I can’t get over how lucky I am.
First, I decided I wanted to keep making sandals, and I managed to meet people who helped me find supplies and equipment. When I ordered my sewing machine, the motor, machine and table weighed 75 pounds and arrived flat in two boxes without instructions, but I just happen to have a husband who used to be a millwright and who knows how to assemble industrial stuff. Not only that, but instead of doing it for me, he sat in a chair nearby and coached me, which meant I learned something. (In fact, let me just say here that my hubs has built me a workbench, converted a drill press into a buffer for me, helped me find a crank cutter, and been a cheerleader every step of the way. It’s clearly fated that I should make sandals, otherwise I wouldn’t have met my man, right?! Giggle.)
And now, a young shoe maker has moved to town and is teaching! Here’s what I’ve been doing under Jessica Brommer‘s tutelage.
I won’t bore you with the details of my search for a 3-in-1. Back in 1973, my old friend Jonathon Erving said a used one went for about $25. Inflation, baby! You can’t find them at that price anymore. Since they’re not being manufactured anymore, Landis, Pilgrim and other shoe supply companies are buying up old models to refurbish and then selling them for top dollar…like between $600 and $900. Hey, it’s supply and demand.
Among other things, a 3-in-1 acts like a giant can opener and can cut through incredibly thick, hard vegetable-tanned leather and rubber soling. This makes it invaluable.
Suffice to say that for about a year, I hunted on ebay and on Craigs List, searched online in both English and in French, asked my local shoe repair man if he knew where I could get one.Oh, I would see them on ebay, but paying more than $200 seemed outrageous to me, and they would get sniped for upwards of $300, and there was no telling what condition they were in. The saddle shop in town had one with a cracked base and wanted $600. Eventually, my mom-in-law introduced me to her shoe repair man, a cool old Greek guy, and he put me in touch with Landwerlen in Indianapolis, who happened to have two of them. They refurbished one for me.
Fast forward a couple of years. While we’re visiting his parents, my husband suggests we go explore a number of old warehouses owned by his family. I’ve never been inside them. The buildings are perhaps 125, 150 years old, cavernous, in disrepair, used for storing old machinery from the Detroit assembly lines. We oggled enormous, mysterious equipment coated in grease and dust. Climbed rickety wooden stairs.Spotted a dessicated mummy of a pigeon or two. Checked out abandoned payroll offices with old punch cards spilled on the floor and 1980s phones. Skirted piles of snow let in by a rotted roof. Oh. What’s that, over there, on the floor?
Still to do: trim the soles, finish their edges, cement on heels.
So on a number of occasions, people who’ve seen my sandals ask if they’re Cydwoqs. I really, really, really dig that brand, so I’m partly flattered that someone would mistake my stuff for theirs, but partly embarrassed that it looks like I’ve copied their designs. Shortly after I started making sandals, I stopped looking at their website because I didn’t want to steal ideas from them. In any case, my output is nowhere near the quality of their shoes and I can’t even begin to achieve the graceful lines of their collections.
I do own a couple pairs of Cydwoq sandals and a pair of their Mary Janes (kinda), and at first the shape of the soles of my sandals was inspired by those, without ever taking a direct tracing. Those soles never worked out—they were too wide at first, and even as I narrowed them in smallincrements, they were always misshapen somehow. The sole shape I currently use over and over is actually swiped from these sexy-ass shoes that I can’t wear without spraining an ankle.
Since I’m a hard walker and don’t take care of my shoes, both of my Cydwoq sandals were falling apart. So I partially dismantled one to see how it was constructed.
Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, writes, “A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies.Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.” I don’t know yet about my evolution, but I know my copies aren’t as nice as the Cydwoq originals! I guess I just want to acknowledge my sandal hero.
I use a spare bedroom in the house we rent. I couldn’t have the basement because my husband needs it all for his many motorcycle projects! Kidding! I don’t actually want to work in the basement because my leather might mildew.
I guess the biggest change at first was that I got a sewing machine. The stitching around the edges of the straps gives a very finished look.