"Having a pair of shoes made by you feels like arriving in the world.."
I have been making shoes for over 12 years.
I began Shoemaking when I was apprenticed to Designer : Shoemaker, Alan James Raddon when I was 18. Alan has been successfully trading for over 30 years. His deep rooted philosophy of Shoemaking stems from his training in Reflexology with Doreen Bailey and in the belief of strengthening and healing of the feet through wearing comfortable, well fitting footwear, fitted to the shape of your feet and designed to last for many years and to be repairable.
In 2005 Alan decided in absence of direct beneficiaries to pass on his years of carefully developed skills and philosophy of Shoemaking to take on an Apprentice which I completed in 2010.
Once I had mastered the art of Shoemaking I set up business, independent of my mentor and in May 2016 opened my first shop in Machynlleth, the ancient capital of Wales. I make Alan's designs under license and now have a range of my own designs too.
I won the inaugural Balvenie young master of craft award in 2011 then shortly after as part of an annual creative business competition a year’s residency 2011/12 in one of the Thomas Heatherwick creative units, Aberystwyth Art Centre. I also won a QEST scholarship in 2013 which is helping me to study more about tweed on the isle of Lewis and to train as a Reflexologist. I was then awarded a Winston Churchill travelling Fellowship which enabled my trip to Mexico and Japan in early 2016 to investigate the passing down of techniques between master to Apprentice.
My passion and purpose has always been to create with my hands. I construct each pair of my shoes using the finest care and attention. Shoemaking cannot be fast forwarded; no corners can be cut without consequences or compensations to the end product. With the collection of different processes that unite each shoe it often feels that each pair is born into the world.
I have trained to make shoes using leather as the main element of the shoe, a natural accompaniment to feet as it intuitively bends and flexes and stretches to each movement.
I use a special full grain, Italian leather for most of my shoes. Each skin of leather to the fullest. The smallest scraps become reserved for smaller projects. I have intercepted skips overflowing full of off cuts, some wider than my whole arm span. I have salvaged some of my stock leathers which is why I often have assortment of finishes and colours in my collection. I also use leathers through a handful of suppliers in the UK and a tannery in the south of England.
Slowly over the years I have come to understand this unique fabric so full of integrity and strength. Over time I have learned to follow its intuitive movement. If you skive the leather against the grain it misbehaves and moves out of your grasp in indignation. If you skive in unison with the grain the smooth movement feels natural and accepted, as if the leather smiles in approval.
Over time I have introduced fabrics into my work too. Woven cloth and experimental mixtures of varied cloth have featured in my boots and shoes, the natural evolution of my work has become focused on the diversity of cloth such as tweed as well as leather.
I grew up on the Hafod Estate, often called Wales best kept secret. Bound to nature by nature, outside all hours with my four siblings, inquisitive, proudly an explorer, we were almost always barefooted. This wilderness in my early years laid the path that I walk today. This gift has drawn me to work with my hands. The care and undivided attention given to each pair demonstrates the love I put into my work.
Shoes are the first thing we hear, after a moment in contemplation the footsteps conclude who comes, in the age of no mirrors we naturally look down at our feet and so shoes have become our identity, our personality and overall our connection to the earth.
Romans distinctive hob nailed boots were created to rule land while ancient Celts favored soft leather wrapped around our feet, your shoes determined your tribe. Flamboyant in decoration, shoes have slowly evolved into objects of aesthetic brilliance, fashion has corroded the shapes and unwearable shoes are treasured sculpture, heels have become a symbol of power and domination, overtime our feet have changed in their form, my aim is to address this and provide a new way and new path for the evolution of feet.