Friday, June 26, 2009

Cork Platform

Florence was last week and we now have plenty to do. It was a fantastic experience; so many people; such a good reception for our lines. We now have to deliver those shoes! But it's over, Ducker, and now it's nose to the grindstone time again. Quite pleased really.

So, tools in hand, I have started a pair of rather special bespoke shoes for a good client with a biomechanical problem - one leg is 1.5cm longer than the other. This means that we have to compensate for this in his shoes. What we do is make a 1cm through cork platform inside the shoe (known in the trade as a Sarkozy) and add 0.5cm to the heel. It works very well and the shoes do not look different, which he is very pleased about. From the joint to the toe, we file the cork down to nothing so that there is not any unnecessary thickness. This makes the shoe look more natural.

The insole will now be blocked as normal and the shoe made. The platform is then loose inside the shoe and can be replaced when it gets worn out.

This insole is significant in that is has an arch support called "insole up in waist". This is a curved section of the insole that is skived away, covered in the lining leather and nailed back on. It's like those foam supports you see in trainers, but handmade and beautiful and expensive.

I will show shots of the insole up in waist when the insole is dry and I have made it. More next week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pitti 2

This place is amazing! The Other One is here now so I have slipped away to have peek round. So many people and so much colour. I love the fact that Italian men wear colours, bold, wonderful, uplifting colours. The flashes on our Half-cuts are in good company.

Now, I may not like individual items or outfits, but I celebrate the diversity; the general interest in style; and the underlying peacockishness of the men here. It's great and worth celebrating.

The Winkers are a big hit again. The next louche classics? Quite possibly.

Lots of leads to follow up.

Pictures next week of the stand. If I tell you it's pebbles and bald tree trunks, you wouldn't believe me. Not our design I hasten to inform you. Ciao belli

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pitti Uomo 1

Very exciting. I am in Florence at Pitti Uomo. Masses of people and a good response to our shoes. Met lots of buyers, agents and the British consul yesterday. Just about to start today and have sneaked into the Press Room to use their computers.

The Other One arrives today. And I leave Friday, so not sure if I will be able to blog, but I will fill you all in next week. Wish us luck...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Extreme Brogues

The Other One is on one. As we speak. A cleaning bender. Furious dusting, scrubbing and polishing. However, don't think that I have stood by idle while she does it. I too have done my bit.

We are getting ready for Open Studios here at Cockpit, which start today. The public's chance to see over 90 designer/makers in their studios; buy/commission work; and generally see how we do it. It's a great visit and well worth the effort. Let's hope the sun does not shine this weekend, so that the discerning folk of London come out in their droves.

There is jewellery, ceramics, glass, weaving, fashion, printing, homeware. And, of course, London's premier bespoke shoes.

We took delivery of our new Extreme Brogue Limited Edition shoes from the factory. They look fantastic. We were a bit concerned as the previous sample did not look as we had hoped for. But we made a few tweaks, smaller punching holes, new toe pattern, and the results are great. It is incredible how a few minor changes to a design can make a huge difference. Be that colour, line, stitching, punching, etc. It all adds up. In addition, seeing a style on the last can make a massive difference. We draw styles on paper; throw ideas around; make changes; and then make the upper. But that moment when you put on the last is a crucial one. We have had to give up on designs at this point many times. It's that change from a 2D design to a 3D object.

On the bespoke shoe front, I have been making a pair of white loafers for an old client. They illustrate two aspects of the craft. Firstly, that my taste is irrelevant when it comes to choosing a style. The customer gets what they want. Secondly, that bespoke shoes give you the comfort of well fitting shoes. This client has problems with the knuckles of his toes and finds shop bought shoes very tricky. But we can cater for it. See the bumps on the lakes.

And finally I am off to Florence on Monday (The Other One arrives on Wednesday). To Pitti Uomo. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Into The Groove

Believe me when I say that taking time off any craft or trade is a dangerous beast. In the week since I since I last posted, I have struggled so much with getting back into the rhythm of making our beloved bespoke shoes. And it really is a question of rhythm.

I was talking to my good friend Paul in New York, who trained me in shoemaking at Lobb, but who is now working in the shop there, and does no making. He wants to get back to it, but we agreed that it would take a few months to recover his speed and accuracy. I was off for 3 weeks and it has taken me nearly 2 to get back up to speed. The first pair I made took me nearly a week, and then the next pair I ruined. I lasted the wrong uppers onto the wrong lasts, resulting in us having to remake the uppers. Oh dear! The Other One was not pleased. What a chump I am.

But it would never have happened if I had been in the groove. So much of any skilled manual work is repetition and regularity. It is really true about muscle memory. Half the skill of making bespoke shoes is switching off your mind and letting your hands do the work. It is a strange, disconnected space. The Zone.

On the making front, that lengthy first pair was a tricky little 1/8" sole with a dress welt. Now this requires about 18 to 20 stitches to the inch on the welt. If you actually stitch this, the welt and sole is weakened by the density of the threads so close together. The options are to channel the welt, exactly as you would the sole; stitch at 4 to the inch; close down the welt; and then run a fudge wheel around the welt, thus creating the apperance of stitching.

I tried an alternative with this pair, which involved stitching 4 to the inch over the welt (no channel) and then simply fudging over the top to give the appearance of tiny stitches. It worked fairly well but does not result in such a clean line as the previos method. Sorry there are no pictures, but the client wanted his shoes. Hope you like the fudge wheel though.

One last thing. Any of you who live in London, we have Open Studios here at Cockpit Arts. This is an opportunity to see our and another 90 designer/makers' studios. Not only that, there is the chance to buy work or commission pieces. It is a very interesting visit, so come along, all welcome.

The times are Saturday 13/Sunday 14 from 11am till 6pm
Address Cockpit Arts, cockpit Yard, Northington St, London WC1N 2NP

Follow this link for more information

Thinking about another photo essay on some aspect of bespoke shoemaking. Any suggestions or requests? Bevelled waists? Skiving (always popular)? Let me know.