It starts…

Just a heads up, I’ve registered a domain name, so this whole ‘me as a shoemaker’ thing is starting to gain momentum.
This here blog will be the #1 place to go for in-the-making information, and eventually it will act as an online storefront for our wares, but it seemed better to lock down a proper web address for when the calls start flooding in from Vogue and Harpers…


Screen grab and a link, but the link just shows you the screen grabbed website, you know what I mean?

We’ll be back in a few days with some more photos and updates (and a special showcase of  our now cured and EDIBLE salami!)

Back in the saddle.

12 Days?! My oh my, that really goes against all the “yeah, like, I’ll be posting 2 or 3 times a day from now on” talk that I was throwing around when we moved house, but never fear! I have new shoes to show! … and some cute kid photos to calm everyone down and get their “awww” face on.

So, when we last spoke I had finished my first only-one-shoe Chloe sandal rip-off, and although it was lovely, I couldn’t get any walking/wearing feedback when I didn’t have a matching partner.
I got my shoe-tryer-on-er-er sister Jen to come over and give it a whirl, and we found that some of the measurements and fit details were a bit off, most likely due to my making it up by eye, and also a trap that I have now learned not to fall in to – making the shoe / straps / buckles so they work at right angles with the sole, not heading straight up the direction of the leg / ankle.

First up, failed attempt #1:



See what I mean? The ankle straps need to point UP the leg, not across it, so the buckles stay level.

The leather looks all nice and even when it’s standing on it’s own, but with a foot in there it was all in the wrong places. The front bit was too short and was pulling the buckles downwards = ugly.

Step 2 = make another pair, correct the mistakes, reduce the disgruntled mumbling about how I got it wrong the first time. (I expect a lot of myself, and screw ups dont go un-noticed)

Back to the workbench I went and here are the usual progress shots that I hope you all like to see:


Inner soles + Shanks


Cutouts for cork inlays, as per the pair of fancy, comfortable Bally shoes I deconstructed.


cork and tape…


some more veg tan and we’re getting there…


neoprene foam inserts…
about 20mm too far forward, Jen thinks they should be further back where the pressure ends up.


wrapped (badly) … measure TWICE cut once. sigh.


stitched up suede…


Heel attachment. Countersunk screw + 5 long nails + bad hammering technique.


Neoprene foam padding…


Cooper decided to ‘assist’ me for the afternoon… aka soaking up sunlight.
Heels that I got that I couldn’t find matching (2 hole) Supertaps for (why sell one item and not the matching part?) so these ones got an additional hole drilled ever so carefully in the middle.


Logo action. Haven’t decided on an official business name or font yet, but this stamp works well I think with my Phillips surname.


4 x straps and buckles… I’m thinking i’ll make Jen a mathching belt?


Final pair done, about 8 – 10 hours later (spread over 3 days) and ready to be worn.


Soft and suede-y…


Done! The last one I made had an assymetrical toe area, these ones are more squared off. Not sure which is better, one looks better on the shelf, one looks better on the foot… hmmmm…

The following shots are of Jen trying them on and striking some ‘foot model’ poses… and me using a crap camera with no flash in what appears to be a subtle earthquake.

She has promised me she will hit the streets and give them a good wearing so that I can get some pointers on strength, comfort, wear and tear etc.
The sole has been Topy’d so I am expecting that to hold up fine, but probably  a broken buckle or something. Heels should be tough enough, as they’re now no different to the Mollini ones I pulled apart for reference.

My other job has been super hectic for the last week, as we have an unfathomable amount of work to do. Even with me doing a hollywood-esque ‘using two computers at the same time with one hand on each keyboard’ workout, we’re still behind schedule. I smell a weekend of work coming up, and a double amount of coffee consumption.

Now, just to lighten the mood again, and let you all know that in the Even Steven world I live in, everything, um, evens out.
Today Dani and I are doing our first all-day babysitting job for our heart-warmingly beautiful niece Tahlia!
Not much work getting done, but when I get to dance with her to some Paul Simon and then sit down to an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, its all worth it.

