Ledertasche aus der Kollektion von Daniela Damm feines Lederhandwerk Täschnerin

leather artisan - with a unique 'Know How'

Who knows any facts about the job of a 'bag maker'? It is or was a craft profession with a long tradition in Germany.

Daniela also did not know the craft profession when she was looking for an apprenticeship in her early 20s. Today she is one of the few artisan masters who practices this craft in her own workshop. You are welcome to visit Daniela in her studio in Frankfurt. Upon entering, you notice the smell of finely tanned leather and the natural colour palette. And when Daniela talks about her handmade bags, you can immediately sense her enthusiasm for her craft. Her thought-out designs show her well acquired artisan knowledge and ‘Know How’.

Daniela's handmade bags are ...?

Most of all purely hand­craf­ted with a unique style. Daniela describes her bags as reduced, fem­in­ine soft and time­less, suit­able for ‘every­day use’. Her hand­bags should become one’s per­son­al favor­ite, like a cloth­ing piece.

"I still have bags in my col­lec­tion that I designed 25 years ago. The bulbous but eleg­ant shape is a spe­cial design fea­ture with my per­son­al favor­ite. An abso­lute all-round­er and the design fit many activ­it­ies. After work, you can buy a few gro­cer­ies, put them in your bag and cycle home. I have designed the straps in such a way that they can be easily adjus­ted. Due to the soft nubuck leath­er, the shape col­lapses nicely and looks eleg­ant even with little con­tent- ideal for an even­ing event. This is my ‘one bag fits all activ­it­ies’ philo­sophy."

The fine nat­ur­al color tones can be har­mo­ni­ously mixed with many cloth­ing colors. Warm stone tones, beige shades, nat­ur­al hues, and del­ic­ate brown tones are her basic color range. But some­times Daniela chooses a soft mauve or a powdery yellow for her col­lec­tion.

Daniela's customers are ...?

Women who have a con­nec­tion to 'crafts'. And of course, who appre­ci­ate her hand­made pieces and thought­ful design. There­fore, they know that the price of her bags reflects the know­ledge and many hand­craf­ted work­ing hours which go into one unique bag.

"Some of my cus­tom­ers have a pre­cise idea of 'their' wish bag. They come into my studio, and we talk about all the desired func­tions. Then I design and make the bag just like this. Often my cus­tom­ers delib­er­ately do not want to follow every fash­ion trend.  Or they are look­ing for a spe­cial color which is not ‘en vogue’ that season. "

‘Slow Fash­ion’ is not a new trend to Daniela's cus­tom­ers who are mostly over 30. But young­er women also appre­ci­ate her craft. This can be seen in 'best friends' gifts or 'I just saved money the past months for ‘my bag’. A though­ful appre­ci­ation of her artis­an work.

Leather is ...?

A stun­ning nat­ur­al mater­i­al. During Daniela’s train­ing the old teach­ers don't value leath­er as such. Unfor­tu­nately, they don’t high­light the unique fea­tures. Maybe they take things for gran­ted. At this time the leath­er goods ‘made in Ger­many’ are still made out of fine leath­er hides pro­duced by German tan­ner­ies. The cheap­er and some­times haz­ard­ous leath­er from India or China enter the market at a later stage.

"It was and is always import­ant to me to make the cre­at­ive pro­cess and the choice of mater­i­als trans­par­ent. I would like to pass my appre­ci­ation of the mater­i­al to my cus­tom­ers. To me it is import­ant to explain that the full util­iz­a­tion of the animal takes place if the skin is also used. My sup­pli­ers from Ger­many or Italy make it very easy for me. They provide the fol­low­ing inform­a­tion: 'Where was the leath­er hide tanned and pro­cessed? Is the hide from Ger­many or anoth­er European coun­try? Which col­ours and tan­ning agents were used? Which 'finish' was applied?!"

‘Hand or head work?! - What suits me?

This is not just a prob­lem of today's young gen­er­a­tion. Daniela is also torn back and forth after her high school degree. Firstly she goes through an intern­ship with an advert­ising agency and after­waerd starts her BA in 'Mar­ket­ing'. But she is not emo­tion­ally attached to her stud­ies. She remem­bers the fun times she had with her grandma, a seam­stress, learn­ing the basics of the craft. Already as a teen­ager she designs her first small fash­ion designs.

"At the age of 21, I finally decided I wanted to be a seam­stress. At that time, the tra­di­tion­al German craft­man­ship edu­ca­tion was no longer seen as a good career path. When I left the uni­ver­sity I couldn't find an appren­tice place­ment. Luck­ily a friend who stud­ied at the Design Uni­ver­sity in Offen­bach gave me a tip. Many com­pan­ies there are doing sewing work - not with fab­rics but with leath­er. When I called the German ‘Leath­er Goods Asso­ci­ation’ and asked if there were still train­ing places open for 'sewing’ - they didn’t know which job I was enquir­ing about. Finally: Oh! You want to become a ‘bag maker’ (Täschner­in)! So, that was the first time I heard the old-fash­ioned craft name. 4 weeks later I star­ted as an appren­tice at a samll com­pany.”

