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Shoes and Craft

A shoemaker's blog about shoemaking

This is day my shoemaking carrier started. I was very young, and to tell the truth, I was more interested in seeing girls in the trade school for leathercraft (and fur) than the tools, but anyway, I was there. It was pretty far from my house, so it was more than 1,5 hours from home to get there. I remember wearing slip-on shoes with california welt, thin trousers (it was still hot, like summer), and a stupid white shirt, the type young folks usually hate to wear.. but you know.. it was the opening ceremony after all, and you want to make good impression on the teachers… at least on the first one. Even if you’d rather wear a t-shirt with a  “I hate school” sign on it. Anyway, the first week was about introducing the teachers, the new stuffs we were going to learn, and some field trips, etc., so  it was just a warm up for the school. The second week was in the workshop. We met the two masters, they separated us just randomly, and we started to make shoes! (I still try to follow their methods when teaching, in terms of the schedule and different practices).

Here’s an interesting thing: I forget names, dates, people easily (especially people), but things that I’ve practiced, even for once – never. We made a “mosaic” first, then we started practice lasting, and skiving. This was a hard week. Maybe it doesn’t give a good picture, but our great masters (when I say ‘great’, I really mean it) had a stick in the workshop, and every now and then, they used it.  And when they did, there were always right about it, and we never took it as a horrible thing. Some of us were really wild kids. I remember there were 23 of us in a small classroom with only two masters, so there must be an order. Even standing up without permission was not allowed. The work was continuous, with regular evaluation. None of these was carried out in an American fashion. (Allow me to explain. I once asked an American student, what would an American teacher say if the work is crappy? He said – they’d say: “great job!” Which makes me wonder, what would they say if the work was really great?) There was no such thing as overappreciation. The best praise was “not that bad”. I usually achieved mark 5 (that was the maximum, 1 was a fail), but it was a really hard work to get it.

It has been 25 years ago, but it feels like yesterday. My masters and some of my teachers passed away, the school is closed, and it is my turn to pass the knowledge that I’ve received. I sometimes doubt l that I can do it, even if so much depends on my generation…

Anyway, can you believe it? It wasn’t even this century…

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