Friday, 23 January 2015

London Craft Week - craft and art

This week sees us stepping into the world of 'art'! We are excited to be taking part in a special pop-up show - MAKE CREATE - during London Craft Week in May along with 12 other craftsmen. We are all going to be teamed up with an artist and either working together or independently, we will create a piece or pieces of work to show.

It's very much out of our comfort zone with seemingly no practicalities to be considered and a real sense of 'anything goes' when it comes to ideas...gulp!

The following photo story will give you an insight into the amazing space that we are showing in...

and some of the constraints we will be working with...

from limited lighting...

and access...

to listed building status...

widely varying types of lighting,

and very different shapes...

and sizes...

of space.

 It was a fantastic recce. The surroundings certainly fired my imagination... 

the family crests...


....and ghosts of people past

Over the coming weeks and months we'll let you know how we get on, on this creative's a blank sheet of paper at the moment, so fingers crossed! But for now it is back to shoemaking and the workbench.

Until next week happy shoemaking!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Problem Solving - A Challenging Last

Another week in Shoesville, UK and we are back into the work groove after our winter break.

This week saw another problem for the master shoemakers at Carréducker to solve. In fact, solving problems is one of the best (and occasionally expensive) parts of what we do as bespoke shoemakers.

When you are making bespoke shoes, one thing you have to learn to deal with are the feet that your customers have.

You take their measures and you make their lasts. From here you make the designated uppers and get them to a stage where the customer can try them on. Clever shoemaker then adjusts the lasts and repeats the process until the fit is correct.

This is usually a fairly straightforward process which can present certain challenges, but, most of the time, nothing too out of the ordinary.

Occasionally, the customer's feet present a more unusual set of issues. And such is the case of the next pair of lasts.

As we did the fittings, two major things happened. The instep got more and more raised - the facings just wouldn't close! And there was an excess of leather across the joint and fore part of the shoes. This means that we had to rasp a lot of wood from the lasts an they got much thinner, especially on the outsides. These are two fairly common issues, but in this case they were pretty extreme.

This meant that there is an exaggerated angle between the instep and the fore part on both lasts

Top View

Right Last Inside Profile

Right Last Outside Profile

Left Last Inside Profile

This extreme angle meant that it was nearly impossible to get the uppers down and tight across the fore part and on the outside of the facings down towards the feather edge.
This can be a problem with any wholecut, but expert lasting and a few tricks can usually sort it. If the style had been different, an Oxford for example, then we would have been able to put some extra spring on the pattern to help with this. But with a wholecut, this cannot be done.

So what is the solution? We decided to block (crimp) the upper before we closed it, as you would with many boot styles where this very thing is an issue.

This is what they looked like after closing. Not very promising looking  things. Not very pretty either. A bit lumpy!

But then we lasted them and left the uppers on the lasts for 24 hours. This is what they look like after this stage.

So they have taken the shape of the lasts and now should be much easier to last (with the help of some leather stretch and maybe a bit of soaking first in water).

We will be making these tomorrow, so the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Fingers crossed

And that's it for this week. Until next time, Happy shoemaking!

Friday, 9 January 2015

New York Shoemaking School 2015

We're back at the workbench and soft hands are quickly hardening up as we get back to making. It's been a lovely break - hope that you all enjoyed good holidays too - and we're looking forward to the year ahead.

We finished last year talking about training and there are certainly lots and lots of courses to choose from. Finding the right course can be life changing, so if your New Year's resolution is to learn shoe making then here are some important questions to ask: 

1) Who is teaching you and what experience do they have?
2) What is the classroom environment like?
3) What do you want to get from the course/learn? 
4) What is included in the course fee?
5) What support will you receive after the course is finished?
6) Can you access suppliers, tools and materials?

At our Shoemaking School, we teach both Hand Sewn Shoe Making and Pattern Making for Bespoke Shoes. Sharing our expertise and enthusiasm has been part of our business from the start and we get many phone calls from people interested in learning with us. It's great to have the opportunity to talk through what we offer and to advise on whether it is the right course. 
Making leathers - pit tanned from Bakers in Devon
With over 15 years as handsewn shoemakers and 10 years lecturing under our belts, we have tweaked, honed and added to our courses over the years to offer students the best training, value and support. 

The School relocates to New York every May, to Brooklyn Bespoke in super-cool Williamsburg. Here two former students of ours - Jesse Moore and Marika Verploegh Chasse - create their own beautiful bespoke shoes for private customers. We love the annual trip and the opportunity that it offers students to immerse themselves in shoemaking in an inspiring, workshop environment.  

Jesse teaches our Pattern making for bespoke shoes course. Knowledgeable, articulate and multi-skilled - doing everything herself from design, patterns and clicking to closing, fittings and making - Jesse equips students with the skills to bring their own designs to fruition as working patterns.

The intensive course follows immediately afterwards, so that the two courses can be taken together. James and I teach it in six-day bursts to keep energy levels high and to give students the chance to talk each of us about our work, experience, approach and techniques.
Each student starts with a pack of making materials, a pair of Derby (Gibson) shoe uppers in tan, brown or black, a pair of lasts and a starter pack of tools. Then we guide them through the 200+ steps involved in hand sewing a pair of shoes...a journey that is exhausting, challenging but infinitely rewarding.

What they come away with is....

- A beautiful pair of shoes
- The know-how to make bespoke shoe patterns
- The skills (and some of the tools) to make more shoes
- Comprehensive notes
- Sources for tools and materials to make more shoes
- Contact list of suppliers a big discount off the tools, packs and materials we sell

...and an open invitation to contact us when they can't remember what comes next!

