"...a great way forward?"

This off topic area is a place where, while you are visiting the Crispin Colloquy, you can talk about beer, whiskey, kilts, the latest WWII re-enactment, BBQ, grandsons, shoes in the media, and even the odd meandering essay on "why we make shoes."
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#76 Post by das » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:52 am

Cowdy,

Passion runs deep in our trade, and to be emotionless about the work would bespeak something less that the dedication it demands from each of us. Glad you have the fire in your belly lad. No ruffled feathers here.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#77 Post by salsa » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:36 am

The best way to answer a newbie is to point them at traditional methods, or methods that evolved from tradition methods of shoe making.
The worst way is to drain away there creative energy chasing 'easy' methods that lead nowhere. It doesn't help them grow in the way they think about the work. It only leads to frustration and mental blocks.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#78 Post by das » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:29 am

Well said Richard.

Like I posted elsewhere last week, innovation and "out of the box" things have their best chances if they are built on a familiarity of the former tried-and-true methods.

Newbies are the future of our trade, but remote-teaching by email or short posts on our Forum is not going to make them into shoe/bootmakers. It's hard enough face-to-face, in person, over years.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#79 Post by dw » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:43 am

Al,

Your last two posts have succinctly (I admit to envy in that regard) expressed the fundamentals.

I would only add that all forums are narrowly focused--they have themes and select audiences. That is nearly the definition of a forum.

No one, no point of view, will be excluded or belittled on this forum (not even, perhaps especially not, Traditionalists or traditional methods). In that regard, it is worth remembering that the Crispin Colloquy itself (like all forums) has a "point of view."

The notion that traditional methods..."tried-and-true"...and those passionate about them, will, indeed must, take precedence here should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Guild, the history of the Crispin Colloquy, and who has read the "Posting Guidelines."

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#80 Post by das » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:20 am

DW,

If the Forum was a newbies-only chat room, where everyone was simply sharing what they'd managed to figure out on their own trying to make a shoe, it would be one thing. But the CC has always enjoyed the participation of professional artisans of all levels of experience and training, so the "default" setting, if you will, is ever going to be the "tried and true" professional-level standard.

If you ask your auto mechanic for advice on vehicle stuff, he's not going to call things "whatzits" or "thing-a-ma-bobs", and hopefully not Jerry-rigged repairs like duct-taping old beer cans around leaking exhaust pipes--he's going to use the technical terms, and hopefully advise you based on his trade's accumulated experience and best practices. Why should it be any different with us? If you then want to go home, save a few $, and duct-tape beer cans around your exhaust pipe, fine. You just can't claim the ASE certified technician recommended it Image

How could we maintain the standards of our trade, and remain a credible educational resource, if we didn't at least offer the proper techniques when we advise or answer questions? Nobody's forced to follow the advice.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#81 Post by paul » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:14 pm

I'm coming late to this discussion. I just could not sit still long enough to digest it all and compose a comment as well.
One thing has arisen for me, and it has to do with the many chat style leather and leather related forums on the internet now. So many people's interest is being peaked in working with their own hands.
Then when you consider a person with special needs, as some of our members have, of course they're going to look for resourceful ways to address their own special needs, especially if it is beyond their means to have one of us do it.
I also appreciate the position of the Company, as outlined by Admin. The Colloquy was established for a clear purpose. The concession to create this SpeakEasy thread is very open hearted, and wise. I thank you for this peaceful solution.
One other point I'll add relates to the journey to become a shoe/boot maker. Any "Hero's Journey" contains a Threshold Guardian of some kind. Yet if one has the tools or armor (passion), one may be win through to the prize. Look within yourself, and endure the tests.
Best Wishes to all,

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#82 Post by dearbone » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:10 pm

"A great way forward", This discussion has been good for my soul,It has given me what i was looking for when i will be making the case for my shoemaking trade for the discovery channel in few days, "Newbies are the future of our trade",Do You see the love of the shoemaker in this statement? I still remember sitting in front of a master shoemaker having only few years on my own trying to figure things out and a lot of pride,arguing and being disobedient rebel to the 86 years old,crude and old fashion as he came cross, who simply wanted me to listen so he can teach me shoemaking,it took 3 months like this,than one day he asked my age,23 at the time,he told me he has been making shoes more than two and a half time i have been living and finally i realized my pride was on the way of my learning and honestly it was that single moment that paved the way for my learning,when it was time to leave and go own way, He simply said "I made a good a shoemaker out of you", and that was the love of the shoemaker too!

