New shoe(s)

Hey peoples, another week has passed and as I hoped for, my mood has lifted significantly since last week’s grumpiness. Watching some stuff online, achieving some minor milestones and the cyclical retreat of bad moods/depressive thoughts has put me back in the zone somewhat.

Katia posted this bit of awesome recently and it got me reinvigorated…

http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/13334/1/exclusive-alexander-mcqueen-aw12-backstage-film

I decided that I should get back to the bench and make a pair of shoes this week instead of living in theoretical / design / pricepoint land, in the hope it would spark a bit of “oh yeahhh, thats why I wanted to make shoes”, and it worked.

Although, I will also note that from now on my posts about shoemaking will become a little bit more guarded, not too much, but as my shoes start to really LOOK like what I will be launching as a range, I think it will ruin the suprise for everyone if half finished mockups are on here every 2 days. I’ll still post about the processes, just not the finished shapes and designs as much.

So, here’s some quick pictures from the last week’s worth of work :


working on more resin parts with my trusty new digital scales


seems there is lots of maths involved in designing super-heels.
Note that this geometry is wrong, I was testing out some ideas, the real shoes wont kick up that much at the front (if any shoemakers are out there reading and going “what the hell is he doing?”)


tricky stuff, getting a silicone mould of a locking part, then recasting it in resin. perfect accuracy!


a fresh batch of castings


steamed and pressed insole unit. 100% handmade. With cushioning allowances.


underside of my resin insole unit. Will be neater when I get the 3D printed ones made.


a quick bit of relief casting for some test run ball-of-the-foot soft rubber padding inserts.


… and my newest all-made-in-house shoe! Cant show any pics of it until i’m ready to shoot it properly / or launch the range.
It has a 130mm heel, a 30mm platform, and looks beautiful, look out Kirkwood and Louboutin, I’m on my way.

Listening to : Random songs, getting ready for the road trip to Sydney, burning mix-tape cds for the non-ipod car trip!

Winter is coming…

Sorry for the no-posts fortnight again people, it seems that with the onset of Winter in our fair city, all of our enthusiasm has wandered off to find another pair of socks.

We have things on the go, I have managed to make up a completed working solution to my resin insole project, and am now in talks with a few people around town to work out how best to get some proper masters/molds made. I have been photographing everything, but those pics will have to wait until later in the week. Tonight i’m just not in the mood for Photoshop.

We have re-arranged our studio for a new MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY setup, and once everyone gets over the April public holiday marathon I hope we’ll all be back in there working away.

We also have some bangin’ plans for the new shop down on paper…….. if only our bank accounts werent *cough* um, empty, we’d be renovating like madmen. Alas, the perils of self-employment, all the time in the world to do things, but no money to buy things to work with. Bummer really.

On a good note it was Dani’s and my 6th wedding anniversary last week! woo. 12 years together. Ridiculous.

Another good thing is our bestest pal Julie bought us TICKETS TO PRINCE…. for real. Just straight up shouted us. She is a legend.

I will also be heading to Sydney to see the Darkness in a week or so. Road trip, with my sister. Very metal.

Lastly, I’ve kind of forgotten why this shoemaking studio thing all seemed like such a good idea 12 months ago, perhaps it’s to do with the lack of money available to us at the moment, so I best read over my own blog and watch a few more McQueen runway shows on YouTube to remember. It’ll come back to me, just seems a bit silly right now.

Thanks for sticking around, more to come soon.

Oh, and have a look at this if you get a chance, these girls will probably be all over your fashion mags in a year or so, so get down to meet them now before they become too popular to make new friends.

http://bernadettealice.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/get-real.html

Listening to :  My teeth grinding as I sit in the lounge room and plan new plans.

Site Updates

Hey gang, just letting you know that I’ve been tinkering with the site layout and it seems that adding “Artists” to our site = them also showing up in the RSS feed, so just ignore any weird crapola that comes through over the next week or so. It’s allllll under control (James, don’t stress, and stop rolling your eyes, I have it sorted now. haha)

Shop renovations start this week! Woooo! Opening night here we come!!

Plastic Fantastic

Hey gang, I’m almost back to life after a pretty exhausting (and a little bit scary) bout of pneumonia. A trip to the emergency ward + a week of solid couch lounging has left another big hole in the production schedule for my now 6-months-overdue shoe label launch, but things are looking up.

Before my health all went to shit I had just managed to get my second plastic component made and I thought I’d share a little of that process with you while I have an afternoon here at home with nothing much else to do.

If you’re just tuning in now for the first time, here’s a quick refresher.
I am finding it increasingly difficult to source ‘traditional’ and/or industrial standard components here in Melbourne, particularly in the sizes and quantities I would need to make full size runs of what are still essentially bespoke shoes. It seems possible to order things by the pallet-load, or one at a time, but when I need 60? That’s where the problem starts.
That coupled with my Industrial Design background and general stubbornness has led me to a point where I’ve decided to batch manufacture my own components. Yep.