German Craftmanship educuation

FYI: The tra­di­tion­al German craft­man­ship edu­ca­tions is a 3-year ‘dual system’ train­ing. 3 days per week the stu­dents learn all their prac­tic­al skills while work­ing in a com­pany. The day-to-day work is part of the train­ing. The rest of the week the appren­tice attends a Craft­man­ship Col­lege. Classes like tech­nic­al draw­ing, mater­i­al sci­ence, and other sub­jects guar­an­tee a pro­found know­ledge next to hand­craft skills. At the end the stu­dents have to design and make their unique final Craft object.  Show­cas­ing all the skills and know­ledge they acquired in the past 3 years.

‘Don't object - to get to the top, you have to start at the bottom’

How true for Daniela's appren­tice years. There is prob­ably no great­er con­trast between the relaxed atmo­sphere in an advert­ising agency and the structered days in a tra­di­tion­al craft com­pany. Daniela fights her way through the train­ing led by the old master crafts­men. But they have some pre­ju­dices against the young woman from the big city! The so called ‘old grey coats' – the name is linked to their work­ing outfit – as well as the strenu­ous days in the com­pany give Daniela a dif­fi­cult time. More than once she is ready to give up. On the other hand the expert­ise that the old teach­ers have is abso­lutely enorm­ous. This fas­cin­ates Daniela. There are so many tricks and tricks to create a per­fect product such as a briefcase. She is becom­ing more and more enthu­si­ast­ic about 'her' craft.

Daniela's ‘Sturm und Drang’ period!

With her affin­ity for design, Daniela jumps into a self-employ­ment status right after her final exa­mens. Her motiv­a­tion is very clear: Fun at work – yes! But not in the tight corset of an old-fash­ioned com­pany. She is lucky or, strictly speak­ing, her first cus­tom­er is lucky. Daniela's design of a small leath­er series wins the renowned ‘German Leath­er Goods’ Award. Her advant­age - she knows many tech­nic­al tricks neces­sary for the pro­duc­tion. Until then, the owners of the leath­er goods com­pany often cre­ated the 'designs' them­selves. Or com­mis­sioned an indus­tri­al design­er to devel­op a model. But without the craft­man­ship expert­ise, many ideas are designed past the high-qual­ity but dif­fi­cult mater­i­al: ‘the leath­er’. Daniela's strategy 'Design plus Pro­fes­sion­al Imple­ment­a­tion' attracts her cos­tumers and she suc­cess­fully man­ages her self-employ­ment at a very young age.

‘Hand or head’ work?! – second part!

Even after the birth of her two chil­dren in the mid-1990s, Daniela con­tin­ues to work as a bag maker. Her work­shop with the tech­nic­al equip­ment is now incorper­ated in her house. How­ever, she also starts to study 'Busi­ness Eco­nomy' in the even­ings. Her con­sid­er­a­tion is: Do I need a more sus­tain­able and qual­i­fied job? The craft pro­fes­sion is not exactly exper­i­en­cing a renais­sance in these years. With her BA, she could work for the Mar­ket­ing & Sales depart­ment of the leath­er goods com­pan­ies. But these com­pan­ies are under­go­ing struc­tur­al changes just around that time. The relo­ca­tion of pro­duc­tion to low-wage coun­tries such as India and then China is the new trend. This goes hand in hand with the change in con­sumer beha­viour in Ger­many. The hand­bag 'Made in Ger­many' is no longer the status symbol. So the decision between ‘head or hand’ work is taken away from Daniela. Almost all com­pan­ies in Offen­bach, the strong­hold for the pro­duc­tion of leath­er goods in Ger­many, are clos­ing. Just the world-renowned ‘Offen­bach­er Leath­er Goods Fair’ lasts a little longer.

Going public!  - the shop & studio

In 2004 Daniela finds her work­space in one of Frankfurt's local dis­tricts - ideally loc­ated between school and house. Her chil­dren can do their home­work between leath­er skins and pro­to­types and learn many prac­tic­al things at the same time. In addi­tion to the design and pro­duc­tion of her own col­lec­tion, Daniela always takes on new chal­lenges. 

"I have always main­tained my industry con­tacts. There were already few ‘bag makers’ in the 1990s, as the industry trained fewer and fewer people. This is now the advant­age of my pro­fes­sion. People who need my expert­ise will find me! Since quite some time I also do con­sult­ing work."

'Think outside the box!' - a working motto

So, Daniela advises a Por­tuguese leath­er goods com­pany before the Corona Lock­down. In Por­tugal, she trains people, optim­izes pro­cesses, and imple­ments pro­duc­tion qual­ity stand­ards. She also enthu­si­ast­ic­ally accepts requests from design­ers who want to turn their design ideas into pro­duc­tion. Daniela sup­ports them with her pro­fes­sion­al & artis­an know­ledge. And she also con­nects them with small pro­duc­tion com­pan­ies. 

