I was obsessed with shoes when I was in grade school. In second grade my teacher sent a note home saying that I need to concentrate more on school work than on drawing shoes all over my papers, books, etc. ALL OVER. Every kind of shoe, really, but I especially loved to design high-heeled shoes. I think I got them out of my system back then because the thought of heels now makes my spine ache. I am a sensible shoe gal - all clogs and Birkenstocks for me. I need to not have to think about my shoes (or clothes) and pretty much be able to do anything no matter what shoes I'm wearing - scoot, walk, coffee date, work in my studio, take care of the chickens - whatever...
I also have come to really dislike shopping and I crave the idea of a uniform so I'm working towards simplifying my closet and drawers and freeing up physical - and mental - space. This is not a novel idea - there are countless blog posts, organizing tools, and self-help books on how to declutter your life. HOWEVER I'm a fan of clutter and cool, old stuff (and tons of it all over my house) - but I'm not a fan of a lot of clothes and shoes so this is the one area I can tackle.
I am also a huge fan of seeing how and where other makers/creators/artists work. I love to see their studios and tools and get the feel of what it's like when they do their thing.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO THESE SHOES.
I met Eddie Shaw at the Contemporary Craft annual Out of Hand event where I was doing a tin workshop. He was there demonstrating sandal making in advance of a class he was going to be teaching later in the summer. It took me approximately 35 seconds to fall in love with his leather apron and his selection of hand tools. I started daydreaming about becoming a shoemaker. Short of asking him to take me on as an apprentice I asked if he'd consider making a pair of sandals for me (I was going to be out of town during his class) and he agreed.
I went to Eddie's home on a Tuesday and he had told me to plan for about an hour of time to measure my feet and make some decisions together about the sandals. We hung out on his back deck and I drank my coffee and smelled the stargazer lilies in bloom while he worked his magic. One of my favorite stories when I was young was The Elves and the Shoemaker. I loved the little outfits that the shoemaker made for the elves. Also - I learned this: a shoemaker makes shoes; a cobbler repairs shoes. Anyhow...
**I took pictures of this first visit on my grandma-sized iPhone. Stick around for the photographs of the second visit wherein Matt Dayak took dreamy pictures with his real camera. You can spot the difference from space**
After he had the soles measured and cut he then had to figure out where all the straps would go and that was a very detailed process that he needed my cooperation on so he said "put that thing down and pay attention!" (which I did - so no pictures of that part). The final steps on the first visit entailed marking the soles for where the nails would go and choosing what material I wanted for the actual SOLES of the sandals - the part that will touch the ground. I chose the thickest car tires he had on hand. Not kidding - car tires. He had a nice sort of traditional neoprene sole material but I am hard on stuff so I went for the heavy duty option. I want to be able to get miles and miles out of these.
After one hour and 20 minutes he was done with me so we made an appointment for Friday for me to come back and could I please bring him two bottles of the neatsfoot oil I get from my hardware store in Mt Lebanon? Of course I could.
I didn't realize that Friday was another working visit. When we arrived he had the sandals pretty much made but he needed to make a few final measurements and put the buckles on, etc.
It's Sunday morning now and I have worn the sandals constantly since Saturday morning. They are already forming to my feet and they're soft and getting lovelier by the minute.
And here's the thing that gets me - he charges $80 for these which includes everything. All his time planning, all the materials, all the labor - and you get a pair of sandals made to fit your feet. If you would like to have him make a pair for you he is in Squirrel Hill and he would love to work with you. I can put you in touch as long as you promise to tell him I sent you.