Friday, January 29, 2010

Oink Oink

Oink oink snuffle grunt grunt snuffle oink! You may have gathered from my opening salvo that I have been overtaken, assaulted, struck down by something porcine and thoroughly unpleasant. Now, this is total self diagnosis, but I think I have swine flu!!! All the right symptoms anyway. And if it ain't, it's horrible whatever it is. Blame it on H1N1, or Enron, or something!
As a result, I have done no useful work this week, hence no handy photo essays for you shoeistes out there. I will have to give you news instead.

First off, I am featured in an article in Selvedge magazine with a picture and everything. Jimmyshoe, the face (or more accurately the shiny forehead) of carreducker.
As you know, we won an award at Origin last October for the most innovative use of fabrics for the Winkers and part of the prize was a feature in the magazine. And it is in the current issue. I was interviewed by the lovely Ptolemy Mann; a photographer came to the studio to shoot; and hey presto! We are in print. Great news. And the article is pretty interesting too. So, get out there and buy it. It's issue 32 and we are the cover story.

And in our push with the Winkers we decided we needed a lifestyle shot to tell their story graphically; help explain that they are outdoor shoes etc. So, armed with a big posh camera, Papa Ducker, the other One and myself set out to the Millenium Bridge to see what we could do. It was by turns sunny and foggy (only in London), which was slightly annoying, but we had fun and managed to get some good shots, of which none of the following are examples. Photoshoots are like falling in love, you have to kiss a lot of frogs...

While the Other One slipped off to Tate Modern for a comfort break, the sun came out, but finding a gap between walkers proved difficult.

All I can say is nice backdrop.

Exceptional bird do do! Winkers winking nicely however.

No comment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hardcore Craft

We have been involved in the Crafted programme for a while now and we have received a lot of fantastic advice and guidance from our mentor, the delightful Mark Henderson of Gieves and Hawkes. This has been of a formal nature, in as much as we have examined the business from top to bottom - from the product offering to marketing and PR; finances to future opportunities. I think we are getting to a point where we can focus our attention more usefully. More on that when we have made a decision.
But there are other things which arise from this kind of analysis. One of which is why we do what we do and what we want to be doing as the business grows. One of the main answers to this question for me is that I love shoemaking and I love the craft of shoemaking with a pure and burning passion. And it is not as simple as just loving sitting at my table and making shoes (which I do, hugely), it is a love of the Trade, the craft, the tradition, call it what you will. I am part of a centuries old line of shoemakers, honest, hardworking tradespeople - well trained and highly skilled, and I feel proud to be a part of that. And I want the tradition to continue.
This is why we do what we do, especially the courses. If we don't pass on our skills, the craft will die out. We are guardians of the trade (hang on while I put on my tights and cape).
In a broad sense, this is why the Crafted programme is so important. Important to all the crafts which the programme supports. On a very personal level this feeling affects my daily work. When I make shoes, I could cut corners and do it quicker. I could buy some machines to make my life easier and save time, lower our costs. But I cannot do it. I was trained to do everything by hand using my hand held tools. I can make a pair of shoes with about 20 tools and a table. That is it. Nothing more.
People, especially students, ask why we don't do that, cut corners. Well, this is why. It's about tradition and purity. And from a student's point of view, the simpler the method, the more likely they are to be able to do it on their own. And this is what we have to convey to our clients. This is what you are paying for when you buy bespoke shoes. When customers see the workshop and see what we do, it makes more sense.
I am no luddite, but this is my passion. Learn to do it by hand first, then use machinery if you want to.
Anyway, enough of me chuntering on.

I am going to expand on this with an example. You have built your heel and are ready to finish it and set the edges. The easiest first stage is to turn on the turning machine and sand it to perfection. But we don't want to do that, do we? No, pick up your rasp and get going. Rasping must be done hard and you should work up a sweat. This is the point where you must get rid of all the knife marks and lumps and bumps. Rasp and then rasp again.

Start with your raw heel which you have shaped with your knife

My rasp

A raw edge, again shaped and trimmed with your knife.

A rasped edge.

Heel breast, raw and ready to rasp.

Beautifully rasped and smooth. Make sire you get rid of all the imperfections.

Finally, you have to hold the shoe straight on and check that the edge is even around the toe and back to the joint and the same on both shoes. You have to rasp the uneven bits until it is even.

