Mentoring an Arbor School Student

I first met Steph when she sent me an email in August of 2008 about her 8th grade senior project due before graduation in June of 2009 – she wanted to make a pair of shoes. I was first impressed that she was thinking 9 months ahead and contacting me before the school year had even begun.

At the end of September I met her and her parents in person at an open house we had in the ActivSpace building where my shop is located. All the studios were open so people could come in and see what we all do in there. Steph was clearly interested and seemed very motivated, so I agreed to take her on.

To figure out how much time we’d need to spend on her project. I did a rough calculation based on how long it takes to make a pair of shoes, which is about 40 hours. No problem. We would only need to meet one hour a week every week and we’ll have time to spare. Hmm. Oh yeah. 8 months, 4 weeks, that’s only 32 hours. Ok, for some of those weeks, we’d need to meet for more than an hour.

As if making shoes was not enough, she also wrote a book. I had a great time learning from her about her research into fashion and shoes. I love her book!

I knew she finally understood what it takes to make shoes when she brought her bag of supplies to the shop one day, and there was a fabric pattern attached to one of the lasts. She was reproducing a design she had seen. I’ve now heard her tell people how shoes are made. She says it with confidence and it makes me proud.

Steph's stingray flats

Steph became interested in stingray leather after I showed her a piece that I had and the pictures of the custom stingray shoes I made with red stingray. Here is Steph’s first pair of shoes. They were made with black stingray leather for the vamp and kangaroo leather quarters. Lined with veg tanned calf. They are certainly nicer than my first pair of shoes!

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