Lasting joy

Today is the last day of our first semester, honestly – where has the time gone?  And yet almost all of us have completed 5 pieces of footwear – the Court, the Derby and the Oxford style shoes along with 2 pairs of sandals.  The buzz in the room is different, it’s lovely to see the comfort and competency in regard to the use of equipment and the improvement in the quality and craft in the work being done.  If we’ve managed this in 5 months, what will July – November bring?


The skill development is under the tutelage of Andrew Robinson.  When disaster strikes, as it does, he calmly considers the best option, often dragging the wreck back into usability and guides us there.  Best of all, he has maintained his sense of humour.


I haven’t decided what my final shoe will be.  Or rather I’ve decided and changed my mind several times over . . . I can think about it more in the 4 week break.  I will have to commit to something soon.  In the meantime, it’s HOLIDAYS, woo-hoo.  First thing tomorrow is heading off to look at some shoe lasts, so clearly holidays are going to bring about as much “more of the same” as I can manage.  I am so going to miss time in the work room.


Designing female

So as discussed previously, we have been doing some drawing of images, pencil drawings and pen drawings which was good fun, I haven’t done too much of that in years, then we moved on to using Illustrator – now I am much more familiar with Fireworks so there was plenty of searching for tools that were hiding in places I wasn’t used to which incurred mutterings and swearings – as you do.  Why is it that computers can be so monstrously frustrating at times, then astoundingly useful at others?  Anyway, we worked together, the computers and I and I created a design for my assessment and this is what it looks like:


I found the blues pattern in the swatches and it was so crazy I decided to use it although I doubt it’s available out there in leather land.  Fingers crossed it does the job!

How has the required function of clothing changed over the centuries?

Well, where do I begin?  I have to surmise.  Presumably the first use of clothing was as protection – against weather variables.  I can see that as an eminently functional possibility, we needed to get warm or stay dry or stop being burnt.  But it could just as easily have been other reasons,  as skin protection when going through dense growth or across searing surfaces.  Or did it develop out of a functional need to carry items?  A bag or a belt that over time was modeled into a vest? Or was it solely decorative in origins? A way of signifying status or belief or availability or knowledge or nationality? There’s no way of knowing the initial function of clothing, but it certainly happened.

Today it is used in many different ways, reflecting all of those purposes above, the clothes industry can supply gear appropriate for just about any activity.  At a cost.  Vanity and social pressures deem it necessary to have the right apparel for what you are doing. We don’t seem to look at those social pressures but don’t they just swing into play if you dress differently, wearing what you shouldn’t.  Assumptions are made.  Cross dressing?  Goth? ‘Wrong’ religion? Aggressive? Cool? Athletic? Flirtatious? Bold? Knowledgeable? Flouting ‘standards’. Etc . . . . .

It trips people up when they visit other countries and collide with the social norm and/or requirements.

We have so many uniforms, the set ones and the implied.

Perhaps clothing is at it’s most horrid when it tries to transform our very shape.  Clothes that constrain or limit or confine.

Or is it when it gives privelege that isn’t earned?  The old school tie and all that stuff?

Or when it clogs landfill or transforms rivers with it’s waste and byproducts?

As a society we don’t value cloth.  We deem it shameful to wear patched clothing.  We certainly don’t seem to be questioning the glut that is daily being created.  We barely question the deathly working conditions to supply the demand.  We don’t seem to consider the fibres that are being made and their ability or not to decompose.  The rules around safe composition of dyes gets flouted with barely a slap on the wrist.  Check out this Choice article, or this ABC article or this from the Yale School of Forrestry and Environmental Studies.

Give me the natural product and the hand crafted please.  Linen and silk and wool and cotton, hopefully produced as ethically as possible.  Try to talk to the maker, there are Makers Markets where you get beautiful hand produced products that are individual in their design.  Of course if you made it yourself there can be issues with talking to the maker!  The Fashion Revolution is happening and I hope to see it spread.

Hmmm, did I answer the question or (as usual) raise too many other questions?  Not sure if I’m doing this study stuff right, but it’s what I do . . . .



Well, I got sick before Easter and it’s been on and off again because of public holidays and suddenly it’s the end of week 11 and I’m still finishing off those shoes, I’m tired, Vertigo lingers (or malingers) and I am only just managing the hours and not cruising comfortably at all!  Time has gone without enough happening and I feel like opportunity is being wasted, but it’s just how it is.  Yup, swearing inside.

