Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 4 April 2014

Crafted - Makers of the Exceptional at the Royal Academy of Arts

This week has been a hectic rush to get samples finished and our stand set up in the Royal Academy. Fortunately we achieved both goals on time.

Monday saw us setting out our wares and organising last minute props, additions and tweaks to the original plan.

Our new classic English riding boots are the centre piece of our dispaly. Made from Bakers reverse calf (also known as wax calf) and with handmade bespoke four piece trees, they really are impressive.

The reverse calf is an interesting material. Tanned by Bakers of Colyton, Devon, it is the suede side of the skin which has been treated with wax to give the appearance of regular calf. The advantage of doing it this way is that after you ride through the brush and vegetation and your boots get scratched, you can sleek away the scratches with a bone to return the boots to their pristine state. If you used the skin side of the leather, the scratches would be permanent.
It is also very thick which gives it durability and strength - these boots will outlive their owner!

The trees are also an amazing thing. Made from tulip wood by Crispinians last makers, they comprise four pieces - the foot block which is like the last but it has a ledge and a dove tail joint onto which you slide the second piece of the tree. Part three goes in at the back and the fourth part is a wedge with two runners and a handle which forces parts two and three apart to create the leg shape of the shaft of the boot. This mimics the leg of the wearer and keeps the boots in shape, even if they get wet (which they inevitably will). In fact, the tree maker has to wet the leg of the boot to block the boots after he has made the trees so that the boots take on the correct shape.

The handle was a design we found in a vintage pair of guardsman's boots in the Gieves and Hawkes military archive

Quite amazing really and fit for a prince. And with over 80 hours work they can be yours for a princely sum!

The rest of our display consisted of a burgundy jodhpur boot in oiled nubuck; a pair of laked derby shoes in Scotch grain; a pair of stone desert boots; and a pair of teeny tiny toddler shoes designed for Prince George. They are very cute and all the ladies say "aah" when they see them.

We also put out a last, patterns, uppers and half made stage of a pair of bottle green stalking boots in oiled nubuck to tell the story of how we make the shoes.

Next to the table we have set up a work space where we are demonstrating welting throughout the three days

The show is fantastic and has been very well attended so far with a packed private view on Wednesday evening and a good crowd yesterday.

Please come along if you are in town today until 9 pm or tomorrow from 10 till 6 pm

Until next week, happy shoemaking!