So, below is a bit of a peek in to how I have so far gone about creating my own plastic heels, details and insole units. These will serve as prototypes for me to test strength / wear life  / etc / etc before I make some final ones with designed details, logos, leather allowance and all that jazz.

HEEL + CRESCENT CANTILEVER DETAIL


To begin with, I used the wooden heel that I had carved earlier for the buckles-and-straps burgundy prototype. This heel is 5 inches high at the back edge (awesome) and is partnered up with a 1.5 inch platform = mega height, but still some wear-ability. I marked the centre points for a different moulding idea as seen below…


… but this design didnt work. I filled the bottle with silicon, cut out the heel, taped it all back together and filled the cavity with resin.
The problem was that the area needing most detail and accuracy is the top, and this mould always ended up with bubbles and/or not enough plastic filling the mould = too many failed parts.


So I revisited the idea (and YouTube) and decided to go for a more coffin-like mould seeing as my parts have a flat surface. This would still work with curves, it would just mean having to build up some supports from plasticine. To make the most of each resin pour I also snuck in a little crescent shaped detail I hope to use as a heel support.


All clamped up and ready to go.

NOTE! make sure you plug ALL THE LEAKS AROUND THE BASE… one leak like I had = silicon oozing out all afternoon.


The finished mould and recovered master parts.
For this process I used RTV-2 Silicone Rubber from Barnes in Richmond.


Mould detail, showing some locating pilot holes I drilled in to the wood so that I can mount each heel in the same spot with a template rather than having to guess each time. A stitch in time saves nine!


Next step, fillin’ it up! After a quick conversation with the staff at Barnes we decided that a rigid Polyurethane seemed the best option for prototyping. It has a low odour, pours well, is the least toxic of the resins they sell and would give me a strong part that is less brittle than the harder Polyester or Epoxy resins.
Brittle will probably = shattering when pressure is applied.
For these parts I have been using TC-808 78 Shore D Urethane from Barnes


So although these are quite heavy, they are essentially a super-super-hard rubber which means they should bend before they break. The final production run may be from something else once I have refined the process and spoken more to the resin suppliers around town.

I have also purchase a light weight filler, which are tiny tiny hollow balls (like sand) that you can add to resins to reduce their mass, which reduces their weight. The payoff is that the more you add, the more likely to crack apart like compacted sand your part is… I will have to test some varying ratios.


Badly focused detail shot.

So that’s where the heel tests are at. I can mould a new part each hour, and that’s fine for my production levels. Next up is to make a master form for a resin platform.

INSOLE EXPERIMENTS

With some success under my belt with the heels, I decided to try to solve one of my last conundrums, that of how to get hold of insole / shank / shankboard components to match my lasts WITHOUT having to either outsource production (minimum order numbers), go down the path of pressing my own (needing metal moulds, pneumatic pressure, steam etc) or trying to order pre-made ones whenever I needed them and hoping they fit.

A chat with my pal Luke who works in a plastics manufacturing plant got us thinking moulding plastic components might not only answer my short order run needs, but it would allow me to design the heel + insoles as one product. This meant I can design a system for attaching the two (even if it’s just perfectly aligned pilot holes for screws) that would again save me time in the long run.


Step 1 was to attach a metal shank to the last in the place I intend it to be used in the final piece. By thinking a few steps ahead it makes things easier later on.


Next up I wrapped a fat piece of wet veg tanned leather over the last, in the same way that I would go about making an all-leather insole unit.


When the veg tan dried it had formed perfectly to the last bottom, with an indent from the shank pre-formed into the upper surface.

I then coated the veg tan with clear lacquer to give it some surface hardness and to smooth it out as much as possible.


This one I moulded similar to the first (bottle) technique shown at the top, only in a container I had made from foamcore. As recommended by YouTube vids I cut out the leather part using a waving / random carving path to minimise the likelihood of the resin leaking back out.


As you can see, the shank indentation is still there, which will make locating it later dead easy.


This technique requires you to cut out a pouring spout afterwards and most importantly, a vent beside the spout which allows the trapped air to escape as you fill the cavity, rather than needing to escape via bubbles.


Cut out pouring spout on the left, vent on the right.


And there you go… two resin parts fresh out of the mould at 1 hour intervals.


Detail shots. You can see the shank position – the spout and vent will be cut off.


Exact 1:1 replica in Polyurethane.


A quick test of dropping in a shank. I’m not sure yet if the shank will be necessary, and if it is I might look at making one from carbon fibre or something else that is readily obtained, instead of shanks, which I have to get from shoe-specific suppliers.