Check out her squished up ‘cheeky’ face… classic. (click it to see it full size)

And this one (these are video thumbnail things) where she eats the camera, films me, then eats the camera some more. Ahhhh, Unkie Steve is a big softie for sure.

Next up on the cards is a pair of moccasin / loafer type shoes (to learn a new construction technique) and some f*ck-off-tough-as-nails Alexander McQueen style black ankle boots with studs on them (for a journey to the dark side of shoe making) as inspired by our pals over at DI$COUNT.

See you soon!

Listening to : Paul Simon – Graceland

Heel and (peep) Toe

Ok, I’m a week behind in posting this, but I typed it up last week when we had no internet access, so I’m just going to cut+paste it in. No new news for this week, I’ve been working on some uber high-end 3D animations for the Venice Architecture Biennale at my day job – which means working weekends.  For the nerds out there, we’re doing 10 minutes + of Full HD (1920) Stereoscopic (double frames) photoreal 3d animation. It is taking a bazillion hours to do, and 3 bazillion hours to render. FYI I’ve been a 3D dude at Floodslicer for 4 years now, eek!

Tuesday started off pretty crapola (special thanks to Dani for being patient with me sooking up all morning when nothing was going right) but somehow the cloud over my head cleared in the afternoon and I managed to start and finish a new shoe that is probably my favourite one to date. Strange how these things come about.


my new, one of a kind, left foot only, finally-i’m-making-heels, Chloe inspired shoe…

I bought a few second hand heels from the Salvos on the weekend (yep, they probably assumed I’m a drag queen) and pulled them apart in the quest for knowledge.
I’ve found it’s MUCH easier to see what’s inside a shoe that way than to read books telling me what SHOULD be in there.
Armed with a new set of measurements and the motivation to get started on some heels rather than another desert boot, I constructed a sole assembly as per the one I pulled apart :


forming veg tanned insole leather to the last…


adding a second layer of insole, with a shank imbedded / cutout…


final inner sole assembly with heel height…

The only problem with ‘research’ shoe making is that I often get stuck wondering what pattern, style and colour to use… do I go cheap and ugly (like my poo brown ankle boot) or make something that might look nicer in the end and deal with the extra time and cost it takes?
The answer this time was to make it nice… ugly shoes aren’t motivational (or good for blog posts).


so, on with a nice coloured wrap + some felt / wool stuff for padding.



Rather than spend the day trying to design something awesome, I got to work on loosely copying a gnarly pair of Chloe wedges I have on my wall, using whatever I had that was similar enough in colour, and changing the wedge to a heel because I need practice using screws and nails to attach wearable heels….

CLICK THROUGH FOR LOTS MORE PICTURES

Boots, Benches and Big Talkin’

Hi there!
First up, let me say that this new-house-got-no-broadband-connection situation is starting to wear a little thin… to access that mystical domain that is the internet at the moment I have to:
Borrow Dani’s laptop, bring it to the spare room, turn it on, connect her USB modem, plug it in to the router and wait – usually for 4 spam emails and my daily eBay saved searches – and THEN i get to go online. What a pain, but it’s only for one more week….

So, after just doing all of that AND cleaning up the spare room, here I am with another weekly ‘what has he been up to now’ update.

This week I’ve had 3 projects on the go, and haven’t managed to finish any of them.
At least I’m consistent.

Project 1 is the elastic sided boots to replace Dani’s trashed favourite pair :

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Stage 1 : Transferring (aka copying) the existing design on to a pattern from my chosen lasts (the yellow ones)

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Stage 2 : Change pattern so as not to copy the existing design, make a mockup (from vinyl because its cheaper) and test out the results.

Stage 3 : Find that the new design looks shit. Draw changes directly on shoe. Cut shoe apart and remake pattern. Repeat Stage 2 + 3 for a few days.

