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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Handmade Shoes: The True Value of Comfort and Quality
I recently watched my cobbler, David, help a customer in his shop. She had brought in three pairs of shoes to be fixed and was quite surprised when David gently set two of them aside on the counter, explaining that their poor materials and workmanship made them not worth repairing. “They weren’t really made well to begin with,” David said softly, sliding his work-blackened thumb into the split between the sole and synthetic upper of one worn pair. “Well, I guess they weren’t comfortable anyway,” the customer sighed.
But aren’t comfort and quality the basic qualities one looks for in footwear? These days, maybe not so much. The average American woman owns 17 pairs of shoes, but only wears three pairs regularly. Why do the other 14 pairs gather dust in the closet? Usually because they don’t fit. In a recent study, 46% of women said they have suffered from foot pain, 59% have gotten blisters from their shoes, 35% have had an evening ruined by uncomfortable shoes, and 24% have actually fallen because of their shoes’ design.
Handmade custom shoes – with expert construction, precise measurements, and quality materials – could solve all these problems. But handmade shoes seem so expensive, the ultimate luxury. Who can afford them? Even for me, a handmade fanatic to the core, they seem out of reach.
Then I did some math. The average price for a pair of shoes in the study was $50, but David tells me those $50 shoes are probably not worth buying. Let’s imagine I paid a little more, say, even $90 for shoes that could be repaired and last a little longer. Well, $90 x 17 pairs is $1530, about enough for three pairs of handmade shoes – the three pairs that the study says are all we really wear anyway.
If over time, as the budget allows, I made the shift from quantity to quality footwear, what should I look for in a good shoe? Some of Etsy’s shoe and boot makers helped me understand what is important. (And I should note that they all made a distinction between “handmade” – which can be very high quality – and “custom made” – the highest form of the craft – which refers to bespoke shoes made on a custom last.)
Everyone agreed fit was crucial. “Like a good house, your body needs a good supporting foundation,” said custom boot maker Kyle Rosfeld. “If your footwear makes you stand crooked, the rest of your body will soon be crooked as well. I strive for the fit to be as though they have been worn for six months. When the wearer gets home at night and he or she forgets to take them off, then the fit is correct,” said Kyle.
Ren, at Fairysteps, agrees. “It should be like wearing favorite slippers…all day!”
“If the client is someone who cannot fit into standard sizes, the value is immeasurable. No one should be in extreme pain from walking or standing, yet this is often what people accept,” said Daphne Board, who is working to become a pedorthist.
The makers were also unanimous about the importance of shoes being repairable. “My first criterion for a well crafted shoe or boot is how easily it is repaired”, said Kyle, who also reconditions vintage boots and saddles. “A well-made shoe should be repairable,” echoed Daphne. “If the shoe is not made so that it can be reconditioned, it is essentially a disposable shoe.”
Handmade shoes represent a time investment for the maker as well. “The making of a pair consists of two factors: The inspiration factor and the making factor,” said Tina Nortin. “Inspiration is unpredictable. It may take 10 minutes or 10 days. But after the designing and consultation process is finished, depending on the design, the making can take days.” Part of that process includes time for the shoes to “sit” on the last and take their shape.
Everyone said well-made shoes, properly cared for, should last years, maybe even decades. Buying high quality is a cost saver in the long run. The makers suggest frequent polishing, with resoling and re-heeling when necessary. “Leather likes to be loved,” said Ren. They also suggest not wearing the same shoes every day so that shoes can dry out between wearings.
It is challenging to build a life with fewer, better made things. But now I can see there are makers here to help…every step of the way.
Karen Brown is an award-winning designer and creative director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and on Today on NBC. She believes that the handmade movement is a fundamental force for transforming society and the economy.
Sweet, Simple and Budget-Friendly Gifts for Children
Rubyellen Bratcher is a homeschooling, crafting, blogging mama of four. She spends her days trying to manage all the happy chaos that ensues in her home. You can visit Rubyellen at her blog, Cakies, and see how she tries to capture the chaotic beauty and fun of having four little ones.
I have four little girls who are pretty close in age, so I am used to having a plethora of toys everywhere, all the time. Life is just plain messy (and wonderful) with kids, and we try to be intentional in the gifts we give our children. This helps make our chaotic lives a bit simpler with four little ones (and their things) everywhere. One of the biggest things I have learned is that children really don’t need a lot of toys. I find that their favorites aren’t the fancy ones with batteries, but ones that really encourage their creativity.
[1. Circus folk paper doll by kissabug; 2. Hand carved "Winter Street" stampsby talktothesun; 3. Miss Sunshine tote bag by misakomimoko; 4. Flip topsby TheLittlestLearners; 5. Mouse softies by krakracraft; 6. Old McDonald finger puppet set by WeeKnit; 7. Gnome baby by warmsugar; 8. Waldorf wooden carsby Imaginationkids; 9. Vintage duck pull toy by CLEOandBLANCHE; 10. Wooden toy camera by twigcreative.]
I love that the sellers making these wonderful toys are often other moms and dads who come up with ideas based on things that have worked well for their own families. It makes handmade gifts even more special!
[11.Plush fox by sleepyking; 12.Retro toy watch bracelet by misakomimoko; 13.Vintage doll's high chair from SweetBread; 14. Geometric rubber stamps byJulietCaesar; 15. Wooden doll kit by SophieTilleyDesigns; 16. Vintage toy pianofrom suziesvintage; 17. Vintage tin cars from nanascottagehouse; 18. Vintage Marx dollhouse from BlackEyedSusanShop.]
Vintage toys make great gifts. They can be re-used and loved over and over again while giving children the opportunity to create and imagine.
[19. Mid century tricycle from zomodern; 20. Radio Flyer push bike fromPropParadise; 21. Vintage wooden scooter from WhimzyThyme; 22. Tiny turquoise leather locket by JENBOOTHLOCKETS; 23. Vintage push kick scooter fromsugarSCOUT; 24. Wooden blocks wagon by asummerafternoon; 25. Mini fold away teepee (a splurge!) from houseinhabit.]
Other favorites in our home are toys for building and riding. And of course, kids love little hideaways. Every child must have some sort of tent. It guarantees lots of special memories!
When we give to little ones, their delight and excitement gives us a sense of joy better than any present.
What gifts will you be giving to the children in your life this year?