The five day intensive shoemaking course was at Prescott and Mackay
52 Wareen Street
London W1T 5NJ
The training project funded by The Arts Council of Wales
Thank you to both of these organisations for making the project possible.
The course tutor was the lovely Melissa Needham, who trained in costume at Wimbledon art school, was a shoe maker for many years, and now runs the training venue in Warren street and has a shop, Black Truffle in Hackney.
. The process of making shoes is complicated, and top end hand made designer shoes are works of sculpture, often requiring dozens of prototypes before the final shoe is approved by the creative director. The design and creation of these beautiful art products is guarded with extreme care and secrecy. As with any skilled manual trade. shoe makers skills are acquired by many years of practical making and modelling, designers or pattern cutters often specialising in just one aspect of this tailoring for the feet.
The shoes we made were cut from one pattern draft , so are actually a really basic prototype. I was surprised that they fit and feel so soft and comfortable, like a glove for the foot. The pattern cutting needed adjustments , which were discussed, and in a design environment , they would be a team working on different aspects of the fit and style. Although there are visible mistakes , I am very pleased with the results of my first attempt at making a shoe.
The course tutor, Melissa was enthusiastic about the design of my shoe, and was a paragon of patience and virtue with Ruth and myself as we plagued her with questions and little moments of fear and insecurity all week.
The course itself is well planned. As well as being lead step by step through the complicated aspects of pattern cutting process, there is a choice of last shapes and good advice about suitable materials for the uppers. Lining leather , facings and all other tools and fabrics are provided. Melissa even sacrificed a piece of her coffee bean sack furnishing so I could make hessian heels. Above and beyond the call of shoemaking duty. Thank you!
Working to millimetre measurement with razor sharp scalpels and hallucinogenic glue ( because we forgot to keep the lid on- sorry!) was a challenge , which I enjoyed . Being in a situation where extreme manual control and care is needed was a good experience for me, although as
the week progressed the concentration and attention to detail was quite tiring .Learning is hard work!
At times I found myself dipping into a store of acquired practical skills and reapplying them to familiar and un familiar tools in a new situation. Although I have experience with drawing, designing, buying materials, measuring, canvas stretching, machine sewing ( but never before on industrial machines- wow), modelling and shaping, it all seemed very new and challenging. I
can`t wait to see what effects this past week has on my future work. I am so inspired. I know my seams will be neater.