Until next week happy shoemaking!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Shoemaking in 2015

As the year draws to a close, it's heads down to make 2015 a success and to build on the highlights of 2014...the new look of No.1 Savile Row and a bespoke presence on the Gieves and Hawkes website, the Crafted exhibition at The Royal Academy, the GREAT Festival Istanbul and the start of our 10th year in business together.... to name but a few.

Something that continues to strike a chord, is just how many people want to learn a trade or craft either to pursue in their spare time, as a change of career or as further education. But there are three hurdles to overcome - Where can you learn? How do you pay for your training? Where can you get funding and advice? 

To help you get started, we've listed a few courses, contacts and grants below which might be of help to those of you in the UK, interested in training as shoemakers or working in shoemaking.

Creative and Cultural Skills The CCS gives young people opportunities to work and learn in the creative industries via a network of industry and education supporters - the National Skills Academy for Creative and Cultural. Since 2008 over 3000 Creative Apprenticeships have been created in the UK.

Funding: Creative and Cultural Skills Creative Employment Programme. This £15 million Arts Council England fund, managed by Creative and Cultural Skills, has created nearly 2000 jobs for unemployed young people aged 16-24. With the fund extended to March 2016 now is the time to see how you could benefit.

The British Footwear Association is a great source of information, contacts and training, so their website should really be your first port of call.

QEST is a great source of support for training in specialist crafts like ours. It was set up by the Royal Warrant Holders Association in 1990 to support traditional and contemporary British crafts at an individual level and so retain the creative skills vitally needed by Royal Warrant holding companies. Since then, it has gone on to fund training for over 354 scholars, with around 93% of them still practising their craft professionally. 

A QEST scholarship is how I was able to follow my passion for shoemaking and, in turn, how Alistair is now able to train with us. The deadline for the next round of funding is January 20th 2015, so if you are thinking about a career change, adding to your expertise or up-skilling then now is the time to take action. 

There is only one place to learn traditional English hand sewn shoemaking and pattern making for bespoke shoes, that is with us at Carreducker. You can either enjoy the dynamics of learning in a small group (maximum seven students) on an intensive course - May in New York or London in August; let us know when you can take a 12-day break and we will run a one-to-one course for you; or if you already know something of shoemaking, then tell us what else you would like to learn and we will put together a Master Class tailored specifically to you.

So plenty of food for thought and something useful to be doing amongst all the festivities.  We've sent the elves off for Christmas, so have a great break and we look forward to welcoming you back in the New Year. Until then, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Spain A New Shoe And Prosthetic Legs

Once again, dear readers, we welcome you back to the carréducker blog.

Whilst Madame Shoe was hard at it at the workbench (as she should be), I have been on a well-earned holiday in Madrid. 

It was a fantastic trip and, while there, I saw our good friend and fellow shoemaker Norman Vilalta who was launching his new ready to wear collection in the city. It was great to see him and see what he is doing. I thought the collection was interesting, both in its design and execution. His designs are innovative and playful - they stretch conventions and could only be made by a true shoemaker. I think he has imbued his designs with his personality which is warm, humorous and bit rock 'n roll.

We loved the exaggerated, sturdy soles and grain leather on these Monkstraps Photo Credit: Des Gens en Photo

Norman has spent many months perfecting the construction and working with his chosen factory to achieve the level of quality he wants. He then finishes them by hand from setting the edges onwards. The result is a true bench grade R2W shoe to challenge Gaziano and Girling, John Lobb (Hermes) and the like. Congratulations to him!

I also met Alvaro Arce who runs a shoe blog in Spanish called The Shoemaker World where you can find information and news about all aspects of shoes, in a similar vein to The Shoe Snob. Above is a photo of one of the new Norman Vilalta styles and you can see more images of the collection on Alvaro's blog. Look out for an interview about Carréducker there in the near future!

So you see, even on holiday, a shoemaker can't leave it alone - or so my partner says.

And on my return to work, my first task was to give that talk to eight hundred 16 - 18 year-olds which I mentioned in a previous post. I think it went well - I only saw one person asleep!I got good feedback and they asked lots of questions which is a good sign. A lot of them also continued talking to me after the session so I hope I have inspired at least one future shoemaker!
I shared the stage with Cornelia Parker OBE and Jeremy Deller, so Carréducker was in exalted company. It was interesting for the students to see two opposite ends of the creative process - two imagination/ideas driven artists and a practice driven craftsman. All of us making a living making things, but in completely different ways.

And so to the spectator that we were debating a few weeks ago. Below you can see which last shape won out. We went for narrow and elegant. Our favourite thing about the shoes is the point where the counter meets the wing cap. We don't usually do straight lines on shoes but we think it works here. The result is light and dapper.

A stroll down the pier, dear?

Same last - entirely different look

As part of the new bespoke collection

Today we saw a product designer called Ed Pennington-Ridge who approached us with a design problem with prosthetic feet which he is developing for use in Burundi initially and then other parts of the developing world.

He wants to get the unit cost down from $2000 for a commercial prosthetic to about £8 for one which can be made locally. The issue was how to attach the upper/outer/foot to the prosthetic leg in a simple low cost way, using materials which are cheap and available

After looking in detail at the design and the materials, I think we came up with an elegant, low-cost solution. Time will tell. Ed has to go away now and put our ideas into action

This sort of project is something which we both love getting involved with and we wish Ed the best for the development. He has promised to show us the next prototype and we will keep you up to date with progress.

Ed Pennington-Ridge and his prototype prosthetic leg

And that is about it for this week. We hope have enjoyed the post and we look forward to welcoming you back next week.

Until then, happy shoemaking!"