As I sit here writing this I am looking out at the mountain range. A cool breeze is blowing in through the open window. The fig tree below is slowly but surely growing up towards the second floor of the house. I hear the background noise of people on their way home for lunch, a car stopping to drop someone off, a door closing, a voice across the road. And then, it’s back to silence.

The peace and quiet of this village is where Isabel Garcia and Jose Luis Bazan, otherwise known as Pepe, make magic out of leather. From the narrow, cobbled street you would never know that behind the big wooden door of the white washed building two artists are busy creating works of art with leather. Their taste for something a little different is obvious in the pieces they produce. Their eye for quality is reflected in their designs. A lamp, a wall hanging, a colourful bowl. Elegantly designed products that any table or shelf would be proud to display.


I love to take guests here during the writing retreats. The element of surprise as they walk into the entrance to find a leather workshop reminds of the first time I visited the May Patios in El Puerto de Santa Maria. You would just never expect a workshop to be here. There’s no sign post, no neon advertising light, not even a name outside the door. The surprise as you walk into the hallway through the big wooden door into a world you’d never expect was there.


There’s also the pure pleasure the guests experience as they pick up the leather goods, run their hands over a beautifully crafted bowl that looks like it could be made out of wood, and communicate with Isabel. They ask questions warming immediately to Isabel’s lovely nature. Isabel has English lessons twice a week in the village and each time we visit her, she understands more. She looks at me for clarification when she hasn’t understood something. And then the communication is like a tennis match with each side looking from me to the person who has spoken and back to the person who receives the message as I translate.


Isabel gives advice

Isabel gives advice

Pepe sits in the background tapping away on his next creation, always ready to answer a question about the leather or how he has made something. Apart from the fact that the products are designed and handmade locally by this husband and wife team, there’s something special about their work. Yes, each one is unique, beautiful and of high quality but it’s more than that. They have a love of nature which is reflected in their work but their work also carries their personality. It holds their passion for their art.

Pepe at work

Pepe at workrematando-cuenco-de-cuero-con-seda

This time Sheryl brought her own bag as it needed repairing. She discusses it with Isabel.

“This part needs stitching. Can you do it?” she asks

Isabel runs her expert eye over it. She pulls it this way and that way examining it carefully.

“Yes, of course. It won’t take long.”

“How much?”

Isabel doesn’t want to charge Sheryl for the repair. “It’s nothing,” she says. “It will take me five minutes.”

Sheryl attempts to convince Isabel of the value of her time and experience. Isabel shakes her head dismissing Sheryl’s protests. These small acts of generosity are a natural part of Spanish business.

Inevitably, someone, or everyone, leaves with something. It’s difficult not to. A unique, handmade leather bracelet as a present for someone special, an eye glass case or an exclusive handbag in a colour bold enough to brighten up the winter days back in the U.K.  Often the writers buy something as a thank you present to themselves. Time has been well spent in coming on the retreat.

fundas-monederos pulserasautumn-leaf-cuenco


Isabel looks around for a box to put the goods in. Soon they will be going to the Christmas Fair in Sevilla with their leather goods and most of their work has already been individually boxed ready to sell. Despite the protests she insists that each item has its own box. I smile. It’s a sign of their dedication to quality. She then carefully wraps the gifts up in paper. Another delight of Spanish shopping, having your parcels individually wrapped as part of the service and at no extra cost.

Over the years Pepe and Isabel’s company, Artenazari, (now renamed Jose Luis Bazan) has won many awards for their work and prizes for their unique pieces. Recently they were awarded the opportunity to work with the prestigious company Loewe who make luxury leather goods. As a result, their work has been displayed in many places including Paris, Milan and Tokyo.  To see more of their work, click here: beautiful handmade leather goods.

Isabel and Pepe after featuring in Oficio y Arte magazine

Isabel and Pepe after featuring in Oficio y Arte magazine

In the afternoon  I get a message from Isabel to say Sheryl’s bag has been repaired and I can collect it after her English class. If only I’d managed to get a photo of the look of delight on Sheryl’s face as I returned her bag to her. Isabel would have loved to have seen it.

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Look closely and you’ll see that fabulous red handbag that Ruth came away.