"It's incred­ibly import­ant to me to think ‘out­side my box’. Oth­er­wise, I'll be stuck in my own cocoon. I am happy to accept chal­lenges. The young stu­dents at the Design Uni­ver­sit­ies are not taught any pro­cess or craft­man­ship know­ledge. It is the idea & the design that counts there. As I always love the exchange with young people.  I hap­pily sup­port them on their pro­ject requests. It's good to pass on my know­ledge."

Maybe it's also because Daniela often heard from the 'grey coats' in her appren­tice years: Oh, that's what you want to try?! We have never made things this way! This has been the pro­cess in the past hun­dred years! Why do you want to change this?! When Daniela quotes this with a put-on Hes­si­an dia­lect, you real­ize how form­at­ive her edu­ca­tion was.

‘Old German craftsmanship’ – without a future?

Daniela imple­ments the designs of 'her' cos­tumers with the remain­ing small craft busi­nesses in Offen­bach. But in the last 5 years, a lot of these com­pan­ies have closed. The 'finale' in the Offen­bach leath­er industry is hap­pen­ing. Soon there will no longer be a com­pany that pro­duces leath­er goods. This is stress­ful for Daniela when none of the more than 18,000 skilled work­ers in 'the golden days' prac­tice their pro­fes­sion any­more.

"I struggle with that!! Not only the skilled work­ers dis­ap­pear but also the tech­nic­al equip­ment. That totally limits my work. I needed a spe­cif­ic equip­ment for a pro­ject with a design­er. We finally found a com­pany in Vienna, Aus­tria that can manage the pro­duc­tion step. Hard to ima­gine that no com­pany in Ger­many could do the job. Well, unfor­tu­nately this is get­ting too expens­ive now. The entire strong­hold of the ‘High end leath­er man­u­fac­tur­ing’ area around Offen­bach is dis­ap­pear­ing. The German leath­er industry and the artis­an know­ledge is simply being lost as a cul­tur­al asset."

Appreciation of German Artisan Expertise’ - An Appeal!

"At the end of the 1980s, I observed how the German leath­er goods industry star­ted to shut down all the pro­duc­tion facil­it­ies – through­out Ger­many. That was very pain­ful to watch. But what depresses me in recent years is the real­iz­a­tion: the expert­ise of a very spe­cial­ized artis­an craft will soon be lost! When the last exper­i­enced ‘bag maker’ dies, then all his 50 years of exper­i­ence is simply gone! Then nobody is left who can teach a young person the skills & tricks. I find that very bitter - I wonder why the author­it­ies are not doing any­thing for the past 30 years"

And the 'author­it­ies' is the industry, the politi­cians, the Cham­ber of Crafts, the city of Offen­bach. Part of our artis­an cul­ture, which exists since the Middle Ages, is dis­ap­pear­ing. This craft has helped to shape our soci­ety and other cul­tur­al assets too. People with a wealth of exper­i­ence cannot pass on their know­ledge. The last small com­pan­ies close their pro­duc­tion. Where and how can train­ing still take place?  People like Daniela already gained a lot of expert­ise. But she knows that this is only a per­cent­age of what her old mas­ters ‘the grey coats’ have accu­mu­lated in their long years of work. Can this pro­cess be stopped at all?

Anmerkung in eigen­er Sache: Ich werde zu diesem Thema einen Brief an die Handwerkskam­mer schreiben. Gerne gebe ich euch in einem später­en Artikel ein 'Update'.

Name: Daniela Damm

She is:

Bag Maker Master 'Täschner Meis­ter­in' cre­at­ive crafts­wo­man with pas­sion

Mar­ket­ing and Sales Eco­nom­ist

She can be found in:

in her pre­cious fine studio in Frank­furt, Ger­many - nearby the Frank­furt Fair grounds

She likes:

In the morn­ing a sweet break­fast with tea against thirst and coffee for enjoy­ment

and a news­pa­per made of paper and not so much talk­ing.

Walk­ing in any form, run­ning in the coun­tryside in the morn­ing, walks or hikes,

this is pure free­dom, in nature or in the urban envir­on­ment.

rather moun­tains, rather early bird than owl, open and curi­ous about many things and many places

She admires:

Madeleine Albright, I would have loved to talk to her.

Her determ­in­a­tion and strength, her clar­ity, her know­ledge and wisdom, her desire for influ­ence that brought her to where she was.

at a time when this seemed impossible and all this with great kind­ness and humor – just great!

Her WIASOLA tip:

"Always keep moving, be open and ready to devel­op ("devel­op" I ima­gine myself fig­ur­at­ively and find it won­der­ful!"

Her 5 favor­ite authors:

  • John Irving
  • Lily Brett
  • Isaac Singer
  • Robert Seethaler
  • Ewald Arenz

Why? I like when life with all its facets and absurdit­ies is told with cas­u­al­ness and some­times with wit.

To be found under:




Falk­straße 28

60487 Frank­furt


+49 178 8097411

Here you can see a few work­ing steps  - show­ing Daniela's craft expert­ise

Daniela Damm kindly provided me with the beau­ti­ful photos of the indi­vidu­al bags in her col­lec­tion.

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