This is a long and heated conversation between the industry professionals. The question sounds like this: what is “handmade”? Makers, like me (and many others, working with their hand and tools only), would answer this way: “surely handmade is a product which is made by hand entirely”. Sounds logical, isn’t it? It is so funny that a machine, which makes the work way easier, can change that opinion rapidly. A sole stitcher, a line finisher tends to plant idea in people’s mind that their product is still handmade, as “everybody use those anyways”*. Once I have a conversation with an investor (not my investor – that is actually me, and only me) and he had a valuable opinion about it. He thought that there is no really handmade anyways. (let me put this here: there is. But really very rare). He thought that even the case of high end shoes the upper are machine stitched, skived, the sole is machine sanded, etc. So after all – he said – all the shoes are partially machine made. To be very correct, he used this philosophy to justify a welting and sole stitching machine in his “handmade’ process.
We must admit – handmade sounds good. Just like “natural”, “healthy” or “organic”. These are those words which can sell a product, even justify a higher price tag. Why wouldn’t we use it then, right? Let’s be realistic: there is no control. Companies, as long as they can, will use “handmade”. Customers – well, they have no idea. They believe those labels, printed on fancy recycled papers (and a company which that much environment conscious MUST be honest in the same time, right?).
Here is what WE can do. First of all: we have to be honest in a World which is not honest. Instead of coming up with new and vague terms, let’s be specific.
Diamond cutter and polishers (diamantaire) is a rare and very highly appreciated craft, which needs a lot of training, special skills and equipment – for a good reason. They work with one of the most precious and hardest treasure of Earth, diamonds. When they find those stones, they are not beauty, pretty much look like a big piece of broken glass, but the beauty is somewhere in there. A professional can cut it to pieces, polish it and create a million dollar masterpiece.
This is my latest piece, which made me feel like one of those experts. I used a very precious leather – alligator, and not just any – a huge beast, approx. 4.5-5 meters long. It was wild caught, full with scars, healed injuries, marks of figthing. Alligators in this size are usually 30 years old, and can weight over a half ton.
This shape is kind of rare. First of all: not the latest fashion, except western boots and women shoes. It doesn’t mean you can’t find this style in the bespoke fashion. Here is an example. I am not saying it is only possible by hand, but for a nice result – that s the way. It took me a shamefully long time to make it, but it was very a meditative, very satisfying process.
I also made a slight change with the transition between the bevelled waist and the heel. I think I am going to do it this way from now.
This is what we are going to see today – a shoe render with a simple way.
There are rare occasions in the bespoke shoemakers life, when we have to make a whole eerie for the same style of last. Here are some advices.
1. Don’t bother with US sizes. Seriously. You need to make half sizes as the scale if pretty big, so you will end up 11 sizes – even if you do every half size, that is 6 patterns. (If you really want to work with US sizes, well… go ahead. I warned you.)
2. You can buy fancy grading machines on eBay – they do the same what Illustrator can, but you will have a problem with the size of the printing. And by the way – even if it seems logical, the proportion might be a bit different what sizes would suggest – this is why we don’t measure the length of the sole, but the length from the countertop to the toe. That gives a more accurate number.
3. You don’t need to scale everything.
4. Don’t be afraid to scale everything.
5. OK. I need to elaborate the last 2 points, so… not everything needs to be scaled – decorations, eyelets, buckles, rivets, dogtails… etc. This rule will be used if you use those fancy machines. Theo there one – when you scale everything – after all the eyelets will not be one millimeter bigger, right? So, if it doesn’t cause an extra work – just throw that scale on the whole pattern. It won’t hurt.
6. Start from the middle sizes if you scale the patterns. Always.
7. Don’t bother with any of these rules, and follow this method:
use European sized lasts. Tape every second size. 39, 41, 43.. draw the main design lines and put them on a flat.
Now you have 3 sizes – make those modifications, start with the medium size. (I am not gonna list those, I assume you can’t make a pattern if thou want to learn grading, hmm?)
Then use the medium sized pattern as a ruler to adjust the style lines the same and voila, you are done with the master pattern, the rest is a piece of cake.
ps. I make these for my upcoming (June) courses. By the way: we have only 2 seats left.
We got a few questions about the course, let me ask them here too – maybe there are people who wants to know the same.
What constructions I can learn?
That depends on you, your skills and ambitions. I have some years of teaching experience, I am confident that I can guide a perfect beginner through the process of making a pair in 3 weeks, although you need to be a hard worker.
What will we learn?
That is actually an easy question – exactly what I told you: pattern making, shoe making and some upper making demo. About the last one: this time is just not enough to finish a welted shoe from scratch to finish so I needed to sacrifice something – either sewn construction or upper making. I chosen the last.
Is there any course in the future? I can’t come for this one.
I am very busy, working on some big project, teaching in a college, run a brand, so I teach less and less classes. I understand that you are busy too, I just can’t promise anything. The next course can be in a year ahead, but easily more.
What previous experience is needed for this course?
Good news – nothing. We learn from the very beginning to finishing the shoe. Come as you are – we provide tools, equipment, leather, whatever you need to complete a pair welted shoe.
Why this course is any better than others?
Answering this question would be cheap marketing and I don’t need that, luckily many students are lined up to register. Choosing a shoemaking course is not any different than choosing a college. You check the appreciation, the faculty the alumni.. etc. Do your homework and check these! I am proud of my previous students.
I have this and this… issue, can I still join?
I am not a doctor – you might want to ask yours, but once I had a student with one arm. He could do it.
Do you need assistance for the course?
No thanks, I already have 3 and quite honestly the easiest part of this to get assistants. To be an assistant by the way doesn’t not mean that you will participate in the course free, more like work hard to maintain the workshop, prepare everything, moving heavy furniture, etc. so the student can use every minute of the course useful.
The course will be from 9th (Monday) to 27th (Friday) June 2014, We only have a few seats left. send an an inquiry so we will send you a registration form.
Great news, here’s the final schedule for our 2014 Summer Intensive Apprenticeship Course!
9th (Monday) to 27th (Friday) June 2014, on weekdays
The duration of the course is 3×5 days, that is 15 intensive all day workdays.
Savannah, GA, USA. This is the only location and time we have for this year, so please make your plans accordingly!
What you will be learning in this three weeks:
A hand welting technique – based on your prior experience, you will be learning one hand welting technique.
Shoes can be either men’s or women’s.
Design, pattern making and upper making. However, due to time and space restraints, we won’t be able to make those uppers into shoes. You will work with the ready made ones provided by me.
Hand finishing: we will not use any machines during the entire process. You will learn the traditional way of sole and heel finishing.
All sorts of tricks of the trade, business tips, etc.
The Koronya intensive course experience:
The intensive apprenticeship course focuses on the construction. We will do our best to provide you with the size of your choice, but supplies are limited. The point is not making shoes for your own use, but to learn the techniques.
You may bring your own lasts and design an upper and make the pattern on them. But the final shoes will be made on the lasts in the sizes that I provide, simply because the uppers we use are specifically designed on these, so they will definitely fit.
When we say intensive, we really mean it! Making a pair of hand welted shoes in three weeks while learning the process of design, pattern making and upper making is demanding. Absolute commitment is required.
All materials will be superior quality Baker leather – Soles, insoles, stiffeners, welts.
All tools used are genuine shoemaking tools and will be provided to all students.
What’s included in the price:
Use of all the tools required in the process
Use of lasts
Patterns made during the classes
One pair of hand-welted shoes, made by you
What’s not included:
Lodging, food, transportation, etc.
Availability is limited, so early registration is recommended! Please contact me here or at info(at)koronya(dot)com for registration details!