Handmade? Not handmade?

Well, this topic is in my plans for a long time… As a matter of fact for almost 3 year when someone asked me on a certain forum, how he can make the difference between the real handmade and the fake one. This is one of the most difficult question. If I would want to give a short answer, I would say: “Sir, if you haven’t spent several months in a shoemaker workshop, you just can’t”… But this wouldn’t be nice and very informative. (Listen shoemakers: educate our customers, is our – very important – job!) Let me start.

What can we call handmade shoe? The definition can be subjective, but we have to start with it. Handmade usually doesn’t mean 100% handmade, in term of using machine sanders, skivers, sewing machines, machine produced parts. Entirely handmade doesn’t exist in that way, and even if we would made that… The quality would be… Let’s say “crafty”. On the other end of this line is the full machine produced shoe, when hand only come to picture when they controll machine. So this is the scale, and somewhere we have to separate this to entirely handmade, semi-handmade and “so called handmade”.

1. Workprocess
I believe that “handmade” should include: hand lasting (not partly with machine – just to be on the same page), hand welted, hand sewn sole, and hand built heel. So where are the machines in this picture? That is the semi handmade stuff. Many makers has an old sole stitcher in the workshop which make the long process of sole stitching in a few moments…. Which is fine. But not handmade. Is machine stitch as strong as hand stich? Hell, no. Machine made welting is not even comes close to the handmade quality and strength. This is one of the main the reason, why handmade is much better.

2. Workshop
All handmade is made in workshop, not factories. Do I claim that factories don’t produce handmade? Yes, I do. Why? It just doesn’t worth. In factories, they involve machines into the process, which means a lot of synthetic parts, fake “fingerprint” of handmade, etc… Handmade is made in a workshop. Dot.

3. Price
Price is a really good indicator to make the difference. You can get decent handmade shoes in easter europe for a few hundred buck, and pay ten times more in NYC. So compare the prices locally! Handmade will be the most expensive because of several reasons.

4. Comfort
Machine means speed, reasonable production prices…. And several limits in quality and comfort. If the shoe contains only good, natural materials, like a real handmade does, it won’t smell even after a long, hard day. And what about those fancy labels, claiming that the shoe is made from leather upper, sole, and lining? Oh wow… And what about stiffeners? Insole? Bottom fillers? Heel layers? This small details are just not mentioned over there. Labels are lying.

5. Meet the maker, visit the workshop
I mean the real maker and the real workshop, not directors and designers (who somehow just enjoy call themselves maker). Shoemakers can show you how the shoe is made. I mean really. In the workshop. With dirty hands and aprons.

6. Materials
Handmade suppose to be made from the highest quality materials. Why would waste our precisious time to us second grade stuff, saving a few dollars on,y per shoe? That worth only for those who make big production, and that few dollars became thousands per day.

7. Marketing
Good handmade shoe doesn’t need expensive marketing. You can read about us in magazines, blogs, etc… But never in ads. We don’t make that much money.

9. Time
Handwork takes time… Which mean we don’t produce big quantity, we can’t deliver many places, we usually have waiting list.

to be continued…

Author: koronya

Master shoemaker

7 thoughts on “Handmade? Not handmade?”

  1. If real beauty could be created by pressing buttons, we wouldn’t need traditions. Thankfully, it takes real work and skill to achieve this. I applaud those who strive to something truly meaningful with their lives. Keep up the good work, Marcell!

    1. well, I don’t to be misunderstood – I am not against the machines, just because. I believe in handwork, if that is on a higher level, than machine work. Most of the time, it is.. machine finished edge: well, there are a 2 big difference between that and the handwork. first: plenty hours, second: handwork is always more delicate.

      1. I’m coming from a repair background and am only just exploring hand finishing, having moved to a new city and with no machines in my current workshop. I have to agree with your explanation above. It’s taken awhile to get to the point where my hand work looks even close to as nice as my work on the finisher but it is much more delicate and rewarding. Thanks so much for your help!

  2. I compare my hand finished shoe and boots to the woodworker who finishes his project by hand. It is pride and craftmans ship.
    You show that pride in every pr. of shoes you make and people applaud you for that.

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