A finished and even welt/edge.

Next week we will look at glassing and sanding. Happy shoemaking!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Revving Up

Another film on the cards then. We were filmed this morning here in the studio for the Crafted programme we are on. Hence the late post. It was fun, if a little time consuming. You know these media types, one more shot like this; there was a rustle on that take; phone rings mid flow. Oh, the glamour!
They did some interesting takes of the making process, so I look forward to seeing those. We can use the material apparently, so we might be able to edit our own version with all the best bits, ie, none of me or the Other One wittering on, and lots of shoemaking stuff.

And more time in front of the camera tomorrow. This time for some lifestyle shots of the Winkers. We are going to the Millenium Bridge and will shoot either back to Tate Modern or with Tower Bridge in the background. We need to get the Winkers shot outside to cement the fact that they are outdoor shoes, not slippers. Should be fun too, just hope the snow stays away and the models don't freeze.

And the Other One now tells me that she wants to post something for you all, so here she is and see you all next week...

One of the interesting things about all this filming is that the interviewers keep asking us what is so different about what we do? It's a good question and we thought it might be nice to share our musings on the subject...and to hear what you've got to say. What sets carreducker shoes apart? Well, we think that there are a couple of things... First of all, neither of us are particularly formal people, although we do take our shoemaking seriously, so we are more flexible about the details. Our designs and shoe styles are an interesting combination of the traditional, but with a strong design element; we pay close attention to detail, the precise shape of a curve or length of a toecap; and although we know the industry standards - heel height, shape of counter etc. - and apply them where appropriate, ultimately we do what we feel is right for the customer, their personal style and their foot shape.

We would love to know your thoughts...anyway, that's my bit for this week, so have a good week and back to jimmyshoe next Friday.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year

Well, here we are, back in the studio and making shoes. After a wonderful 2 week break and restful holiday, we are both raring to go. Had a fantastic Christmas and New year and hope you all did too.

My oldest little elf will no longer be helping with the shoemaking as it was her first day at school today. Momentous day! Maybe I can get her roped in at nights and weekends.

News. After a successful pre-Christmas placement at Pickett, we have placed the Winker Slip-ons and Limited Editons in a new concept store in Notting Hill called Wolf and Badger. It will be selling fashion, accessories, jewellery and homewares made by small luxury brands like ourselves. Located in the prime shopping area of Ledbury Road, it promises to be the place for cutting edge design and fashion. It is opening on February 1st and we are very excited about it.

We are also in the final stages of prototyping our new driving shoe in collaboration with Dashing Tweeds. The manufacturer is making the final design as we speak and we plan to launch it at London Fashion Week in February. Images when we get them.

I had the usual trouble this week getting back into making. Soft hands; head still on holiday; and terrible snow have all contributed to a lack of speed. I will be fine next week.

Just one small thing to share with you. It concerns welting. Have you ever had a particularly spongy insole where the stitches pull through? This can happen at any point around the toe where the inside gap between stitches is so small.
There is a little trick to help. It involves knotting the stitch as you pull it through. It's fairly straightforward.

Make your hole with awl as normal and put the tips of bristles through.

Pull the bristles through. It helps to hold them firmly and pull in a quick motion, snapping them through. It can be hard. If you struggle here, there is a trick. Hold one and pull it through on its own while holding the other one to stop you pulling it back out.

Then hold the remaining bristle and the other thread as if they were one thread and pull them back the other way. Then separate the threads and you are ready to pull both together as normal.

As the threads warm up, it becomes easier to pull them through at the same time. This is better and quicker.
Once they are through the threads have a normal position.

The trick to stop them pulling through the holdfast starts here. Take the middle thread (the bristle one) and wrap it around the back thread, over the top and then under and back to middle.

Pull the threads together using the awl handle.

When you get them near to the end you must stop and make sure the threads are in the correct position, so that when you tighten it, it sits right in the hole in the holdfast (see picture, I can't explain it in words!).

Pull the knot tight as normal.

You can do this on every hole around the toe or on every second one as the knot acts as a block on 2 holes because they are so close together. It really works and I recommend it because the welt must be strong, especially around the toe, as it is a place of stress for the construction. If you do it, you will see a little row of knots in the holdfast.

Hope this is of use. Someone asked about this and I am very happy to get requests for specific topics. Please feel free to comment and I will cover it.
Happy making!