Nasser

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#83 Post by dw » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:42 pm

Nasser,

Your story is a familiar one for many of us.

The older I get the more I am convinced that respecting Tradition and traditional methods and always giving them precedence--pride of place--is, in fact, the love of the shoemaker, nothing less.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#84 Post by das » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:28 am

A dear and venerable craftsman (my dad) tried to seduce me into his trade (jeweler & watchmaker) when I was barely 12. He reiterated many times something that I, in turn, have adopted when teaching my apprentices: “… while there may be many satisfactory ways to do something, I can only teach you well the techniques I use because I know them and trust them. There are 5 or more, ways to twist a bristle into the taws of the thread, but you’ll never get the hang of it if you keep experimenting with each one, making-up your own, or constantly changing back and forth—it will needlessly slow down your progress and frustrate you. While you’re in my shop I simply ask that you do it this way. When you go home at night, or to your own shop you can do it any way you want.”

How can we teach what we do not know? How can we guide and coach a learner though a proces as complex as this who’s attempting to do something we don’t do ourselves? How can we advise what went wrong and why if they are, distracted by shiny new objects, constantly trying different things and not just making the shoe? There’s an economy of time involved too—the object is to get a shoemaker up and running as soon as possible, not only for their own sense of satisfaction and accomplishment progressing through the trade skills, but also to get a competent worker in the shop sooner rather than later.

There’s a rapid finger flourish in bagpipe playing, too, called a “birl” that has at least 3 way to do. It’s essential it be precisely done in order to sound crisp and clean. All the tutors I ever had said “pick one and develop it”. Trying each, changing back and forth will slow you down and sound like crap.

There’s a lot of “old rooster” versus “young cock” at play here too. Learners usually come humble and in awe. After they progress a bit they start feeling their oats, get cocky, and think they now know more than God, their teacher, and everybody. Remember how "stupid" your parents were when you were a teen, but how much "smarter" they seemed later in your life? If learners leave and strike out on their own at this point, they usually flop because while they might have the basics under their belt, they’ve not yet got the speed and finesse that has always defined a complete artisan. And soon they will realize just how much they don’t know, or might have leaned if they’d just stuck it out in training a bit longer. As teachers it’s up to us to anticipate these things. Mix the great “victories” and accomplishments to spur the young tyro on, while tossing-out the occasional “humbler” to bring them back down to earth and remind them there’s a lot yet left to master.

Above all—and this applies to the exchanges on the Forum—try to avoid being thin-skinned. Newbies in virtual-reality behave pretty much like newbies do in real-time, questioning “why?”, pushing-back with alternatives, asserting themselves, wanting to run before they can walk. All we can do, all we ought to do, IMO, is present the techniques that we know work well, have the weight of tradition behind them, help explain the pros and cons honestly, pick them back up when they invariably fall down and hope they finally “get it.” Yes, there’s a lot of love involved.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#85 Post by dw » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:27 am

Man, there's been some good posts here recently.

I would observe that "the love of a shoemaker" doesn't just extend to the apprentice or the newbie. Yes, that's part of it. But it's part of it as much because they are the future of our Trade as our affection for them as people.

I have often said that we don't make shoes or boots for customers, we make them for those who have gone before. It is a metaphor to suggest that we were once newbies ourselves and that someone took us in hand and helped us through that rough patch where we could not, would not, subordinate our own egos enough to be a student...could not learn, IOW. And that we are grateful for their patience and wisdom. And owe them, and what they taught us, all the respect we can muster.

We don't educate or train the next generation because we have to. Or because we want to impose our views on them. We take on apprentices because they come to us hungry. And because we were once hungry, we feed them. We educate because they ask.

And we teach them the basics...rooted in Traditions that go back millenia...not just because that's what we know but because we are passing the baton from our teachers; because what was taught to us nurtured our souls and gave us much, much more than we thought was possible as we struggled to master each fiddling, difficult technique. We teach the Traditional methods because we love...and respect...the Trade.

In the end, whether you're talking about newbies or master shoemakers, the "dead guys" or the Traditions, the "Love of the Shoemaker" is love of the Trade.

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(Message edited by dw on February 11, 2013)

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#86 Post by admin » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:49 am

It's a dirty job (part of the job description in this case), but someone needs to say it...

