Thursday, 19 May 2011

Week Two of the Brooklyn Shoemaking Course 2011


Well here I am nearly at the end of week two and what a pleasant change it has been teaching the second week of the course. In the past I have been the one to get the courses underway, which is definitely more physically demanding - especially when we have had larger groups to teach - so it is lovely to concentrate on the finishing stages this time.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, but my working week actually started on Sunday seeing a new client for a fitting. And it was not a fitting lacking in some glamour despite New York's attempts to dampen things with heavy fog and rain! It was my first fitting where a client arrived by helicopter (and hopefully not my last)! I tried very hard to be English about it all and to remain unimpressed, but I failed totally. I am sorry, but arriving at a meeting in your own helicopter is right up there on the super cool list. Anyway, after making such a dramatic entrance the client was actually charming, thankfully the fitting went well and we are now making the first pair for delivery.

When I had arrived on Saturday the students were just putting on their soles so Monday started with some concentration-demanding 'cutting the channel'. James has told me how well they had done in week one and how capable they all are. He is not joking!

Regular blog followers will remember what an important stage this is - cut too deep a channel and the shoe's strength is undermined, cut too shallow and the stitches show through the sole. It's funny, but even after all of these years making it is the one point when I have to take a deep breath before I put my knife into action. Anyway, James is right, our group of students here in Williamsburg have proven themselves very capable and channeling gave them no such qualms. We were soon stitching with few thread dramas and by Tuesday afternoon I was wondering what I would be doing with them for the rest of the week.

The beauty of being so far ahead in the second week however is that we can slow the pace of work right down and really, really concentrate on getting the best possible finish on each student's shoes.

Gia ,by accident or design I am not sure which, is making cuban heels and so we are working to make sure that the slopes of her heels match and are smooth;
Lauren has found her forte in heel building and rasping - so she is now working hard to keep the heel edges straight as she finishes them;

Tom, who has powered ahead throughout the course is focusing his attentions on perfecting his finishing - and he has learned that even the smallest variations in stitch depth etc. will impact on the finish of his sole edges;

and Phillip had a hard lesson today when he used too hot an edge iron/no soap to set his edges and singed them. A little extra sanding will put things right in the morning…but it just shows how the intensity of the past 10 days has effected levels of concentration and stamina. Week two may not be as physically demanding but it is demanding in other ways!


We are looking forward to taking a 'field trip' tomorrow to visit some of New York's leather and shoemaking material suppliers - a welcome opportunity to discuss design ideas and which leathers are more appropriate for hand sewn work - before back to the workbenches in the afternoon.

Once the lasts are out on Saturday we'll settle down to some good old polishing - I plan to show the students how to get a military shine - then it'll be celebrations, bubbly, dancing and doughnuts from the best doughnut shop in NY.

Back to good old blighty for me on Sunday after a short, but very sweet trip.
Jesse has been a great host as always and been very generous in sharing both her studio space and her experiences with the students. I hope that her enthusiasm and their experiences over the past two weeks will encourage this lovely group to take their shoemaking studies even further. Good luck guys!