Put your weight onto your hands and naturally you will spread your fingers out to distribute your weight; this is how our toes were born to be – Free.
I make my shoes with virtually no heel. They are curved to fit your arch, designed so that the feet are held firmly back into the back of the shoe. The toes are free to spread into the broad toe-box, allowing maximum room to spread into their natural form.
It all begins with the feet. As many say - Happy feet equals a Happy person. There is nothing worse than being in pain and it all starts with looking after your feet first. In the right shoes you should be able to do anything - after several years of making shoes it is incredible how many of my customers come back and tell me how after getting their shoes they did something special or took a U-turn in their life, took the leap they had been wanting to do for a long time or just generally been more active. Shoes are very symbolic of the path you walk. I believe they should allow for the natural flexibility of your foot and ground you, not go against the intuitive movement of your feet. After so many years of wearing uncomfortable, badly fitting shoes, so many of the people who buy custom made shoes are those already with the foot problems. When they first put on a pair of my shoes suddenly their feet can spread out and the most common reaction is 'They are so comfortable I don't feel like i'm wearing anything on my feet'. Suddenly the weakened, under-used muscles and tendons have a chance to stretch and strengthen. Corned, squashed little toes will heal and bunions and hammer toes will straighten out. The circulation improves so cold feet will warm. Healthy feet and stronger toes reflect in stronger arches, ankles knees and legs, which are reflected in a stronger, more upright, elegant posture and your natural balance, grace and vitality is restored.
This is proven by years of satisfied clients who range from age 3 all the way to age 93. Athletes, Yoga teachers and Therapists, Reflexologists, Craftsmen and Women, Artists, Doctors, Nurses, Pregnant women, Performers and many others who spend all day on their feet. I have made shoes for all sorts of people, one with one leg, another who ordered 2 left shoes and 1 right as she always wore down the left sole due to an injury. I have made shoes for the odd filmstar including Claire Oberman and for Glaswegian MC Soom T. My mentor, Alan has many customers which include Billy Connolly, Sir Alec Guinness and Actress Emma Thompson. When I was working for him I made shoes for her sister Sophie Thompson and their mother the Actress Phyllida Law.
All my footwear is designed to last and fundamentally to be repaired. I make each pair to be uniquely foot shaped, hand crafted to each individual. Each pair is made with infinite care and attention. By purchasing your shoes, suddenly you have also gained your own personal Shoemaker who has crafted a pair of shoes individually for you.
My soft, full grain leathers come from Italy through a handful of suppliers in the UK. My leather soles come from tannery in the south of England. Each skin of leather is used to the fullest. The smallest scraps become reserved for smaller projects. I have salvaged some of my stock leathers which is why I often have assortment of finishes and colours in my collection.
Nowadays most manufactured shoes are dictated by the fashion industry. The majority of factory made shoes wear out after a couple of years, ending their short lives in landfill. It is a waste of skills and energy, precious materials and your money. By contrast, mine are made with replaceable rubber soles, so that even with constant wear, they will last for years and years. All my footwear has double out- soled stitching for extra strength and durability.
I have been making shoes for over 12 years.
I grew up on the Hafod Estate, a picturesque landscape 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.
I began Shoemaking when I was apprenticed to Designer : Shoemaker, Alan James Raddon, aged 18. Alan has been successfully trading for over 30 years and continues to make shoes today, from his home workshop in Aberarth at the age of 73. 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, made to the shape of your feet, 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 so became RED Shoes. In May 2016 I opened my first shop in Machynlleth, a small market town and ancient capital of Wales. I make Alan's designs under license and have introduced my own range of 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.
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. 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 in combination with leather.
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 would 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. 'Killer' 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.
I now run my small business from the small town of Machynlleth. I live nearby where I am busy bringing up my two small children. I am training two apprentices in my shop/workshop which is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
QEST Apprenticeship Award 2017/18 to train a new Apprentice
Best of the Best Award, Art in Action 2016
Winston Churchill Fellow 2015
QEST Scholar 2013
First Gold as part of the Llynfi Textiles wool project (in collaboration with Rose Wood) 2012
Year in a Creative Thomas Heatherwick Unit Award Winner 2011-2012
Balvenie Young Master of Craft Award Winner 2011
Arts Council of Wales small project Award 2010
--SPECIALIST JUDGE FOR:--
Aberystwyth 'Year in a Creative Unit' Award 2012/13
Balvenie Master of Craft awards 2012 alongside Kevin McCloud
BBC Radio 4 The Listening project
BBC Radio Wales - Jamie & Louise show
BBC Radio Wales Country focus