It was by absolute chance that I started in the handicraft business, living in Graça (Lisbon) and working in a publicity agency. A lot of foreign people would visit local houses around the city, and I was no exception. A friend of mine (German roots) used to make silver wire jewelry, I remember I always admired and appreciated the way he worked with all those materials. Shortly after he travelled to his country, leaving all his stuff at home (three pliers, a silver wire roll, some beads and a couple of semi-precious stones). He told me “If one day you need to use them, go ahead”.
At first, I was amused due to my lack of experience when it comes to handicraft products. But life takes a lot of turns and after a while I found myself in the subway selling earring and bracelets, despite being all crooked it was my very own creation. Since I already knew how to do macrame and loom (taffeta) I added them to my business. The streets of Lisbon (and Costa da Caparica and Algarve around summer time) gave me most of my knowledge. Specially the various craftsmen that worked there (Brazilians, Spaniards, Argentines etc).
As I used to sell around Palácio Foz, I was invited to do a Handicraft Exhibition there, organized by Dra. Margarida from Caritas. It was my first ever exhibition back in 1982. Around that same year I exhibited in “Estufa Fria” and that consecutive year. I also started art school in Lisbon, at the “Cidade Universitária” campus.
One day I decided to try and sell at the Flea Market (Feira da Ladra) in Lisbon, and I came across a craftsman who worked on leather pieces. After some time, I went to live with my family in Lexim (Mafra) and started working for him. That was my first contact with leather, making sandals, belts, purses etc. Since I didn’t have my own place, he trusted me to live with him until I got a home.
It was all thanks to the Vilar de Mouros festival and the aid that Caritas gave me (30.000 Escudos – 150 Euros give or take) that I finally settled my independence (from home) and created my first workshop. Bought tools and a couple of raw materials, and from that point on I started working only at the Flea Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I also began a partnership with some local shops in Cascais, Sintra and Lisbon where I would supply some of my pieces.
Because silver was extremely expensive, I had to change the earrings to brass and alpaca wire, and with time I started only producing macrame panels, leather handbags, leather bracelets, boxes and bamboo earrings.
It was very normal to trade between craftsmen, often some of them would travel from the north and sell in the south and vice versa.
In 1983 I travelled to Porto for the first time around Christmas and I had my first experience selling in the famous Rua de Santa Catarina. In 1984 I returned to Porto for another week, which leads us to the present. Turning irregular visits to a permanent stay, and with that a new family, a new atelier, a new lifestyle.
As an urban artisan, I didn’t (and still don’t) have the obligation to stick with just one raw material, like any of my works are not traditional. I didn’t follow any guidelines it was whatever and whoever that inspired me. It’s our experience and time that makes every piece so personal and the way we work each one of them is completely
different. I either start with my own ambition or by an exchange of ideas between us craftsmen who, like me, started the same way I did.
Over the years I gained more practice and experience in the constant search for knowledge that I still pursue. At first it started with simple visits to the National Library, now I get most of my knowledge from the internet, where I also stay connected to various group of national and international interests linked to handicrafts.
Since 1999 I’ve returned to the national and local handicraft fairs, and my participation was vigorous till 2017.
Valeriano Cousas em Couro was born thanks to my participation in medieval fairs and markets from 2002 to 2017 all over the country. All these events enhanced and fortified my activity in several ways, always trying to create new products based on the medieval theme.
Between 2004 and 2005 I gave professional training in the course “The Art of Working The Leather” in Felgueiras.
Valeriano is a unipersonal craft company. All pieces are drawn, cut, needled and sewed manually or with the help of a couple of manual machines. Man-made fur thread or shoemaker’s yarn is used in its manufacture. A great percentage of the skins I work with is treated with vegetal based products, being environmentally friendly. I merely work with bovine, goat and ovine skins.
To this day I work with skins, however new raw materials were introduced such as cork, printed fabric and wood. I seek an ongoing and rejuvenated approach to the art I started making back then with a great amount of pleasure, love and honor and I continue to do.
Buying something handmade is to buy something made by someone who cares. Each piece is as unique as you are!