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Stage 4 : Arrive at an uninspired but working design. Decide that a front seam is not cool…

* Insert Quick Summary Shoe Makin’ Lesson here *

As I was aware, but chose to ignore, boots pretty much all need some way to stretch in 2 directions at once, or they pucker up like one of those shar pei dogs. The leather can’t be pulled over the top of the last/foot (ie from ankle to ankle) AND also make that nice sloping curve you see going from the top of the boot to the toe without some help.

The proper way to do it is to BLOCK the leather, which is a tricky process in which you essentially pre-stretch the sloping curve in to the leather by pulling it over a rounded bit of wood and nailing it.
The second way to achieve a compound curve (as they are called) is to add a seam to the middle = easy, but it looks, well, like it has a seam in it.
The 3rd way that I came across is to do an armadillo style split up of the section in to many half-moon shaped pieces, and that takes the pressure off, requiring the many little pieces to stretch just a little amount.
Whew.
So I got out the ruler, did some crazy maths and ended up here……

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Stage 5 : Make new pattern with no seam and no blocking required.

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Pile of discarded patterns and mock ups.

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… you see what I mean? Curves baby, thankyou Mr Chircop and Mr Carland for the VCE maths.

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Stage 6 : Sew an upper from real leather, add in some sort of red elastic and get ready to assemble.

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Stage 7 :  Add a sole and heel. Show Dani and get her to try it on. Ready to make the real thing!

Stage 8 : Make a pair of them, add heels, soles, lining etc etc. Tune in next week for that…
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Project 2 is still TOP SECRET – I’m making a costume for a dress up party and it would be no fun to preview it here to all my friends before I get there and bust out the associated poses and dance moves!

Let’s just say it is a bit lame how much effort an ex-industrial design student can/will/does put in to a costume.
Our friend Troy built this for the last one we went to…. so he is setting the bar kind of high…

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Transformer Costume + beer = Hours of work destroyed in a matter of minutes after falling over.

Next week I will have some D.I.Y photos of my effort for you all to see.
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Project 3 has been beginning the long road to designing my first ever range of shoes! Yeeeehaw.

I have decided that my skills are now past ‘super-amateur’ and are moving on to ‘capable’ and I’m thinking that just remaking whatever odds and ends my wife / family are after is not leading me in the right direction.

I’m pretty set on making Chloe / Chanel / Louis Vuitton style ladies shoes, so making another dozen Desert Boots is a bit of a weird way to get there no?
I will continue to cobble for the sake of it, but I think the time has come to get some designs down on paper, some new lasts and start prototyping my own designs. Exciting!

So far this ‘journey’ has consisted of 3+ hours of sitting with a scalpel and a stack of Vogue mags from the last 5 years and cutting out whatever rings my bell, so to speak.

The issue I have is that I’m not exactly designing “what I’d like to wear” as a lot of brand designers do, I am designing for all the well dressed ladies out there – so I will need to construct a character and demographic that I’m designing for BEFORE I draw up another page of directionless shoes.

I’m noticing a definite pattern start to appear in who I like, colours, trends etc, so that’s a start.
Next is to collage together some sort of “muse” and a big fuck off mood-board so that I can gather all my thoughts together.

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The only other thing worth noting is that I added some SWEEEET assed drawers to my desk. These used to belong to Dani’s grandpa, and were salvaged in a big clean up recently. I think i’ll add some Dymo labels to them and try not to rub off the timeless descriptions on there like “cold chisels” and “knobs”… hehe… knobs.

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Hopefully my old bits and pieces will have just as much charm and history when I retire in 40 or so years time, and by then these ones will have double charm as they’ll be 100+ years old and will have lived through 2 careers worth of crapola.

I’m done! Only took an HOUR with this banana internet connection… I hope you like the pretty pictures!

Listening to : Led Zeppelin.
160 tracks on random shuffle, its like one long never-ending album.
I think this is what they have playing in heaven, with some Faces and Tom Petty in the mix.

