Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 23 March 2018

Northampton part 2: Adele Williamson and R.E.Tricker

Master and apprentice - proud craftswomen both
Welcome good shoe folk of the world. As promised here's the second part from our Northampton trip a couple of weeks ago when we met up with Adele Williamson, Trickers first female apprentice and a fellow QEST scholar.  

Breaking new ground is nothing unusual for Trickers. I personally owe them much. Not only did they generously sponsored my degree footwear collection - they allowed me to work alongside their then head pattern cutter, Barry Jones, to bring my designs to life. (Here's a snapshot of the footwear in question).
Atelier Carre Equus thigh boots

Atelier Carre Equus knee boots 

In Vogue Homme International

Vogue Homme

Most importantly, it was seeing their in-house shoe maker crafting these boots that made me fall in love with hand sewn shoe making...head and hands working together to create beautiful, three-dimensional sculptures.

So it was a joy to see Barry again and to meet Adele, who is one of three bespoke shoe making trainees at the factory...a good sign to see the traditional craft once again making its way back into mainstream manufacturing. 

Talking tools and techniques

The factory is much-improved since my day there; newly streamlined, reorganised and brightened up but without losing any sense of the building's charm and history and it was great to see the bespoke team so busy.

Carreducker Half-Cut uppers
We also revisited a Carreducker signature design - the Half-Cut...and met Scott, the man who now heads up the Bespoke team but who, back then, had the joy of getting our coloured lines straight!  We were delighted to see them on display...prompting the thought (much to Scott's dismay) that perhaps we should revisit the design.... 

Carreducker Half-Cut in Espresso and ice blue flash

Carreducker Half-Cut in Espresso and golden yellow flash

A well-used strop

Picking up some ideas for tools for the workshop - a toe laster - why not?

A busy work bench 

Ready for some Norwegian welt practise - since finished and looking very fine
That's all for this week, so until next week happy shoe making!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

An industry treasure-trove - the National Leather Collection

Northampton's historic market square

Welcome back good shoe folk, having just thrown the mantle of winter off its due to be back with avengeance this weekend with gallons of snow predicted for the UK. 

Fortunately we snuck in our trip to Northampton at the start of the week...when it was just grey and rainy.... a warm welcome and glimpse of the treasure trove at the National Leather Collection soon cheered us up. Many thanks to Phil and Vicky...

Whitaker Malem 

Leather work courses and activities
As you can see, the main exhibition is a huge space with a fascinating array of leather items from across the centuries on display...but with 10,000 pieces in the collection it is not where the real treasure lies. Make an appointment with Phil or Vicky to spend time in the archives and you never know what you might discover.

The trunk room
Surface decoration

Stitch detail

Strap detail

Doe skin covered case....from the days of travel and exploration in style

Shoe display models

Showing stitch sizes for a customer to choose from

Leather detailing and stud work on a coach
Leather mirror surround

There aren't just amazing objects could get lost for days in the contents of the library....shelves of wonderful resource from books to magazines and old trade catalogues...many still in boxes ready to be sorted and displayed.

The library...

The Collection's survival and potential expansion requires continued support from the industry, the Guilds, the Council and the landlord...a not insurmountable task! It's one which Phil and Vicky are approaching with pragmatism, passion and patience. 

Investment would see the collection curated, archived and housed permanently in the Grade II listed building next door; with an activity and exhibition space in the existing rooms and crafts studios above. 

It's a collection of such size, national and international importance surely it must be preserved and available as a resource...making it a 'must-see' destination for leather professionals, designers, craftspeople and conservators from across the the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto?

If helping with the funding is a stretch I'm sure Phil and Vicky would welcome any volunteers to sort through and help to archive the books. We're certainly going to be heading back soon to do our bit...and obviously lock ourselves away in the archive for a good rummage! 

Until next week and part two of our trip to Northampton, happy shoe making!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Tor boots and new horizons

A touch of snow on the tors...

Welcome back good shoe folk, we are snow free but still chilled here in the south of England. Thanks to some valiant efforts on the part of the William Lennon team, against some impressive weather (see above)...the final few Tor boots from our Kickstarter arrived this week and are being duly dispatched. There are a few re-sizes still to come and some new orders, which is exciting, and the reactions of backers has been amazing!

A much-awaited pair of shearling-lined, bespoke winter boots were finished this week and have gone for trees to be fitted. As you can see, they're going to be great in the snow with a full shearling lining and footbed and grippy rubber tread.

Knee-high, shearling lined bespoke snow boots

We also received some new polish brush samples - rather beautiful don't you think? They're wooden with a horn back and just narrow enough at the tip to get into the welt. A perfect reminder to step up the shoe-care after all the snow, salt, sleet and grit!

The bespoke boots were finished despite the workshop being full of a furry distraction e.g. Arthur He's gradually getting used to his commute in to the workshop and to enjoy a day of local park outings and chewing on the best oak bark tanned leather! 

Listening intently

A rare moment - sitting quietly

Not getting in the way as Jove records finishing tips
With spring in the air and new premises on the horizon (more to come on this next week), we have put our minds to preparing new teaching aids and updating some long-in-the-tooth ones.

Preparing an insole - marking the holdfast

Cutting out the inside edge of the holdfast

Levelling off the outside edge of the holdfast for a clean edge finish

Well-spaced stitching holes

Finally a beautiful gift arrived in the post this week - this wonderful knife. It's spec. is phenomenal - Japanese folded blade and ancient bog wood handle - and we're hoping to do more development work on a shoe making knife in the coming weeks. Exciting times!

Until next week, we wish you happy shoe making!