In recent years we have become used to meeting students on the University stand at the APLF leather show in Hong Kong. While the European shows in Milan and Paris are important in global terms Hong Kong still remains pre-eminent and is great venue to meet the international leather industry in ways not possible in the European cities,
The students attend as Ambassadors and get a chance to attend the Corium Club cocktail party and the UKLF/Leathersellers party at the Hong Kong Club where they can meet alumni and other industry executives informally. There have been instances where some of these meetings have led to job offers, further evidence of a shortage of good technical staff entering the industry and the steadily rising reputation of Northampton graduates.
Some of the students get assistance with travel from Leathersellers grants and steadily this presence has become a routine that everyone benefits from. Seeing the leather industry via a trade fair, meeting executives and alumni and seeing and Asian city all add up to a superb experience for students entering the industry..
Hopefully this involvement will continue for many years.
We tend to ask leather technicians whether they work in the wet end or in finishing and do not think of other roles. But as Christine Powley Williams made clear when she spoke movingly at Amanda Michel’s funeral, Amanda was rare, if not unique, in her outstanding skills in microscopy and problem solving.
An industry that is short of skilled staff, and behind in its utilization of talented women, cannot afford to lose people like Amanda at such a young age. Having been so open with everyone about her cancer, which we knew was going to be a tough battle, her positive spirit and indomitable approach initially appeared to be winning. So it was with exceptional sadness that we gathered in a place she had helped get built and behind a large window known simply as “Amanda’s Window” to say goodbye to someone who had already achieved more than most but yet we know was just coming into her prime.
Amanda left school with an interest in science and got a job at the BLMRA – the industry owned pre-cursor of the current BLC – where she was to work for 27 years. While there she obtained a chemistry degree through part time study and gained experience in a very wide range of leather making activities and associated problem solving. Most significantly she trained in microscopy under Betty Haines, whose book “Leather under the Microscope” remains the gold standard.
She left the BLC after 27 years to set up Leatherwise with Christine Powley Williams and continued to run it successfully alone after Chris joined SATRA. Leatherwise quietly built a strong reputation in testing and problem solving.
Amanda had been President of the SLTC and had recently been made an Associate Lecturer at the University of Northampton and a Trustee of the Museum of Leathercraft. This in addition to what was a major contribution to the community of Stanwick through her role with the Parish Council and Environmental group showed her determination to give back to the leather industry and to society.
Given that leather today is very much an engineered product microscopy remains a vital tool in problem solving and in research. Hopefully her chapter on the subject in the Leather Technologists Pocket Book will now be given renewed prominence and help stir a new generation of leather technologists and skilled technicians. As her husband Ian said “Leather was her work; and leather was her passion.”