Where the magic happens…

Hello, and welcome back… it’s been a while!

I’ll begin today’s lesson with a quick introduction to the new setup we have here.
We are now (renting of course) in a lovely big house in Yarraville as mentioned earlier, Dani has a room inside and I have converted the shed to a workshop.

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All this fog and cold makes for some nice Bill Henson-esque photos.

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Inside the shed panorama wide-angle beastie-boys-filmclip style photo.
My workspace still a bit wonky in places as I’m using plastic shipping pallets to create a false floor (to avoid any cold/flooding issues in the future) and I dont have enough to do the whole floor yet – so things are a bit ‘up and down’… I keep thinking about that Seinfeld episode where Kramer is talking about converting his house to “all levels Jerry…” except these levels are more annoying than stylish.

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Leather stack… starting to get a nice little selection now.

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This piece of GENIUS is from our old studio pal Jeremy Ley
He’s the kind of guy who makes you want to miss phone calls just so that he has to leave you a note.

The pics below are from Dani’s little sunroom / studio setup, which I think is as close as she can get to her old Carlow House studio for now.

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(promo posters from her lauch party at Alice Euphemia give her someone to talk to)

Anyhoot, I have settled in and revived a few old shoe projects that had been neglected for a while.
I’m planning and test-fitting some shoes for my little sister who is now a 2nd year apprentice hairdresser and needs good shoes… so I hope to rectify that by hooking her up with some comfort-central hand made ones.

I also finished the ‘deluxe’ desert boots that I started way back in March, and Dani has been rocking them on the streets of Melbourne over the last week.
I changed plans a little and decided to go for a randed edge instead of a stitch-down construction as the whole hand-stitched thing was testing my patience (I don’t know how you do it on every pair James!).

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These ones have lining etc too, so they’re essentially desert boot styled shoes, with the fit and construction of a derby/oxford.

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Leather soles + Topy = ready for the streets.

Next up will be a new pair of winter boots for Dani, based loosely (or quite closely depending on how lazy I get with my pattern making) on the ones in the photo that she has almost worn out.
A bit of pattern tweaking and some “reverse engineering” and I’ll be ready to go.

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I also bought what I could from Leffler in 70mm heels to match the lasts I have here, so they’ll be put to use on something more glamorous than boots and more boots in the coming weeks (perhaps like this blue masking tape + texta mockup)

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So, that’s it for today, thanks for reading and thanks to all of our friends who have popped in over the last few weeks to make our house VERY warmed indeed – considering we are yet to actually throw a houswarming party!
Special mention to DB for being a one-man dancefloor, humping my TV, trying to steal soccer merchandise from our local pub AND riding my bike home in the rain last night…  a stellar effort for a non-party night.

Listening to : The Vines (they all sound a bit same-ish, but in a good way, so pick any album)

Oh, and a super sized congratulations to out pals Nicky and Tom on the arrival of their baby boy Milo, nice work kids.

Finally NEWS!

Hey people,

Dani and I are soon to be Yarravillians, we have just signed on to a new lease on a house in Yarraville with 3 bedroom AND a garage.

Dani will be working from the 3rd bedroom (the first is for sleepin’ and the second is for my collection of awkwardly large bits musical gear and for me to sleep in when I’m in the bad books) … and I will be setting up the garage to be shoe making central. I assume there is some sort of man’s man rule against setting up a garage workshop and then filling it with pictures of high heeled shoes, but if I don’t tell any manly men, no one will know.

It has been about a 3 week turnaround from deciding to look for a new place and getting the keys, so it’s all a bit frantic at the moment around here.

We’re packing up things already, and looking forward to our first stroll to Ballarat St for a coffee and Smoked Cod pie at Hausfrau… mmmm…

On a nerdier note, I have also discovered that there is a little handful of people out there putting their years of practice making Lego and jigsaw puzzles to good use and creating something that was – until recently – completely out of the hands of the home craftsman… RAPID PROTOTYPING!