It is "the love of the shoemaker"--the love of the Trade--that informs the philosophies and the policies of the Guild and the Crispin Colloquy. We can do no other.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#87 Post by salsa » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:31 am

Love, love love! Oh well Valentines day is coming. Image
But I aggree. Some good thoughts. Its hard to imagine loving and respecting something then diluting and distorting it when you go to share it. Richard.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#88 Post by dw » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:39 am

Al,

Speaking of Valentine's Day...I'm gonna make myself look doubly foolish but...here's a bunch of poseys. Image From me to you...

My original teacher was a good bootmaker. And a good man if only because he took a young, over-earnest, and somewhat long haired fellow under his wing at a time when long hair was not as acceptable as it is today. He passed on the fundamentals and a desire to learn more. And he was no nonsense about it. We never became friends, really. And then he was gone.

What made me into a Craftsman (with a capital "C" ) and a decent...may I say even good...bootmaker and a fairly good shoemaker has been my contact and friendship with you. You have shared techniques...always Traditional...and ideas with me that Mike was not able to. Ideas that came from your Dad and Peterkin and your own experiences. And there have been times when you have not been gentle about it.

When you saw that I was dropping my bristles while inseaming you let me know unequivocally that it wasn't best practices and that I was falling short of the mark.

I learned/taught myself to hand stitch the outsole almost entirely as a result of your pointing me towards the tools and techniques and directing my attention to how much more professional the job looks...as opposed to using a curved needle...when it is done correctly (something I approach but have still not gotten entirely right.)

As much as anything these insights have not only made me a better bootmaker (even if I don't make to a 19th century standard) but they have also made me proud to be a shoe/bootmaker.

I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I wouldn't have wanted it sugar coated. I wouldn't have respected it as much. Image

Thanks.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#89 Post by dw » Sat Nov 01, 2014 9:32 am

A little rambling essay from another forum--my contribution, FWIW...
See, that's the problem when people equate quality with price. There is no real relationship between quality and price. Particle board is made from waste. Once it may have cost next to nothing. Now...? Manufacturers charge what the market will bear...what they can get away with charging.

The question is...why is shoe repair quality so poor in the US and abroad?

If a man is charged with repairing particle board furniture all day long, how much skill is he going to have at the end of the day? Or the end of the month? How much skill working with, or knowledge of, boxwood (one of a few woods that can be threaded)? Or walnut? Or birds-eye maple?

If a man is charged with repairing glued and stapled joints how much skill with a dovetail saw will he have? Or a finger plane? Or even a simple scraper?

Even reality can be dumbed down. And then not even adjusting your spirit will make things bearable...much less better.

The quality of workmanship (across the board, but in this context, esp. repair) will only...can only...rise as far as the quality of the materials and the tools and the skills that are mastered or available. GY inseaming is not best practices. A chain stitch is not the best anyone can do. Leatherboard insoles are not best materials. All purpose cement slathered everywhere and iron nails in such abundance that backscatter machines at the airport go off before you get out of the parking lot, are not "quality" at any price. Nor, in most cases are they the panacea or holy grail that many want, or are willing, to believe they are.

It's a matter of inspiration...if all you have to inspire you are the echos of past glory--counterfeit copies of real skill and real quality--you're not going feel inspired for very long. The one time "challenges" dissipate and turn to "dust in the wind." People who are inspired are interested, curious, and want, actively seek, to learn more and more... and more...about that which inspires them.

Even at the high end, manufactured shoes embody compromises and expediencies and cynicism...and they are all ticky-tacky to one degree or another. Who can draw inspiration from schlock? That's what Pete Seeger was singing about--suburban ennui, middle class alienation.

June Swann, former curator at the Northampton Shoe Museum and perhaps the foremost shoe historian in the world, recently said, regarding 64 to the inch--the epitome of skill and quality material in the world of shoes--that we (meaning contemporary shoemakers...even bespoke makers) are "all amateurs." For me...my personality type...I know it's true but it also inspires me.

But at the same time, anyone who is really in touch with reality...and not just some cynical shadow reality....knows there's no inspiration to be found in expediency or the bottom line, or a marketing hype that makes shoddy the new premier. It's all been drained away by that other form of cynicism--the one that fundamentally, secretly, believes "there's a sucker born every day."

A person has to believe in something. If all they believe in is the money, it's a guaranteed recipe for disaffection and misery when the shiny wears off.

