I can imagine, you are somewhere between “made some shoes” and “soon I am gonna make shoes like professional” in your carrier. Trust me, I know how it feels, I did not born with a gift to be able to make shoes. It took me years to get here. Several years.
The problem, if you don’t have anyone helping you, it is highly possible that you are just heading to the wrong direction, just losing time, money and energy on staff you don’t need/you should’t buy/you should have just avoid. A master can help to save that, so at the end of the day it will be more effective and way cheaper with a good teacher.
I am not gonna share what do you need to learn to be a decent shoemaker. That might take a while – more specifically I write this blog for several years now, and I don’t think that I am even close to summarize that knowledge, but I am gonna give you a checklist, if you are doing good, or you need to modify your “curriculum”. So, let’s see:
– learn from a professional. Not a cobbler, not a self appointed master, but preferable someone, who actually make shoes and sell them. That proves that it s wearable. Don’t believe bullshit, like “I just focus on teaching, but I made a bunch of shoes for the royal family before” Bullshit. Learn from a professional. It worth the price.
– get proper tools. The minimum you need is a good lasting pincer, a good hammer, a good knife and a rasp. There will be many more down on the road, what you will need, but these are the basic things. You just can’t do anything without them.
– get a rounded last and some soft leather to practice. I know.. you made plenty shoes, you don’t need practice.. blah blah blah. You need practice. I do practice. I challenge myself to make a better lasting practice for students, than before.
– Learn how to take care of your tools. I don’t need to explain this right? Learn knife sharpening and do not whine when it gets dull. Sharpen it.
– do not want to learn fancy techniques, just before you made a few very low-medium level cemented shoes. We, shoemakers, don’t want to waste our time to teach amateurs, who want to show off with the fancy stuff they learned, the finally the hold the knife well.
– go slowly. You need skills, what you just don’t have – give time to get them. Your master will know how to help you to make the important stuff to your second nature, if you don’t have any – well, patience. It will come. Eventually. It worth to wait, instead of running to lear a bunch of other hobbies. All of them need patience, why not to learn it here?
– Don’t believe to overly positive feedbacks. That is for you, not for your products. Learn from the constructive and actually from any critique. Read between the lines… Encouraging not gonna make shoes for you.
– Do it again. Then again and again. Learn from your mistakes.
– Be your own worts critic! If you are 100% with your shoes – well, that is the time for a self-examination. There is something wrong there…
– You don’t need to try newer and newer methods when something doesn’t work well – most probably it is you, not the method. Be a bit more self disciplined and practice more! Patience.
– Don’t go fast – go deep instead! There is no point to learn a lot of tricks, when you not gonna remember any of them. When you are professional enough – you will remember all, and that makes your workshop visit – field trips a real gem.
– There is no such a thing, that “good enough”. That philosophy is your worts enemy. I don’t you don’t have to make compromises, but you don’t have to make bad compromises.
– And finally: be eager to learn. Read, search (not only google – libraries, people, forums), be very hungry for knowledge. Do not narrow it down to things which are important to your projects and things which are not – who knows, one day, you will teach this craft, so you need to know more than your students.