520px-Mendel

http://reprap.org/wiki/Mendel

For those of you who aren’t industrial designers, Rapid Prototyping = 3D printing = a machine that can create ANY form from plastic that you can imagine once you model it in a computer.
Luckily for me I am:

a. A nerd – with nerdy friends
b. Good at Lego and building model cars
c. Employed as and therefor quite good at being a 3D animator / modeller
d. About to move to a house with a garage
e. An Industrial Designer

… so with those powers combined I hope to make one of these bad boys before the end of the year, and then I’ll be able to manufacture my own heels and shoe parts at home in ANY shape, size or crazy assed construction that I want. Ahhh… that makes me happy, as I hate having my designs dictated by what I can find laying on the shelf at Lefflers.

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this is the sort of stuff I’m talking about.. all printed in 3D from plastic… AWESOME.

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Throw some hand-dyed leather into the mix and I’ll be equipped to make 100% custom shoes that wont be the same as everyone else’s.
So things like this will be possible, rather than “oh yeah, like that’s gonna work”…

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Oh, and one last thing… Sydney ladies, I applaud you.
My god, we were there on the weekend and the ratio of jaw-dropping beautiful shoes to ‘crushed to death ballet flats with my foot hanging out the side’ was the opposite to what I’m seeing around Melbourne.
Granted, there are some very snappy dressers in Melbourne, but Sydney was killing it last weekend with the “I’m popping out for coffee in my Chloe’s” stakes.
Lucky for me Dani knows that my roaming eyes are locked groundward, so I don’t get a slap in the head for checking out the ladies when it’s ‘business related’ hahaha.

Anyhoot, back to packing for me….
Listening to : Beck – Bottle O’ Blues (not intentionally, it came on the iPod just now)

Still no news

Sigh, this whole blogging thing is no fun when you pack up the tools and head off to work for a few weeks! No making stuff means no photos, which means no content… boo.

Dani and I have just finished a month of full-time working for ‘the man’ (an attempt to clear up a few getting-a-bit-stupid credit card debts) and now we’re walking head on into a month of moving studio, and most probably our house too.

We’re thinking of combining home and studio space again, so we’ll need to move a little further out to the ‘burbs to get something with more space than we can find in inner city Melbourne at the moment.
So, if you are one of the few souls who checks here for shoe making news and gossip, sorry! Give me a few weeks and I’ll have a studio attached to my house which will DEFINITELY mean at least 2 or 3 shoe making posts a week… I’ll have my computer and my shoe stuff in the same room = blog central.

For now, check out the link below… this is what I’m talking about when I say nice shoes.

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Raphael Young’s new range – Image from Refinery 29.

Listening to : Earth  – The bees made honey in the lion’s skull

Music for listening to in an office when the days drrraaaggg onnnn….

I apologise Jean-Michel…

On behalf of the shoe community, I apologise for the following blight on your legacy, ‘cos I’m pretty sure Reebok aren’t going to.

Yours Sincerely,

Steve

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Image and Text from www.theshoebuff.com

"Reebok has released a collection in collaboration with designer Jean-Michel Basquiat;
 a line most notable inspired by parts of his Suite of Fourteen Drawings.
 The addition of text on the shoes lends to its classic DIY pump-meets-punk aesthetic."

fuck offfff….

1. how can you ‘collaborate’ with someone who is dead?
you can’t – but you can license their work and plaster it all over your product.
2. Basquiat wasn’t a designer, with business cards, and a desk… he was an artist.
3. I really doubt enough ‘punks’ do (or did) D.I.Y jobs on their Reebok pumps to declare it an aesthetic.
4. I could go on all day about this…

The stupid thing is they’re not terrible looking shoes, but are completely pointless.

And embroidered logo on a pair of white shoes is not a collaboration, its a misappropriation of a piece of art that had a meaning and purpose all of it’s own, and I’m guessing that probably didn’t include selling overpriced footwear to the general public.

