Last month we spoke with Remus Stanescu, a leather craftsman based in Perosa Argentina, Piedmont, Italy. He and his wife Catalina started Stanescu Leathercraft in 2013. When they aren’t fishing with their two daughters, Remus and Catalina cut, dye, carve, and stitch leather products for fly anglers across the globe. They specialize in rod and reel cases, fly boxes, tippet holders, and more. According to Remus, the couple “can do anything in leather,” and welcomes custom orders. Read more about their handiwork and passion for fishing below!
A Family Business
The Stanescus’ business has roots in family tradition. In a small town in Transylvania, Romania, Remus’s grandmother discovered a passion for fishing in the 1940s. “At that time it was considered a shame to fish because only the poorest, who had nothing to eat, went fishing,” Remus said. Defying the social attitudes of her time, Remus’s grandmother taught her family how to fish, building up what Remus calls a family “clan” of fishermen. “The fishing they practiced with my grandmother was very basic, but it was enough to put the seed of passion in their minds,” Remus said.
In the 1960s, the family started spin fishing. “In Romania at that time the information regarding modern fishing was almost non-existent, which is why I am still amazed by the jump my father and uncles made from bait fishing to spin fishing,” he said. Remus’s father got a spinning rod and reel from East Germany and “mercilessly exploited” the gear during fishing season. In the offseason he “completely disassembled each reel, washed the parts in gas, greased them and reassembled them so they were ready for the next season,” Remus said. “At that time, spinning was seen as an eccentricity by other fishermen who used live bait. To make the circus even bigger, [my father and uncles] sometimes went fishing dressed in suits and ties to highlight how elegant the spin fishing was compared to fishing with worms,” Remus said.
Remus grew up in this clan, fishing with handmade lures on the Somes River near its origin (at the confluence of the Somesul Mare and Somesul Mic Rivers). “The Somes is a hilly river, and our favorite fish were predators such as pike, catfish, chub, and asp,” Remus said, “I fed my childhood with the fishing adventures of my father, my uncles, and their friends. Camping on the river bank and listening to stories about deep waters, great pikes, and fishermen having heart attacks after losing great fish shaped my mind.”
Catalina’s family’s history of leather working is the other key component of Stanescu Leathercraft. Also born in Romania, at the Black Sea shore, Catalina “lived in a family of leatherworkers and spent her childhood in her father’s workshop—in the smell of leather and glue,” Remus said. The pair “met in a bar one summer morning when [Catalina] was drinking her coffee, and [Remus] was trying to end the night,” Remus said, “I am not allowed to reveal more—we were so young!”
“My dream has always been to make a living doing something fishing related,” Remus said. After Remus’s brother showed him leather products related to fly fishing, Remus and Catalina started their business. “Stanescu Leathercraft represents what a person has that is most precious. For me, it is the memories of my days and nights spent fishing with my family, and for my wife it is the time she spent as a child in her father’s leather shop,” he said.
Tuscan Leather, Hand Crafted Products
The couple uses Tuscan leather for all of its products. “Tuscan-tanned leather is famous all over the world for its quality. Tuscany is an area with a great tradition and dozens of tanneries that traditionally tan the leather,” Remus said. According to Remus, tanneries treat leather either chemically (with lime, for example), or traditionally with organic materials like oak bark. The traditional tanning method preserves the leather’s fibers, which allow the leather to stretch and mold into shape without breaking.
Additionally, the Stanescus use only full grain leather. Remus explained that companies split leather before creating products. This creates two types of leather. The first is full grain—this was the outside layer of the animal’s skin, and is the highest quality leather because it retains the fibers that allow it to stretch without cracking or tearing. The second type is called “split”—this was the inside layer of the animal’s skin and it has no fibers that allow it to stretch. “That is why a belt [made from split] feels like an iron ring on a barrel—it has no fibers to stretch and after a few beers you feel it around you,” Remus said. According to Remus, the term “genuine leather” describes products made from split. The term signals that the product is the lowest possible quality of real leather.
With their leather in hand, Remus and Catalina hand cut, dye, carve, and sew each product to order. “I use very few templates—that way I force myself to redo the calculations for each element every time I make something, and can get new ideas to improve the product or my technique.” While Remus can carve nearly anything into leather, he is especially fond of carving fish:
“The idea of carving fish came to me from childhood. I was fascinated by dried pike heads that were mounted on wooden stands and displayed as trophies in those days. The first item I created was a wallet with a pike head. I believe that when you are not fishing you need something that reminds you of your greatest passion, and a wallet is always with you, except when you are in the water,” Remus said.
The most important part of Remus’s and Catalina’s process is hand-sewing. “No machine can sew like hand sewing. It provides a precious look, and we use two needles to hand stitch, so the stitching does not unweave itself if a single thread is cut accidentally,” Remus said.
A Leather-Bound Legacy
For Remus, Stanescu leather products have value beyond the dollar. “I chose leather because, in my opinion, it is the most noble material. I have heard someone in the field say that leather is the only remains of a living creature, and by working it we have the chance to give the creature a second life through a valuable and long-lasting item that will have its own story,” Remus said.
For the Stanescus, their clients play a vital role in each item’s story. “Our clients are spread from South Africa to Norway, Alaska, and Tasmania,” Remus said, “I have no words to express how satisfying it is to receive messages about how pleased they are with an item. They have the most important role in creating a good leather item—by using it, they give the leather patina and uniqueness, creating a strong bond between the product and its owner, which can last two or three lifetimes.”
To learn more about Stanescu Leathercraft, you can visit Remus’s and Catalina’s website, or see how Remus creates leather fly boxes and carves salmon heads and mayflies, respectively, into his products.