For Julia Leunge, preserving the past is just as important as creating something new. The Amsterdam-based metal restorer works with antiques and artifacts, bringing them back to their former glory and making improvements while being mindful of the intricacies, histories and stories that make each piece unique. As part of our Work on Canvas project we're meeting working artisans who defy conventions and use their creativity to transform their urban surroundings and push their craft forward, and we caught up with Julia to find out more about her craft and learn about her inspirations.
Hi Julia. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your craft?
I’m a metal restorer and I have my own business, Leunge Metaalrestauratie. I have a studio where I work for private clients or for museums, restoring and conserving metal objects and antiquities.
I like to do things with my hands, rather than studying and reading books all day.
What attracted you to this unconventional craft and how did you get started?
I studied archaeology, but I decided I wanted to do something a bit different and a bit more practical. I think I came across it on TV or something and just thought it sounded really interesting. It’s very practical so it’s really up my alley. I like to do things with my hands, rather than studying and reading books all day.
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Being able to take something that looks bad and that the owners aren’t happy with and you can make it look better and make them enjoy it again. That’s probably the most rewarding thing.
What are the challenges in your work?
Working with metal, a lot of things are irreversible because metal is a material that can be damaged pretty permanently. It can be a challenge because you don’t really know what the outcome is going to be. That’s of course also part of the experience – you know what you can do until something goes wrong!
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? What happens when you get a new piece to restore?
Usually people send photos first, so I can see what could be possibly done and I can try to prepare. When they actually bring the object in I look at it and just try to explain what I can and can’t do to make it look the way they want it to look. There are some ethics coming in sometimes as well; for example someone might say that they want to make a piece gold-plated, and sometimes that’s just not what you should do.
I think people like antiques because they radiate familiarity or they remind them of something important.
Being able to take something that looks bad and make it look better - that’s the most rewarding thing.
Why do you think people love to hold on to antiques? What do you think makes them so precious?
I think people like antiques because they radiate familiarity or they remind them of something important. Of course some people just like the look of them – whereas some people prefer more modern designs, a lot of people prefer classic looks. You can usually see a lot of craftsmanship in antiques too.
Can you tell us a bit about the piece of work that you were photographed with as part of our Virgin to Vintage project?
The piece I was photographed with was a gift from my dad; he gave me a broken coffee pot so I could restore it myself.
Can you share some of the experiences you had during your journey with your Denham jeans?
I did lots of things really. The jeans were very comfortable to work in – I sometimes have to crawl around on the floor and fix things, so it was good that they were easy to wear, and the fact that they were black meant it didn’t show that they got too dirty! Over the six months I had a lot of different projects, for example I worked with silver and I helped install some large 1930s lamps. You need decent workwear for projects like that so the jeans were helpful.