Our first assignment is due in two weeks and I need to do some more drawing of shoes, and even some painting.  It is a long time since I did any painting so I’m feeling a bit confronted by it.  The ghost of Mr Barlow rears his head and suddenly I’m a high school student all over again.  Mount Slavery High School – OMG!  (Apparently now it’s  one of the top schools in the state, but that’s well and truly after my time.)

Breathe deep and clam down.

Really I just need to sit down and get it happening, so this might be a task for Saturday, spread out some paper and just give it a red hot go.  What could possibly go wrong . . . .


It’s week 10 already!

At the end of the week is Easter and our mid-semester break.  It seems to have flown by in some ways and dragged a bit in others.  I’m looking forward to the break as I’ve been so tired and yet it means we won’t be in here doing shoe things.

I’m hoping to have my second pair of shoes finished before we head off but I’ve got so few photos which just underlines how tired I’ve been, I recognised that and prioritised, focusing on getting the job done, but in retrospect I wish I had the pictorial history of the derby shoe.  So for the oxford I will work harder at clicking the camera.

The lovely thing we’ve done for the derby is make our own toe puff and heel counters out of vegetable tanned leather, referred to as ‘veg tan’.  This is leather in a state where it readily absorbs moisture and this quality allows the veg tan to be molded which means it can take on the three dimensional shape of the toe or heel and retain that to provide support to help keep your shoes shape.  There’s a lot more information at (click to check it out)

I’ve only ever used a plastic product but I’ve been looking forward to getting to make my own, and now I have.  I loved the hand skiving, getting the graduation down to a wafer thin edge. I used a machine for the initial skive but refined it by hand.  To do this I used my own knife but after Easter we will have the opportunity to get our own proper skiving knife when Tim Skyrme visits.  That’s one with a maroon sleeve on the right in the right hand picture below.  The collection of very sharp implements continues!

Making them with veg tan is a little bit like using filo pastry, you need to keep the leather from drying out prior to getting the final product positioned on the last, so the white towel is dampened.

A multitude of tacks help position them  for the drying process.  I’m still thumping my fingers every now and then.  I look forward to the day that is behind me.  I seemed to come out of the process with bruises, friction wear and tear and the occasional nick – and two lovely sets of toe puffs and heel counters.

puff counter

Soon these components will be snuggly covered and out of view but it’s nice to know they’re there.  As the shoe is still in the process of it’s evolution it’s upside down on the lasting pin.  In a way that’s like us, upside down in utero, the right way up for our life.  Well, most of the time.

Progress report #1

So this is the start of week 8 and the first pair of shoes is almost finished.  It was really tough to have to leave on Thursday with the sole and heels just waiting to be attached.  So close!  The glue will have benefited by being left until now, it will give a stronger bond.  We are in the “hurry up and wait” stage.  It makes it clear that making two pairs of shoes at the same time would take little more than one pair of shoes.

I would love to show you the progress shots, it’s what I was planning to do but for some reason this computer won’t talk to my mobile today so the photos are tantalisingly close but I can’t include them.  They will come in the fullness of time.

So there’s sort of a theme going down here: Almost But Not Quite.  Hmmmmm.

Fine, I’ll do something else.

I find I’m waking with shoes on my mind.  It’s wonderful to have this year committed to following this interest.  Interest seems like a very bland kind of word, but passion is so overused.  As is love. The thesaurus has a long list of suggestions, penchant seems like I’m trying to sound French, sentiment is a bit soft, adoration is taking it a bit far, affection is getting closer but . . . .  This is a similar problem I’m having with working out a name for my footwear business, with the added issue of just when I think I’ve worked out the perfect title I find some other scoundrel already has it, or something so close that I wouldn’t be able to use my option.  Sigh.  It will happen but currently it’s a work in progress.

So I’m afraid there’s not much to report.

What’s in a name?

Here we are in our 7th week already, the time seems to be flying by.  I know we’ve accomplished a lot so far, and we’re finally starting on making shoes, but I need to do a blog specifically relating to ‘what is a shoe?’.  I’ve skipped around it a bit and played with the idea, the concept but I need to really focus now, so here we go.

