This time last year, I was making some rather interesting unique shoes. Earlier in the year I had been approached by artist and stylist Jennifer Anyan to make a pair shoes for her upcoming exhibition Embodied Memories which was to be the first exhibition held in the new John Hansard Gallery Central on the site of the old Tyrrell & Green department store in Southampton, UK. Embodied Memories opened on the 9th of May and runs till 30th of June 2012.
Jennifer spent time recording people describing special items they had bought from the Tyrrell & Green department store as far back as the 1940s, and used these recollections to re-create their beloved items. My brief was very specific - a pair of children's party shoes in a very wide fitting made with silver leather and white leather lining, featuring a single strap with a white button closure, and leather soles with stacked leather heels. The interior of the shoe was to feature fairytale fantasy scenes, and one of the heels was to be a cathedral style window with a sky-blue interior, encasing three diamond-like crystals.
I started with a UK size 1 last. To make the very wide fitting, I glued layers of cork to the inside and outside of the joint area of the last (the widest bit) and filed them into shape. After that the upper was fairly straight forward patterncutting, clicking (cutting out the pieces in leather), closing (stitching it together) and lasting (stretching the upper over the last). I made a pre-finished leather sole, keeping the edges natural with a waxed shine.
The window heel was the real challenge. I cut the window shape from three layers of soling leather (the same number as I had used for the other normal stacked heel), glued them together and using a small file, smoothed the inner sides of the window. I cut the cathedral style window frame from some thin wood veneer using a sharp knife and cut a thin piece of acetate to size. I then stuck this leather frame to the leather sole and painted the interior of the window sky blue, added the Swarovski crystals (supplied by Jennifer Anyan) then secured the acetate, wooden window frame as well as a thin frame of leather into place. I then continued to shape the heel in the usual way on the grinder whilst keeping the window covered and protected. I will admit that I breathed a BIG sigh of relief once I attached the sole and window heel intact!
I sent the shoes to Jennifer along with a skin of the lining leather and a pattern for the sock (that's the bit of leather that lines the insole) for her to transfer her drawings of fairytale fantasy scenes. She sent it all back to me and I attached the decorated socks.
A big thank you to Jennifer Anyan for the opportunity to be part of this project and to make these one-of-a-kind shoes - they were an excellent challenge and I'm pleased with how they turned out. Next step is to get down to Southampton to have a look at the rest of the exhibition!
Embodied Memories runs until 30th June, Tuesdays - Saturdays, 11am - 6pm/Free.
John Hansard Gallery Central
Old Tourist Information Centre, 9 Civic Centre Road
Southampton City Centre
More info here.