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Adria Susmel was born in Firenze, the daughter of an painter from Croatia, Lucio, who escaped his home during the upheaval in Rijeka / Fiume during World War II, among those named Fascist simply for living in the wrong part of Croatia at the wrong end of the war.

Having attended an artistic high school in Padova ,Adria bears the artistic genes of her father, painting and making glazed clay sculptures before she turned her hand to leatherwork.

At age 28 she moved to Elba with her 5 children. Being on her own and raising her children, she needed a form of work and the hours to suit. She found employment as a leather seamstress in the workshop of Swiss leather worker, Henry Beguelin, some years before his name became world renowned.

Then, in the early 80s, new people came onboard and the business turned a corner and became something else, attracting worldwide attention and the inclination to expand accordingly. Henry left the new business and began to build another from scratch, and Adria herself decided it was time to close the chapter on the new incarnation of the business.

She returned to her hometown of Firenze and began to design and create for the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School) in Santa Croce. In the church she and one of her daughters demonstrated leather workingtechniques to tourists, before deciding to open her own store, albeit unfortunately on the eve of the economic crisis of 2008. She returned to Elba for a time before she settled with her husband in Castel del Piano.

From her home workshop, she designs and makes her unique leather bags and belts under the label Stella Polare (North Star). Combined with traditional leather working techniques, decades of experience and a perpetual passion for art, Adria’s use of colour and the bespoke nature of each of her creations lends every bag a unique personality.

More recently she has begun collaborating with weaver Carla Gnecchi Ruscone, combining Carla’s hand-woven designs with her leather working skills – Carla’s profile and photos of those wondrous creations from two creative minds to come in the near future.

 

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*Photographs © Alison Boyd; Photographs and Designs © Adria Susmel