Friday, October 30, 2009

Bergdorf Goodman Here We Come

Strange old world we live in. We are in Bergdorf Goodman in New York. In the Window display no less.
But hold on, it's not what you think. Check this. I have a good friend called Nelson who makes movies. He was the Production Designer for The Fantastic Mr Fox, the Wes Anderson stop animation version of the Roald Dahl book with George Clooney and Meryl Streep.
Anyway, there is a scene in the film where the animal protagonists are running down a street past a row of shops, one of which is a shoemakers. When they were designing the scene, the film makers came to the workshop to shoot some pics to inspire them. So they shot all our tools, my table, the lasts etc, and we thought nothing more of it.
At the beginning of the year, Nelson invited us to go to Three Mills Studios in Bow, to see the set. It was an amazing visit. An unimaginable level of detail. Think nerdy, obsessive model making children who have grown up and found themselves in modelers paradise. Over 200 people in a massive workshop making puppets; knitting tiny ties on tiny matchsticks; making minute fruits for a supermarket scene; hand painting each one; then doing it all over again, but smaller, for a longer shot; building whole landscapes from foam and twigs and dust; building complete towns for the puppets to move round in. It was mind-blowing and fascinating.
Apparently Wes Anderson refused to use any CGI, so the studio had to find physical solutions to all the scenes. It was a little wonderland. And the puppeteers are superstars in their field, traveling the world making these movies and earning fortunes. Who would have thought, eh?

Anyway, we were looking at the town set and Nelson said come look at this, and it was the shoemakers shop. And inside was our studio (more or less) reproduced in miniature. My table; all my tools; my famous red handled hammers; the lasts; everything! It was brilliant.

The movie premiered here and as a promotional tool, the film company sends the puppets and scenery to places around the world. And one of the places is Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Ave in New York, who have 9 of the scenes in their windows. One of them is the shoemakers shop. So by a very circuitous route, we are in Bergdorf Goodman. Ha ha, what a pip!

If any of you dear readers is in New York, we would really appreciate a picture. We will be there at Leffot on the 19th of November, but we don't know if the dispaly will still be there.

On a different tack, we had a visit from a student from the summer course, who has set up a studio in San Francisco to make shoes. Well done Brian, and great to see you. Good luck with it.
Another student from the same course is visiting next week after spending a couple of months with our friend Marcell at Koronya in Budapest, continuing his making education. It will be interesting to see how he got on.

That's it then for another week. Sorry no images this week, but I thought the movie story was fun.

Happy making!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Times

I know I have wittered on about Origin, but what I have not done is show you pictures. So here you are. It was a typical carreducker confection on a sought after corner stand. We tried to emphasize the craft side of what we do, hence the tools and shoes hung on the wall. I think it worked well and we got lots of positive feedback.

Next come the people. The Other One and me, doing our thing. Look at those Winkers winking! They are so cool.

Look at the crush of visitors. One great thing about Origin is the constantly high visitor numbers. There were no lulls.

Finally look at Mama Ducker in the Dietrich. Gorgeous! And the shoes look lovely too. It's funny how things turn out. Of the 3 women's bespoke samples we made, this was the least favourite on paper, but once the alchemy of making had been done, they reversed that position. They are so elegant and very flattering.

On Wednesday, we went for a coffee with Nathan Brown from Lodger. Great concept, beautiful shop and a lovely guy. Always good to meet other shoe people and see how they get to where they are. Good on you Nathan for supporting the British shoe industry with such conviction. We chewed the cud and put the industry to rights. Very interesting.

We have been invited to participate in a year long programme for up and coming luxury brands designed to stimulate both our entrepneurial skills and promote the craft element of luxury. It's called Crafted, and, funded by the American Express Foundation, it is run by Walpole and Arts and Business.
Yesterday we had our first meeting with our new business mentor, Mark Henderson (Gieves and Hawkes). This guy knows the industry backwards; is amazingly well connected; and will be a fantastic asset to us. We talked about our product offering, from bespoke shoes to the Winkers, and planned our year working together. We are very excited about this. Will keep you posted on how it develops. Good times!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blind Welt 3

So, after a triumphant debut at Origin (yes triumphant!), here we are back in the studio. All in all it was a very successful show for us. We took orders, both bespoke and ready to wear; met plenty of journos and trade; have many interested punters to follow up; and, most importantly, a certificate to hang on our wall. We have already had follow-up emails from a few of the people we met. So it should mean more orders down the line. Excellent!

We have more shows on the way too. First up is the QEST British Craft Fair, 4th and 5th November at General Trading Company in Sloane Square (click link for details and see you there).

12th November we have a bespoke event in Blackburn, Lancashire in association with Edwards Of Manchester shoe shop. More details to come.

Then comes the show at Leffot, 10 Christopher St in New York, 19th November, 12 till 7pm. This should be exciting. A chance to do the fittings for our customers who ordered bespoke shoes in May; to measure up some new ones; and to showcase the Winkers. The store will have had 2 colourways on sale by then and we will be able to show people the other 7 tweed options available. A date for your diaries.

We also have the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, 27, 28 29 November (address and times through link). Your chance to see our workshop; buy those hard to find Christmas presents; and generally have a behind the scenes look at designer makers at work. Nice!

And so to bespoke shoemaking. We left the blind welt with the sole glued on and trimmed all the way round to 3/16" from the welt. Hammer up the sole very hard so that it gets as close to the upper as possible. Now for the fun bit. From heel to heel, you need to cut a line along the edge to the thickness just thicker than required (1/4" in this case).

