Ask a shoemaker.
Shoemaking, known as 'the gentle craft', is a living tradition, but there aren't many shoemakers around today. Here are answers to some common questions. Please feel free to get in touch with more specific questions, or to schedule a fitting.
How did you start making shoes?
I started making shoes when I was getting my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was in a program for Graphic Design, but took a shoemaking class during my final year and made my thesis project in shoes. After graduating, I went on to study with shoe and boot makers D.W. Frommer, Janne Melkersson, Marcel Mrsan, and Chris Francis, as well as visit workshops and archives around the world.
Why do you make shoes?
I love the physical process of shoemaking - the visceral nature of working everyday with my hands, the longterm investment of years of practice to gain knowledge, and the challenge of working with new feet for each pair. I love the stories and lore about the secretive history of the craft shared among fellow makers. And, I love the tools and raw materials of the trade. Beyond the joys of spending my days in the workshop, I believe that as a society we need to buy less and buy better. I hope that my small workshop is a contribution toward making this a reality.
Do you teach shoemaking classes?
Yes, I teach individuals in my workshop and classes at craft schools and universities around the country. Please get in touch if you are interested in learning more about shoemaking.
Do you make every part of the shoes in your workshop yourself?
Yes, I work alone and make every shoe completely from full grain leather hides. I do not take apprentices or have employees.
photo: Mark LaFavor
If I like some of the shoes on your website, will you make them for me?
Each pair of shoes is unique, made for an individual client. But, if you like one of the listed shoes, we can use that as the starting point for your individual design.
Do you make vegan or cloth shoes?
I only use full grain leather in my shoes, including the insole, heel counter, toe puff, and outsole. If you would like rubber soling, it can be used instead of a leather sole. I do not make vegan or cloth shoes.
Do you make very large/small shoes, or shoes for unusual feet?
I can make shoes to fit just about any size or shape of foot. Each foot is measured individually, so each shoe will be the size and shape of that foot. I do not do corrective work, but can build a shoe around most foot shapes. The fit models help to ensure that your shoes fit in the way that you need them to, no matter the size or shape of your feet.
How long will Hark Weber Handmade Shoes last?
The shoes made in my workshop last a very long time. If they are well maintained (cleaned, oiled, etc.), they will last much longer than a manufactured shoe. They are also fully serviceably, meaning that they can be easily repaired by myself or any shoe repair shop. While nothing lasts forever, shoes made in my shop will last many many years and only become more comfortable with wear.