At it’s very simplest: A shoe is a piece of outerwear worn on one’s foot.  Thank you Wikipedia.  From there it’s so many things: protection, decoration, insulation, support.  It can also be a nightmare, a danger to your health, an irritant to your skin.

If you have two matching standard sized feet you are well served by the footwear industry.  But friends of mine with small feet tell me how hard it is to get an adult style shoe, the mainstream market designs smaller sizes for children.  If you have wide or narrow feet, high arches, sensitive feet, need to insert prosthetics, need extra large sizes, have different sized feet, etc. shopping for shoes is a troublesome process that must have been a nightmare without the WWW and with it is still tricky.  You probably need deep pockets in monetary terms as well.

If I think about my shoes I really only have two pairs that have delighted me, and I’m one of the lucky ones in terms of ease of fiding something that fits.  One was a shop bought pair that was a delight to put on, fitted exactly giving support and comfort.  The other pair, I’m delighted to say, was a pair I made under the tutelage of the wonderful Luna Newby. My pair are third down on the right, but they have had a lot of wear since then.  So there’s a lot of mediocre or worse shoes out there, I enjoyed reading this article, Click Here. She has her own site, I’ll be going back to check it out more, Click Here.

Hmmmm, here’s a thought, if you take the meaning given above, about shoes being a protective outer layer, does a shoe remain a shoe if you need to wear a covering to protect it?  If you are wearing galoshes or pattens does your shoe become something else?

Footwear for people who are less confident on their feet becomes practical and rather boring.  Dare I say “sensible shoes”?  With velcro.

And what are shoes if you aren’t able to walk?  There’s some good comments about shoe comfort for wheelchair users on line, Click Here, and this article and comments too, Click Here.

So what is a shoe, or what makes a good shoe?  Wikipedia lists 76 types of shoe, Click Here. Not sure that I’ll make each type but you never know, it would certainly assist me to the total of 100 pairs of shoes.


Read the small print

So I’m all set, my text books arrived and I’m here bright and early for the start of week 5 and I walk in the class room and the others who likewise are here bright and early say no, there’s no class today, Lauren is sick.  She sent an email last night.  Hmmmm, not so bright then!

At least I’m in good company.

And it’s an opportunity to write something.

I was thinking about shoes and following on from those rediculously high shoes that couldn’t possibly be worn for walking and how fashions have taken footwear to extremes.  I’m thinking of the Venetians and their chopines in the 15th – 17th centuries.  These are mind boggling – and yet a younger me in that day and age would have probably seized the challenge:


The image comes from an article in BuzzFeed about high heels, Click Here.

At the other extreme there is the binding of feet in China to create a fashionably small foot that was finally stopped in the 20th century, to read more about it Click Here.  Having grown up in a time when this was condemned it’s hard to imagine anyone doing this to their children, and yet it was practiced for over 1,000 years.  So, if I was born into an environment where this was expected, even deemed desirable, would I have happily submitted?  (Never a strong trait of mine, I hasten to add.)  Would you?


And to a degree this is carried on in the current desire for high heels, no matter how many articles are written about the damage that is done to your body, Click Here for one of them.  And let me say, I was right there in my younger years, wearing them with the best of them.  My back sincerely regrets it, and I can see that it would have been better not to go to such extremes, and yet I did.  We do.  We’re driven by desire rather than sense.  Why is that?  I know, it seemed like a good idea at the time . . . . .

And now there’s 3D printing and there’s some clever work being done by Neta Soreq, Click Here for more information


And even a flat pack shoe!!!!  Will they catch on? Click Here for the story.


I’m not intending to make high heeled shoes, even though I know that by doing so I’m ignoring a large (and lucrative) chunk of the market, but better people than me are filling that demand adequately.  I’d rather that my footwear didn’t cause harm – to the people that wear them, or in the process of making them.  That they assisted good walking habits.  That they were comfortable.  And of course infinitely desirable too.


I love finding out what others are doing to create shoes that are a bit more interesting, a bit more ‘them’.  Something that takes over the boredom and saminess of the majority of footwear that’s around.  Lets face it, with mass production you are only getting one of many.

I was delighted to see what’s happening here by Brave Strides, how much nicer than dying your shoes, painting them with such lovely detail.  I guess you need to consider how well they will stand up to wear and tear, but what fun.  I like that she isn’t caught up in the super hero and/or movie hero angle that quite a few others are working.