Wet the cut you have made and peen it close to the upper with the french shape hammer. You will have to work this, but don't hit the upper! Get it as close as you can. Then hammer it flat with the other end of the hammer to remove the peening marks. At this point, you must cut the channel as you would with any shoe. Make sure you don't cut through the sole! Open up the channel with a screwdriver and open up the sole where it touches the upper. Use the sleeking bone. You are now ready to stitch. Start at the heel and stitch towards yourself. Stitch about 4 to the inch.

Squish (technical term) the stitches flat with the sleeking bone. Close down the channel with it and hammer flat. This is a bit counter intuitive, but it sets the leather in place and gets rid of wrinkles before you glue it.

Open the channel again and glue it with neoprene, let it dry and then close it again. Hammer as before and smooth the sole with the smoothing stick (a sanded chair leg?).

Now we have to tidy up the top edge. This is a quarter inch sole so, mark a line with a pen this width. You will have to do this freehand. Make it as even as you can.

More fun now. Open the sole up a bit so it sits away from the upper. Wet it and cut the line, clean and flat. You can use a piece of plastic to protect the upper.

You will see now that the top of the line is neat and straight but quite thick. You need to cut this thin. Sharpen your knife and wet the offending area. Cut this edge to nearly nothing all the way round.

Peen the edge back to the upper. To finish off sand the edge like you would any other edge. Glass it; sand it; and set it with a bevelled waist iron. Hey presto, a finished blind welt.
If you have got this far well done. And remember I did this for the first time with this bespoke shoe, so I know how nerve wracking it is. But shoemaking is about bravery. Go for it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blind Welt 2

Just a sneak preview of Origin news, we have been awarded best "innovative use of textiles" in show for the Winkers by Selvedge Magazine. How about that? Look out for an editorial piece about us in the mag. Excellent.

The Other One is there now, so I don't have much else to tell you other than it is going well. The VIP private view on Monday was very successful and we made a lot of useful contacts. I am there tomorrow and Friday. Looking forward to it.

Now, back to blind welts and doing things for the first time. We had cut the welt all the way round like a bevelled waist. Next up is cutting the sole to size. Place the shoe on the flesh side of the sole and draw round the welt. It helps to open the welt slightly with the sleeking bone to make this process easier. Then draw a second line with the dividers set at 3/8". Continue this second line around the heel.

Before glueing this to the shoe, we have to prepare it. With a pen, mark a line half the thickness of the sole.

Skive the sole from flesh side to this line, then glass it to smooth any lumps and bumps.

Place the shoe back on the sole and remark the welt line, so that when you glue it on, you can put it in the right place.

Next you glue the sole and the underside of shoe with rubber solution, let it dry for 10 minutes and place the shoe on the inside line.

At this point, the sole is too big. You need to trim the excess to 3/16" from the welt. With the tip of an awl, mark a line at this distance from the welt. Do it freehand. This results in a white line in the glue.

Now trim it making sure you hold the knife at 90 degrees. Don't angle it. After that, knock the sole up towards the upper. You have to use a lot of force and get the sole as close to the upper as possible. You have to work at this point!

I will finish off the process next week. Wish us luck!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blind Welt 1

Well, here we are, the eve of a big show. The workshop is in chaos; everything is in boxes; the shelves are empty; not an inch of floor space. Just packed all the Winkers and the rest of the bespoke shoes.
Set up is on Sunday, so we are meeting here at 9am (way too early for a Sunday). It's our first time exhibiting there so we hope it is well organised. Should be fine.

I have had a busy couple of weeks making. Not done much else in fact. The women's samples are all finished. I told you about Dietrich last week, so this week I present Russell and Hepburn.

The boot is very striking, red pony and gun metal kid with a 3/16 square waist sole and black finish. The heel is a small, slightly pitched standard with a curved breast. It's amazing. The shot does not show the pattern and fur on the red skin, but we will get them shot properly soon.

The other is a brogued wholecut with a golf style detachable tongue. There is a purple underlay between the upper and the lining which shows through the punching and the flowers. It is really beautiful and my favourite of the 3. It's funny how much shoes change from the uppers stage to the finished shoe. I was not expecting to like this one much but it is lovely. Look at the top line (runs from the laces round the back of heel to laces again). It is very scooped down and gives a feminine curve, as well as showing a bit more shapely ankle.
Anyone remember the post about a client who had a painful ankle and cut down a pair of his bespoke shoes himself and then insisted on the next pair being the same (17 April 2009)? I said at the time, after initially being horrified, that I had grown to like the style and would incorporate it into some bespoke shoes. Well, here is the result. Serendipity strikes again.

Now, look at the welt on Hepburn. I am going to take you through a completely new learning experience for me. This is what I call a blind welt (others call a blind welt something else, but there you go). I had never done one before. I had been told about them and how to do it but had never actually tried it. I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least.
A blind welt is essentially a bevelled waist which goes all the way round the shoe, thus creating a sole which hides the stitching, creating a smooth elegant line. Better suited to women's shoes, I can foresee using it in a men's pump if it needs to be a bit more robust.

My principle worry was getting the sole close to the upper without a gap because if there is a gap, you can see the stitching and it looks messy. I suppose the fact that I am telling you about this tells you it turned out ok. But it was tough, dear readers, very tough.

First thing was to welt the shoe and fill with the shank and cork at front

Then, as with a bevelled waist, you draw a line 1/8" from the stitching

Then cut it. Thus far, nothing out of the ordinary.

Sorry, I have to stop. Got a client meeting this afternoon. More next week. Wish us luck.