A pleasant, earthy smell hits us as we enter the small workshop in the small, tranquil town of Meckenheim-Ersdorf. The large leather table sits pride of place in the middle of the room, surrounded by meticulously organised and detailed sketches across the walls. We are in the domain of a true individual, the only true “Leather Joe”, as leather expert Daniel Werle calls himself.
He has been our go-to man for all things made out of leather for many years now. Back when we were designing our Fantasy area, he produced custom-fit leather gaiters to match the theme of our employees’ costumes – and impressed us with his standards of work. Now, he has been recruited by Phantasialand once again: Mission Klugheim!
In Klugheim, we are aiming to use extra special accessories to make sure our employees’ outfits blend perfectly with the new themed world. And we want them to be as authentic and unique as possible. That is why the expert has been working hard on our behalf to produce countless leather belts, beltbags and accessories, which will add the finishing touch to the top-to-toe outfits for the inhabitants of Klugheim.
To create the imposing panorama, we have crafted countless basaltic rocks while we used materials like scorched wood, slabs of slate, wrought steam, zinc and copper to create the village at the foot of the majestic mountain range. In short: Klugheim brings a spark of life to a world from a time long forgotten. So when it came to our accessories, our one and only choice was a true natural material: leather! It exudes an unparalleled flair, that fits perfectly into the historical context of Klugheim, both in visual and practical terms.
The staff who will be working in our new themed world will become part of traditional village life. And as true villagers, they will not be wearing uniforms but will instead receive a special outfit that reflects the unique character of each individual person and the many facets of life in a busy village.
The scent of leather in the air
Daniel Werle is a specialist in the extraordinary. At “Leder Joe”, you never get anything off the rack as he only produces one-of-a-kind pieces. Or, as he puts it: “There is nothing that I cannot produce, provided it is made out of leather.”
No matter how out of the ordinary his customers’ ideas are, the only technical tools he has to hand are two pedal sewing machines, which he uses mainly for larger production quantities. For us, however, he is producing each individual accessory completely by hand, taking as much time as he needs until every detail comes together to form a harmonious overall look.
He demonstrates just how much dexterity and care goes into his hand-crafted leather pieces as he produces a Klugheim belt. As Daniel Werle positions the knife on the pattern, an almost meditative feeling of peace settles over his small workshop. The bitter scent of leather floats in the air.
For Phantasialand, it’s not just the material itself that is important, the finishing process also has to be right. The leather that Daniel Werle is using for our products is a very rare type of leather that is tanned using vegetables. Though this may be more work-intensive, it has a wonderful effect, as our expert explains: “These days, it is difficult to find leather that smells so great.” The craftsman places a great deal of value on traditions and intricate handiwork in every area of his work, right from the first step – that is why he is so important to us as a partner.
His keen eye for detail and extensive experience are also visible in the production of the Klugheim belt. Working with full concentration and maximum precision, he switches between his unique tools. As he turns the piece of leather nimbly through his hands, these routine actions make his work appear effortless.
One last thing: the patina
Finally, the loud impact of a hammer disturbs the peace. Now, he is attaching the shining pinned buckles. And of course, the leather expert punches all of the holes by hand.
Then it is finished, the hand-made leather belt for the future inhabitant of Klugheim village. Now, it’s down to us to make sure this miniature work of art ages with dignity. The new leather is still creaking and groaning slightly; it’s still a little stiff. But that is the way it is with real leather – with every day it spends in Klugheim, it will become more and more supple, developing a beautiful patina through day-to-day use. The leather won’t start to unfold its full magic until the belt arrives in Klugheim, ready for the hustle and bustle.
That is another reason why he is looking forward to seeing Klugheim: when the belts finally arrive at the place where they belong and when tens of thousands of people can marvel at this fascinating world and its wealth of details. However, he remains modest: “Even if people don’t know that I have made them, I am proud that Phantasialand chose me for this project and allowed me to be a part of this.”