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… and don’t get me started on the irony involved in using his text – something vaguely about the inequities of modern life and ‘big money’ and the rat race etc, on a pair of shoes – made in china, and sold for what is no doubt a 2000% markup on the price paid to the worker who made them.

This stuff reeeeeeally shits me off, not just because I hand make shoes, not because I’m a Basquiat fan, but mainly because I used to collect ‘collectable’ sneakers until the big brands clearly ran out of ideas, and have resorted to crap like this and ‘Iron Maiden’ collaborations and ‘lets take the sole of one Nike and glue it to the upper of a different one and call it a ‘hybrid’.

Grrrrrrr. There, how I have vented my anger somewhat.

Listening to: The sound of the sneaker industry punching the art community in the face.

Hot Damn

Seeing as a whole lot of nothing is still going on in Dead and Buried land – mainly due to Dani and I both getting asked to do some full time work for our respective part-time jobs – here’s a link to someone out there in the big wide world who is doing exactly what I plan to do, and that’s pretty inspiring.

(I’m not one to see similar work as cause to rethink my ideas, I see it as healthy for the industry and healthy for me… it gives me something to benchmark against / compete against = motivation!)

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Raphael Young – Tsuka 1 (S/S 10)

So, if you like your shoes intense, shapely and hand made, check out Raphael Young

http://www.raphaelyoung.com/

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Raphael Young – 300-03 (S/S 10)

I’m not 100% sure of his whole story yet, but it seems he is a 30-something year old shoemaker, with an uncle who designed for YSL, and has a varied background (physics and engineering before fashion design) that helps him come up with some pretty impressive towering heels.

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Raphael Young – 301-04 (S/S 10)

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Raphael Young – 90203-01 (S/S 10)

So, have a look, buy some if you get a chance, and then if you do, bring ’em by my studio so I can get all research-y and break out my magnifying glass to see what he does and what he uses!

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Raphael Young – Eagle One A (F/W 09)

The wooden soles on these older ones are great, maybe I can get my dad in on the game whittling me up some soles when he retires… or if I know him it’d be more like ‘buying a massive lathe from Bunnings and going into full production mode’.

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Raphael Young – Shira (S/S 09)

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Raphael Young – Bizen (S/S 09)

Getting back to the problem of the lack of creative work lately from Dani and I, it’s also because we’re STILL officially banned from our studio space by the Melbourne Shitty* Council because some douche-bag has declared not-for-profit arts and craft a no-no in his part of town. There is a permit application in the works, and fines are being issue for anyone using the building. Wonderful.

* see what i did there, with the humour?

[insert political rant here]
So from what we can gather, officially its fine to open a shop, as a business, with no customers, and make no money (like i’m sure lots of failing businesses do) but if you make art and don’t intend to make money from the outset, therefor denying the government and council their taxes… vrooomp…getthehellouttahere.
sigh.
[end rant]

Now that we know money is definitely the grease that keeps the wheels of the city in motion, we’ll be sure to set up our new studio as a “shop”, selling outrageously overpriced cans of coke, so we can make craft in our ‘downtime’ when no customers are there to buy our one-of-a-kind super-cokes.

Listening to : Guns n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
…on the way in to work today, in my car, at full volume. Rock on.

Rowwrr.

Finished assembling this one today, and for some reason it looks a bit more stripper-ish than I intended.
I think its the detached / not very well integrated platform at the front… as I mentioned in the last post it seems like there is just as much that can go wrong in a ‘simple’ shoe and every mistake is out there on display, no ridges, laces, perforations and bows to hide things under!

They do look OK though overall – I just need to get educated on the attachment of heels, glue alone just doesn’t cut it.
Note the sneaky magenta mid sole that didn’t show up very well in the photo.

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Oh, and the second half of the afternoon was spent knocking together a quick soft light photo booth for Dani’s jewellery shots, so that explains the test white-out image above instead of the usual messy desk shots.

Listening to : The Shadows – Foot Tapper