Working alone, owning a business, making what you sell, selling goods for individual bodies, it is all hard work. Learning a craft, practicing a skill, developing an aesthetic that is both personal and appealing to others takes time. Sharpening knives, oiling, cleaning, and fixing machines, and maintaining stock of materials, relationships with clients and distributors, all the large and small activities needed to maintain a functioning workshop eat into the work week. And then there is keeping the floor swept. Good lord. It's a lot. But, these are my passions and this is my job. I am a shoemaker.
I have been a shoemaker for five years. I will save my origin story for another day. Today I am talking about my workshop, my practice, and why I am writing about it. For a long time, I did not know what to say about my shop. I was deeply self conscious of my beginner-ness, aware of so many other makers with such incredible talent and passion and years in the trade. I felt like a lost puppy looking for a home, and after finding one with shoes it took a lot to feel comfortable sharing what I do. Years, in fact, hammering away alone in a basement hoping that I was on a good track. Day after day, week after week, slowly making shoes the slow way. I traveled far from my workshop to learn from masters around the world. I took what they showed me and, day after day, week after week, practiced slowly making shoes the slow way. I met other shoe makers, visited workshops and small factories, met designers, and took what I learned back to my own basement space, folding pieces of what I l had seen into my own practice, thinking about how and why others developed the practices that they had and how I wanted to grow as a maker, designer, business owner -- all the things that make up the life of a craftsman today. Slowly by slowly, I am growing into the craftsman that I one day hope to be.
As time has passed, the practice, the work, the jobs, the life, is always changing, and I have never stopped to write about it. It is an unusual life, a lucky life, a difficult life, rewarding, challenging, surprising, and fulfilling in ways that are always shifting. My hope is that by writing, I will be able both to synthesize what I have done, and be more thoughtful and deliberate going forward. I also hope to share a bit of the reality of working in a shoe shop, with all of the mistakes and successes that happen all the time. I am always eager for a glimpse into the life of others, and feel it only fair to open a small window into mine as trade.