3rd Post from the Apprentice

Hi Shoes & Craft Readers,

I am sorry. I fell off the blogging wagon. Good news is: I plan to write another post later this week with more current stuff. In the meantime, I wrote this post the first week of February and didn’t publish because I was chicken. But, I figure if I am going to blog about my experience I will be candid… So here it is:

Although I was supposed to be home spending time with family, I worked quite a bit and figured I would share what has been going on. We got MM’s new commercial space locked down. MM moved to a bigger, better studio in Savannah (see MM’s Instagram for photos). I can’t express in words how excited I am for him. Seriously, I am over the moon happy. MM gave me a pretty major role in his move (e.g. suggestions on paint, setup, design, etc). Since I was in California when MM signed the contract and got the actual keys to move in, he called me on FaceTime so I could experience with him and his family opening the doors for the first time! It was very cool. As someone who aspires to open their own studio it was exciting to see everything come together. Beyond workshop and designing its space, we set up MM’s trademark with USPTO, made changes to his websites, added some more classes, got in contact with a few new suppliers, bought some more equipment/machines, worked on his book and some other administrative things. All great stuff!! I am sure MM plans to discuss all these exciting things so I don’t want to take too much wind out of his sails…. So, I will get into my loquacious and overly caffeinated posting.

I actually started my apprenticeship is early December, but was not in a position to blog because I was busy (1) learning the ropes and (2) organizing/cleaning/destroying his workshop

Proof of the former:

Month One, Mistake One: Read you own notes.. If you wrote on your pattern to “add 5mm” then add 5mm… Or you will need to add piping.
Lesson one: Change the bobbin thread so the
Month One, Mistake two: Change the bobbin thread so thread matches the lining.

Proof of the latter:

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Exhibit A: When MM asks via text at 830am if your still at home (i.e. being lazy) and you send a picture of his workshop missing some blinds…
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Exhibit B:When MM asks if you are eating lunch (i.e. being lazy) and you respond with a picture of your face covered in soot as proof that you have been actually working…

Since December, I have gone home (California) twice. During both trips home,  MM has asked me to visit my local shoe supply store because I happen to be fifteen minutes south of a really good one for US standards. As soon as I drive up to the warehouse I feel like I am a joke. I drive up in my car and wave at the owner from the window. Why? I have no idea. It seemed like a good idea. Then, as I get out of the car and see his face, I think he must be thinking: “Is this girl lost? Does she need directions? Is she trying to sell us something (with a scowl of, if so we aren’t interested)?” I walk into the store confidently, saying my greetings to the owner which sound even more chipper and caffeinated than I anticipate and think, “Don’t mind me. I belong here. I know exactly what I am looking for. I am here to buy glue, leather, tacking nails, blah blah blah.” Meanwhile, I am secretly panicking and holding my phone like a baby with their blanket. I scroll through my phone like I have important business to attend to. I don’t. I am just pulling up MM’s shopping list and ensuring MM’s number is on speed dial just in case I become overwhelmed with options or if the owner decides to chat with me again about people I do not know or asks me questions that would show my weakness.

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Shopping shoe supplies…

Now, is this really happening? Does my local shoe supply store care if I am a woman or a man? Does he care if I know his suppliers from Europe on a first name basis? And, does he care if I am a shoemaker? No, I think not. Let’s be clear. This insecurity is absolutely, most certainly, whole heartedly in my delusional head. And, if I were to actually listen to MM, he would say I am really pretty good, which is a major compliment. However, I have this ability to self depreciate that extends super human strength (definitely a curse not a blessing). But, I do feel there is a club and I am not a member. Let’s call this club the “real crafter’s club.” I am invited into the club as long as I arrive and leave with my tour guide, MM.

MM keeps trying to get me to be more independent. MM will give me names of suppliers to contact. He will say something like, “Google XYZ to get XZY’s contact information and see if you can get blah blah blah….”. I happily nod and say, “Sure, no problem.” And, the whole time I am thinking, “Are you sure you want to trust me to do this? To do any of this? Because I have no idea what I am doing. Seriously…” As an important side note, I should mention a lesson that I learned when MM asks me to do such tasks: Do not question him. It upsets him to certain levels that makes the idea of watching raptures eat their young more appealing.

Now, I have had many jobs in my prior life that show I am a competent human being, but the craft world is foreign to me. Or maybe its a labyrinth. Either way, it eludes me. Several times young designers have come to MM’s workshop with confidence to discuss ideas and fashion lines that may or may not be fully conceptualized. I think that is so incredibly brave to listen to these young designers speak about their ideas. To be young, ambitious, green and naive is truly a blessing. Maybe I have been hardened by maturity or reality, but the more I learn the less confident I am. The same thing happened in graduate school: the more information that I took in, the less of an opinion I had. There is a saying, “Fake it, to make it.” I am sure those are words that I should live by until I feel more confident. But, frankly I feel more like a pseudo crafter every day. MM routinely takes me to hardware stores to buy things that I have absolutely no idea what they are needed for.

Being an independent successful shoemaker is a tall order and the order seems to be taller everyday. I realize it will take years before I do work that I am truly proud of and hopefully make a profit from. Coupling the knowledge needed for the craft with the knowledge needed to maintain hundred year old shoemaking equipment seems overwhelming at times. When MM asks me to discuss my shoe buisness ideas with him, I usually change the topic to some none related topic- maybe the weather or an usual sport like chess-boxing (which I know nothing about other than there is a sport’s club in Los Angeles, the sport is popular in eastern european countries and my husband is thinking of competing). The problem is MM is a smart fox. He will usually respond with, “Oh, is this the new weather topic? Someone does not want to answer me? Why are you ignoring me?” I just smile because I haven’t hammered out all my ideas but know one thing for certain: I don’t want to be a pseudo crafter or hobbyist. I want to be a good shoemaker.

7 thoughts on “3rd Post from the Apprentice”

  1. All creative endeavors must start with ideas. Even if you are not actually making anything at the moment, I recommend that you keep a little sketchbook to note any ideas that float by. You never know what will inspire a new creation. The most important job is to capture that idea before it goes drifting off in a fog.

    I love your blog and enjoy your candor! Keep writing of your adventures. How about sharing the name and address of the shoe maker supplier?

    It looks much larger than what I have access to!

    1. Hi Rosemary, thanks for the suggestion and kind words:) The shoe shop is Baltor O Sons in South San Francisco. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your honesty and your openness!!! Entering into this field is somewhat scary and daunting!!! You want to do it the right way without disrespecting the craft, so I definitely understand your feelings! But if MM says youre pretty good, I’d embrace it. He doesn’t come across as soneone who gives empty compliments.

  3. Do you mind sharing the name of the shoe supply store you live near? May go there next time I’m in the LA area.

      1. Thanks! Interestingly I had read about them on a forum earlier today. At least I got the correct state.

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