on social media or jump in to help the crafters with leather work.
How did you arrive at Stella Soomlais studio and how long have you been working here?
I ended up in the studio at the end of 2016. I knew Stella already from the Estonian Academy of Arts when she was lecturing there. I also had some friends already working or interning in the company. We had been in contact for almost half a year before I actually came to help during the busy Christmas time and I have been working here ever since.
What did you do before?
Leather has been a part of my life for almost 10 years. At first, I was more interested in bookbinding and I graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts leather department in 2014. After that, I spent a year interning in New York, helping out in the handbag design department. Back in Estonia, I interned and worked for short periods with different local designers, but I also tried other positions outside my vocation. I did a lot of soul searching during this time and it seemed tricky to find the right place for my skills in Estonia.
How long did it take to master all the skills needed to make Stella Soomlais bags?
I had already worked with leather before but I still had to retrain and learn new techniques – every crafter and designer has their own tricks and ways of making things. I was making bags after a couple of months.
How long does it take to make a bag?
In a regular studio setting, it can take a day to make our Go to the Library backpack. But I can work a lot faster when there is nobody around, all the machines are free and I make no mistakes :)
What do you like most about leather work?
I like leather as a material – it’s constantly changing and challenging. A material with a life of its own with endless possibilities for use. Each hide is different and gives you a new experience. Even if you have made the same bag a hundred times, there are always surprises waiting for you. By now I have made so many bags and it is interesting to see how they age. Each bag has the crafter’s name inside and when they come back for our after-care service, I always look at how the bag has aged, but also how my skills have advanced.
Is it a hard job?
The crafters job is physically hard. In other parts of the world, it is usually a man’s job. It is hard on both your hands and back. And it can also be mentally demanding – when things don’t go the way they should or the leather or the machines misbehave. However, the wonderful feeling of finishing a bag and seeing a satisfied customer while practicing and evolving a very special skill beats all the downsides.
Which is your favourite Stella Soomlais studio bag?
The classic Go to the Library backpack because it fits everything you need with some space to spare. You can also wear it as a handbag. I just started to wear mine like that recently and I felt like I had bought myself a new bag :) My second favourite is the Treasure Box handbag.
What do you like about working in Stella Soomlais studio?
I’m a big fan of the overall studio atmosphere and the fact that the job is not just a job. We organise many events both private and public which adds variety to the routine. We have more freedom to speak up and contribute to decision-making than in a bigger company. The studio is like a second home and it’s also a great place where to spend your free time.
Do you follow any other designers to keep up with what they’re doing?
I’ve always been interested in what is being done in different fashion houses and what our local designers are up to. Lately, I have had less time for that but I still like to keep up with what other designers are doing..
How do you spend your time outside of work?
Currently, I am going through a calmer period in my life. Outside of work I mostly rest and do nothing. Switching off from everything is very important to me to stay fresh and calm. I like to visit exhibitions and explore great coffee places :) I have also taken up reading and drawing again.
Do you eat meat?
I still do sometimes, but a lot less than years ago.
What does the future hold for you?
You never know... I don’t like planning way ahead into the future. I enjoy the surprises that life brings.Photos by Kerli Mullamaa, Gerli Pesor and Sigrid Savva