Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 3 April 2009

Toe Plates

Crumbs! 3 weeks till our New York shoemaking course starts. Getting very excited now. The Loafer is doing the first half of the course and I am teaching the second half, so I don't leave till the 5th of May. Then I am off to San Francisco for a trunk show on the 19th at the Clift in downtown SF. Should be very good. My eminent friend, Paul Holm, is helping out and it is shaping up to be a great day. I am also doing private client visits on the Wednesday. Then it's off to Paul's vineyard at Calistoga for 2 days and home. The glamourous life of a shoemaker.

Remember those beaten up shoes from last week? Well, I have done my best with them and the results are not bad. It is really good to see worn bespoke shoes you have made, as I said. I am always struck by how the bevelled waist does not hold up as well as you would like. However well made it is, it always seems to peel away from the upper slightly. A square waist, though less elegant, is much more robust. Something I always tell clients.

The new top pieces are fine and presented no difficulties, just a simple replacement job. But the toe plates were more complex. First I cut a section across the sole and removed it. Then I spliced a new piece of sole in place and stitched it throught the same holes as previously stitched. Finally I attached a piece of rubber (the toe plate). The result is good and it functions like a 1/4 rubber on the heel. When the toe plate wears through, it is time to visit me again. The scuffs have been dyed and polished carefully, not a bad result, eh?

Last thing, went to the set of a stop animation film yesterday in Bow. My friend Nelson is the art director and he gave us a tour. It is absolutely amazing and utterly crazy. The amount of work and level of detail is astonishing. The puppets cost from £20,000 to £60,000; each joint moved and stays put; their clothes are hand printed, knitted or stitched. A 2 minute scene can take weeks to set up and more weeks to film. Our workshop was used to make a cobblers shop which the characters walk past and they made all my tools, my table, the lasts etc in miniature. Incredible.

Bespoke shoemakers must be sticklers for detail, but this takes it to another level. But what could be better for the big kid in us to imagine something and then have endless resources to get it realised, in miniature? Now I know what happens to some of those nerdy kids in school who obsessively make things all the time. They become animators/set builders/decorators/model makers. And the slightly less nerdy ones become shoemakers. Hooray for nerdy kids!