Last year while I was studying last making, orthopedic shoemaking and pattern techniques at the DHTA, I also had the good fortune to learn RenĂ© van den Berg’s new shoemaking technique for the shoes he calls Makerszoon.makerszoon lateral top view

At first glance these shoes might seem kind of rough. After 30 years of precision work, however, there’s nothing rough about the design and workmanship of Rene van den Berg. The upper is very precisely drawn, punched and aligned. The embossing on the toe must be done to his exacting standards. The only thing rough about it is the cavalier cutting of the turned upper and sole edge with a knife by hand to give it a “hand finished” look.

The upper is hand sewn and the leather is all vegetable tanned. There is very little waste and hardly any trimmings. The lining is all one piece and the extra is left both for visual appeal and to soften the feel of the shoe around the ankles.

Please see RenĂ©’s site for details on this fantastic new approach to making shoes.

Part of my travel to study in the Netherlands was made possible by a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission.

Black Derby

Black Pebble DerbyThis derby shoe was made for instructional purposes. Plain old black upper leather with a pebble grain, basic lines with English quarters. The construction is welted and hand sewn to a vegetable tanned leather outsole. Natural finish leather heels. Straight outsole stitch on the welt. Depending on what you wear it with and your mood, I think it could be considered casual or formal.

Blue Black Oxford

all the pieces blue black oxford

The upper is hand dyed top finished vegetable tanned Italian leather. Blue quarters and tongue, black toe caps, vamps, and backstraps. This pair was built using cement construction. These shoes are unlined with sewn in heel counters and toe boxes. Leather sole and heels, Virbram rubber heel cap. I used this pair for my “All the Pieces” infographic.

Red Derby

Red Derby (womens)These shoes were for a female client who wanted a woman’s shoe without compromises. She likes knitting and needlepoint so I tried to put something special into the design for her. This derby design with English quarters features an ornamental stitch similar to a wheat ear embroidery stitch on the wing tip toe cap and bottom quarter lines. Welted construction, Italian vegetable tanned dark red leather upper and vegetable tanned leather liner. Vegetable tanned leather insole and outsole. Natural finish leather heels. Braided outsole stitch.

Blue and Brown Derby

Blue Brown DerbyDerby design with French quarters. Welted construction, Italian vegetable tanned brown leather vamp and blue quarters. Leather insole and midsole. Vibram Gumlite outsole for a little extra cushion. Casual or formal? I think it’s right on the edge. The rubber sole and the more rounded curve of the toe suggests it’s more casual than formal.

Brown Derby

Brown Derby Side View, Click for Top View

Classic Derby design with English quarters. Welted construction, brown Italian vegetable tanned leather upper, leather insole and Rendenbach leather outsole. Check out the natural color braided hand stitching on the welt. (Thanks for our friends at A&E for the hand sewing thread) Top line is extra high to allow for orthotic insert.

Kingfisher Oxford

Kingfisher oxfordUpper is blue and brown vegetable tanned leather with an iridescent finish. Welted construction, leather midsole and Vibram Gumlite sole. My client wanted a design reminiscent of the Eurasian Kingfisher, a bird with dominant blue coloring and accents of orange brown on the chest and tail. In addition to the kingfisher colors, this design features a sweeping wing of blue as the vamp approaches the back strap.

Cordovan Touring Boots

This custom shoe started with my client’s preference for a specific type of leather. The upper for this boot is Cordovan (also known as Shell Cordovan) from the Horween tannery. The colors are their standard black and the deep reddish brown that is so famous that most people think the name of the color is synonymous with the name of the leather. There is a lot of confusion around what it means when someone asks for Cordovan.

Horween actually calls this reddish brown color Color 8. Maybe this is because in the 1930 edition of “A Dictionary of Color” by Maerz and Paul, Cordovan is listed as a color on page 39, Plate 8, Color Sample H8.

Many people think cordovan refers to the color only, but cordovan also refers to horse leather made from the hide over the horse butt. The upper for this boot is both Cordovan leather and partly Cordovan in color.

I have made some boots and shoes in a similar style, but my client had some ideas of his own about combining the two styles. We worked together to adjust the look to his preferences. I made some designs for his review. He made some suggestions and I made some revisions. It was a fruitful collaboration, which resulted in, I believe, a very tasteful design.

Oh yeah, he also wanted to mount some sophisticated clipless pedal cleats to these boots. He didn’t want them too stiff such that walking would be difficult or too soft such that the pedals pushed into the boots. Of course the cleats needed to be recessed so as not to scrape the ground while walking. That engineering on that part was all me and I enjoyed it thoroughly.