Shoemaking: the Future and Now I.

Many years back, I was afraid that we will see the end of shoemaking as there is no more education, no more teachers and as a matter of fact – no more students. Well, good news – it seem to change slowly and steadily. Since then I taught several hundred students, shared a bit from my knowledge, my passion – so I hope I can claim a tiny little bit in that success. Even if not – that doesn’t matter. We live in a renaissance, which is great.

Now what? As this old chapter ended – that doesn’t mean that we made it. The boogeyman of extinction might have gone for a little bit from the new light of dawn, although new ones came. The next challenge we have: maintain the level of craftsmanship, the quality the diversity of our techniques. What made shoemaking so great and high level a 100 years ago? Not the great tools or great leather – simply the competition and the respect of tradition. Hate to say that: dogmas. I use this word “dogmas”, like the collection of those techniques, little tricks, what we don’t have enough time to test, “trial and error”. One or even 10 lifetimes would not be enough for them – simple as this: consider how many thousand shoemaker, how many years come together in the knowledge what we learnt – we could have learnt from our forefathers. This is one of the reason, why a craft hardly accepts newcomers, with great ambitions. Not like we don’t like NEW. We love new. This is why we use metal tools, modern dyes, modern chemicals, etc. Ambitious amateurs are not equal new. Let’s just agree on this, OK? The fresh, new revolutionary, blah blah aspect probably will come from a pro, who knows what to change, why – and most importantly – if it has been done already or not. Do not misunderstand me, and mostly: misinterpret me. I like students, I like beginners. I encourage them, guide them, help them – this is why I share my knowledge, this is why I am a teacher.

Our future is in the hands of newcomers. Their smart choice of their teachers, masters, their work.

One thought on “Shoemaking: the Future and Now I.”

  1. OK, I agree 🙂 As you mentioned, I think learning many different techniques and figuring out why both methods work, what is better about one or the other in certain situations and why a method itself works at all is very important. I really love your articles about the many different techniques of welting for example.

    What is very important to me as a learner is always the “why” behind things. If you just do as you were told, then you have no way out, if things go wrong and you need to adjust, unless your master is there to fix things for you.

    But that doesn’t scale well and the master is a single point of failure. So if a student asks “why?”, I think we owe him an answer. The ultimate test for a master, is the question of “why”. If he can explain that, I think he is a true master.

    I’m a team lead for a small team of 10 people in “real life” and if I I’m that single point of failure, then I can’t ever take a vacation. Needless to say, I wouldn’t like that 🙂 So I try to let them see “why” things are supposed to be done in a certain way.

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