Learn to make shoes and all their pieces

This year I am offering instruction on how to make shoes from start to finish. From lasts and feet through design and construction. You can take them all or just the shoemaking workshops that are of interest to you. The first set – Lasts and Sizing, Shoe Design and Pattern and Pattern Making, and Clicking and Closing will be offered twice before the shoemaking construction workshops. This will give you the opportunity to get a last in your size and design shoe uppers to go with before putting it all together. Details are on the workshops page.

Blue Court Shoes

Blue pumpHere is a blue court shoe, otherwise known as a pump. This pair was made with blue Italian vegetable tanned leather with a “waxy pull-up” finish. It gives the lighter accent to the blue in this case. The lining is vegetable tanned calf and the heel is Padouk wood capped with a Vibram heel cap. They were assembled primarily using cement construction (glued), though the heels are set with two stainless screws each drilled through the spring steel shank.

For some time I’ve wanted to make wooden heels. This is the first pair to feature wooden heels of my own making and also with a natural finish.

Often I am asked if I make “women’s” shoes. This is a loaded question. I believe there is not such a hard and fast definition of shoes that can only be worn by women and shoes that can only be worn by men. Some might say these blue court shoes are unmistakeably for a lady. This pair is in fact for a lady, yet it’s important to know that there are still places and occasions for which men are expected to wear pumps (Oxford, for example).

The styles of shoes my clients request often cross over between “men’s” and “women’s” styles. This has nothing to do with “cross dressing” and more to do with the social construction of style. Styles have changed over time and continue to change. What is considered appropriate for men and women to wear on their feet is not fixed and unchanging. The ability to feel comfortable in any style of shoe only opens up more possibilities.

The limitation of “standard” sizes can keep people out of the shoes they want to wear. Despite making up the bulk of the shoe buying public, women are often excluded from buying the shoes they want. For example women are sometimes forced to buy a “men’s” style when they want a “women’s” style or vice versa. Common examples are no size large enough of the women’s style for some women to wear so they are forced into the men’s section and no size small enough of the men’s style for many women to wear, even though they would like to.

For now, I’ll direct you to a nice review of the history of the men’s opera pump, but hopefully before too long you will see one here.

Makerszoon

Last year while I was studying last making, orthopedic shoemaking and pattern techniques at the DHTA, I also had the good fortune to learn René 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 René’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.

All the pieces

wehrli_cover_0I received a copy Kunst, Aufräumen, or “The Art of Cleanup” for my birthday some time ago. Check it out if you haven’t already. It featured all sorts of things “cleaned up” or deconstructed from their otherwise “messy” natural state. For example, organizing from a bowl of alphabet soup a an alphabetized and sorted grid of all the letters and carrot pieces. I really enjoyed the book and all of Ursus Wehrli’s clever images. When I made this pair of oxfords, I wanted to try something similar.

all the pieces 3

It wasn’t until I tried to make an organized image that I understood how much systematic thinking it takes to be as organized as Wehrli. I’ve got a long way to go. The image I made includes all all the parts that went into these shoes. There are at least two of everything. This pair was built using cement construction. These shoes are unlined, so they do not include the quarter, tongue and vamp liners. If they were welted, there would be a few more parts still. The upper is hand dyed top finished vegetable tanned Italian leather. Here’s the parts list from left to right:

  • Wooden pegs (10)
  • Thread
  • Tongue (2)
  • Laces (2)
  • Spring steel shank (2)
  • Vamp (2)
  • Toe cap (2), Toe box (2)
  • Inside Quarter (2), Outside Quarter (2)
  • Backstrap (2), Heel counters (2)
  • Vibram rubber heel cap (2)
  • Heel lifts (4, 2 per shoe)
  • Leather Insole (2), Leather Sole (2)

Clicking and Closing

It takes nice uppers to make nice shoes. Learn how to cut, trim, finish, assemble and sew uppers. This has traditionally been referred to as “clicking and closing.” Come learn how on May 23-24, 2015. Details on the Workshops page.

Italian Style

I will be giving a presentation on Italian leather and teaching a free introduction to shoe design on February 7, the opening day of the Portland Art Museum’s new exhibit “Italian Style.” Look for me downstairs in the “Crafting Fashion” area from 1pm to 5pm.

The Art and Science of Shoemaking

18-Leonardo-da-Vinci-Measured-Study-of-Foot-ca-1490-92 Date: Sunday, March 30
Time:
1:00pm – 2:30pm
Location: Halo Shoes – 938 NW Everett St., Portland, Oregon

Details
Learn about the interdisciplinary pursuit that is making shoes by hand. I will show how measurements lead to a last which gives rise to a pattern that can be made into a shoe. Along the way we’ll visit the diverse world of shoemaking including design, drawing, sewing, sculpture, biology, chemistry, physics and math.

Please feel free to drop in and stay for a while or stay for the whole presentation. I will make time for questions and answers so bring your burning shoe questions!

KOIN TV Life at Large

Tim Becker from KOIN TV came to talk with me about the process of making custom shoes and decided to try to capture the process from beginning to end. As it happened, I was just beginning work on a new design that would be the green and brown gibson boot. I really liked that Tim and his camera man Bill were so interested in the process. They spent a lot of time in my shop filming, but also learning and asking questions about the process. They would have had to film every day for a week and a half to record everything that goes into it. There are definitely some gaps and this is not really a step-by-step documentary, but I think they did a great job capturing the complex process that is making a pair of custom shoes and the complex feelings that go with it. Here is the piece they put together which aired March 5, 2013.

Note that even though the nice TV anchors suggest you take care of your custom shoes (which you should) and not wear them in the rain. Good leather shoes properly cared for hold up fine in the rain, including the green and brown boots.