"What one man has done, another can do." The Edge
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#90 Post by homeboy » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:48 am

Good stuff Dee-Dubb! I'm enjoying the journey. :thumb:
What one man has done....another can do.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#91 Post by dw » Sun Nov 02, 2014 4:17 pm

Jake,

Thanks. Dang near this whole thread is good...worth back-reading a couple of pages anyway.

Good on you for creating a signature! Guess this forum ain't so difficult after all.

What one man has done, another can do, indeed!!!
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#92 Post by dw » Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:19 am

x-post from the Apprenticeships and Schooling thread:

Occasionally, and for sometime now, I have posted to a forum that is dedicated to high end men's wear, including shoes. I suspect I am somewhat notorious there for railing against the "factory mentality" that we all, in this society, seem to have bought into.

It is an almost unconscious philosophical perspective that values speed and efficiency and immediate gratification above all other factors. Places a premium on the "least amount of effort for the most amount of profit." And in most cases, as compared to historical...or just objective...standards, never seriously takes the idea of "quality" or "excellence" into consideration.

To some extent, esp. with even high end MTM shoes, manufactured work (and all the associated expediencies) have almost become the "gold standard". Most people have no idea (and many don't want to even know) how much better it can be and historically has been. Wouldn't recognize quality if it were demonstrated, much less right before their eyes. Most people, IOW, accept that mediocrity, as a matter of course.

Perhaps that's a cynical attitude but one, it could easily be argued, that is borne out by reality. What bothers me is the tendency to treat students in the same manner. Process them...as many as can be fit into a given space at any one time...as if they were chickens at a kill facility. As if they were product on an assembly line.

Almost as problematic is that too many students accept that level of...what is it?...indifference?

And even if only in a metaphorical sense, like the output of an assembly line, I don't see how the results can be anything other than ticky-tacky.
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#93 Post by das » Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:46 am

Here is an essay that may perhaps of some interest...Peter was a former colleague of mine at CWF, and I have enormous respect for his insight (despite he’s a mere blacksmith) ;>)

https://happyhavenforge.wordpress.com/p ... mentality/

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#94 Post by dw » Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:54 am

I need to read this again..and maybe yet again...but I don't see the "imprecision" (roughness, crudeness) he seems to associate with "hand made." At first blush, I think it is a narrow interpretation...if not a mis-perception on his part.

Think of the great silver and goldsmiths going all the way back to Pharonic times where the technique of "granulation" was known and practiced without any machine help (something we would play hell to duplicate today). That's metal working too...as surely as blacksmithing. And it is extremely precise...and refined, and anything but crude.

Even...speaking of Pharonic times...the pyramids themselves. So precise you cannot slip a playing card between the stones. All done with hand tools.

Or the Antikythera mechanism...no machines, other than itself, available or in sight.

That said, I was struck by the implications of his thesis point regarding the "machine mentality." Very similar to my thoughts on the "factory mentality" that pervades Western society almost to the point where the concept (nevermind the physical manifestation) much less the pursuit of quality and / or excellence is largely incomprehensible to most people. At any level--consumerism, creativity, personal and philosophical growth. Our everyday lives.
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#95 Post by das » Mon Aug 14, 2017 7:56 am

DW,

I guess I'm coming at this from a slightly different perspective, that of pre-mechanized, traditional shoemaking (e.g. historical/reproduction). A late colleague coined the phrase: "comparing hand-made stuff, to machine-made, is like comparing home-cooked meals to TV dinners". The former being on a spectrum of bad to exceptional. The latter, indefatigably, consistently, but just mediocre. The things you cited, ancient feats of goldsmithing, pyramids, and the Antikythera mechanism were all exceptional, not everyday. Keeping this all about footwear, the prize-work, 64/inch, etc., as amazing as that was, did not really emerge until sewing machines, mechanization, and "the factory"--IOW, it was a response to mechanization, like a big "FU". Sure, there's some superfine handwork in footwear before the "prize-work" retaliation, but the exquisite footwear of princes and potentates mostly. The average handmade footwear was, like the home-cooked meal, on a spectrum from "crude" to "great", but mostly in the middle.

What I think Peter was getting at is the potential loss of the organic-look on the spectrum if everybody used power saws, instead of cutting-off on the anvil. And, the concurrent loss of the skill to do it by-eye, by hand, etc., becoming reliant on power tools.

Anyway, food for thought.....

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