Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Summer - time for Festivals and new crafts

Welcome back good shoe fans and, what's this, not a shoe in sight on this post? Well, in anticipation of the fabulous Make More Festival starting next Thursday,  - when you can join us to saddle stitch, watch shoe making or bring your shoes for a good polish alongside a host of other craftspeople - I thought that it would be fun to have a go at a new craft myself. 

On a rare rainy day on our recent Norfolk holiday, my friend Nicola pointed out that there was a glass blower's near our holiday cottage. We couldn't resist the temptation! So off we went in convoy to Langham Glass...and what a wonderful experience it proved to be. 

From what I have read, the workshop was set up as a tourist experience, with a cafe and very well stocked glass shop adjoining. What a fantastic way of showcasing a craft! The demonstration was pitched just right, with plenty of information, humour, action and 'Madonna' headset's so we didn't miss a word. 

Whilst one of the glass makers skilfully produced cure animals and goldfish for the audience the others helped us to create our own glass article from a tea light holder to a vase or whiskey glass. I chose a simple Christmas bauble. 


A tea light mould

First the molten glass is dipped in coloured glass - you can choose one colour or a mix of colours.

The glass is rolled and heated some more and then a small bit of air is gently blown into it, to 'get it started'. Then it was our turn. 

The hollow rod holding the molten glass was supported on a metal frame and we were instructed to blow gently through the opposite end, as the glass maker gently rolled the rod.. Gradually wonderful things began to happen and the glass inflated...

The specialist tools for shaping and squeezing the molten glass

Here the glass maker is squeezing the neck of the bauble with tongs
so that the bauble can be carefully knocked off the rod

Then he sits it on what looks like a nest of string (presumably heatproof)
and adds a blob of clear glass at the top over the hole from the rod

Then he carefully shapes the glass into a simple loop 

And here's my finished bauble

And the family's beautiful creations

The end product is really great quality, especially the whiskey glass. Maybe I'll try one of those on the next trip?


In between our own shoe polishing and saddle stitch workshops and shoe making demos I'm determined to try some other new crafts at Make More next week. But which to do? I rather fancy the following:

Print making with East London Printmakers
Candle Making with The London Refinery
Paper Marbling with Paperwilds
Bowl Making with Goldfinger Factory
Spoon Carving with Barn the Spoon

Hmmm, might need to whittle down that little lot....until next week, when we'll be live at MakeMore have a great week and happy shoe making!

Buy a ticket to our Key Fob class and you'll get your Make More Festival ticket for half price! Copy this link into your browser and you're off:

Sunday, 12 August 2018

School's Out!

Hello once more, dear shoe folk of the world. We hope you have had a great week

And so our summer of courses comes to an end. Five solid weeks and it's been brilliant. Our students have worked so hard and achieved so much. And they have had some challenging temperatures to deal with - not what you expect in England, but yes, we have had a proper summer!

And our new school has been brilliant too, the space is functional and beautiful, a great environment for learning shoe making.

We have had two 12 Day Intensive Shoemaking Courses sandwiched around a Five Day Pattern Making for Bespoke Shoes Course and several of the students did both, giving them a great start in their shoe making paths.

An so, back to the second week of the second 12 Day Shoe Making Course - after a second week packed with sole stitching; thread making; heel building; rasping; glassing; and sanding, we finally finished the shoes yesterday. A great moment.

Hand stitching the sole
Glassing the sole

This is my favourite moment, when the students pull the lasts.

Fitting Socks

A finished shoe ready to pull the last

And the finished shoes - really fantastic work

And here are the happy and extremely tired students.

We are having a well deserved holiday, so no blog next week. We will be back on Friday 24th of August with a report on the Makemore Festival in Victoria Park, London where we will be demonstrating bespoke shoe making; teaching two saddle stitched key fob classes and two shoe care and polishing classes.
But it will be a huge festival for the hands and the mind - come and make a lampshade; butcher a cut of meat; learn a new style of cooking; make a wooden spoon; watch a puppet show; a comedy show; the story tent; live performances. One day will not be long enough!

There are places available on all our courses at Makemore and it will be a fantastic experience, so get your tickets now. You could make a beautiful key fob like this.

And the shoe care/polishing class is free, so wear a pair of shoes that need some love

See you there everyone. Until then, happy shoemaking!