This part will be glued to a leather or leatherboard (texon) insole, and then the padding foam or gel will be attached to the top of that. Seems a stupid idea to make high-end hand made shoes and NOT fill them with foams and rubber to make them nice and comfortable. You never know, these might actually be comfortable 5″ heels!!

So, that was a lot of typing, but I think it’s worth sharing these ideas. With an industry dying like ours is it would be a shame if future shoe designers weren’t able to make their own things here in Melbourne if they (stupidly) insist on it – like I am.

Listening to : Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep

Sick.

Hi Readers, just letting you know that I have been quite ill this week. Ended up in hospital on Tuesday night for IV fluids, blood tests, xrays etc. Turns out the ‘flu’ I thought I had is actually Pneumonia.

So, one the one hand I have lots of time at home, so I’ll be able to do some more blog updating on the weekend. But on the other hand, I feel terrible and have been sleeping pretty much all day. I’ll see if Dani can take some pics of what she is up to and perhaps we’ll get some good ol’ craft posting on here again

On a more positive note our studio pal Katia Di Crescenzo is taking part in a Fashion Week exhibition that starts tonight! We’ll be missing the opening unfortunately, but if you’re in Melbourne and like things a little Experimental go along and check it out :

EX[IE]PERIMENTAL COLLECTIVE – EXHIBITION LAUNCH

http://www.facebook.com/events/157129964405241/

 

Here’s one of Katia’s recent pieces :

Nobody likes me?

Shout out to Audrey whom I met last week and who posted this bit of forgotten GOLD on her blog.

I’m laughing, but I’d laugh more if it didn’t look like a video of my upbringing… ALL OF THOSE CHARACTERS ARE REAL. It’s going to be a long way from home if we ever get to live in New York or Paris, but I guess I’ll have this video to look back on and think of the good ol’ days.

From http://audreythomashayes.tumblr.com/

Things to note

1. Dani and I have BOTH HAD THE FLU all week and productivity dropped to pretty much zero for the entire week. So, not making excuses or anything, but that sucked.

2. I finally got my ass back in to gear yesterday and made a new silicon mould of an insole I formed from Veg Tan and lacquered… then today I made my first plastic insole / shankboard replacement. It seems to have worked, but I might need some firmer plastic or some sort of shank / spine in there. Will investigate further asap, whilst trying to minimise how many times I have to make $40 silicon moulds as practice runs.

2b. I have photos of this process for you all, but I left the flippin’ camera cable at the studio, so no pics for tonight. Daaaaang. Tomorrow?

3. I also managed to get my first super-super-low-resolution 3D scan happening! Woop. Using a laser-leveller, a crap webcam (new HD one from eBay on it’s way), some acetate, a texta (no printer here, had to trace things off the computer screen – that’s how low-tech it can get around here) and that David3D software I mentioned earlier I got this bit of crap to show up on the screen. Nothing useful, but a good “proof of concept”.

4. Dani thinks I have been saying “proof of concept” too much lately. Perhaps she is right.

5. I picked up the final 5 pairs of lasts this week in amongst my sickness, so I now have a full size run of 3.5″ heeled lasts. One less excuse off the list!

 

So, this week I’m back at computer job, but I have a set list of tasks to get on with now. Namely, refine plastic insole, refine heel > insole attachment design, cast a set of matching left / right components and FINALLY make a damned pair of heels that I know I can replicate without having to involve a supplier who is likely to tell me they “don’t sell that particular product any more”.

There is a spark of excitement fizzing back in to life in me.
It’s been a while, but watching fashion shows, meeting some great people during fashion week, meeting fashion students and recent graduates who are full of ideas and initiative (giving me some hope for the future) and re-reading my McQueen books has me recharged.

We’re going to open our shop up again within a month, so that will mean a renewed focus on blogging, photos, and lots more making now that the post-christmas slump is over.
Oh, and of course seeing a studio full of people doing top notch work is always good!! This week, studio crew profiles, I promise.

Listening to : Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim.   Perth does it again.

 

 

Wanted – 1 x Time Machine, 20+ year travel ability.

Seems pretty much ALL of my shoe making problems (well, except for my non-finished RepRap) would be solved by being able to just zip back to the 70s / 80s / 90s when Melbourne had a thriving, or at least functioning, shoe component industry… so if anyone is working on a Time Machine, let me know.


Uncle Rico’s time machine. Sort of, but not really, what I’m looking for.

Click here to see it in action

After another morning of  “ok, lets do this” enthusiasm I have returned home with a few more potential suppliers crossed off my list and added to the “doesn’t stock those things any more” list, which is now pretty long.

It seems the idea of making, and even worse HAND making, decent women’s high heel shoes is just not on in this country any more. Parts either cost the earth, or don’t exist, suppliers are either closed or take me through tours of their residual stock in the back corner, and I’ve spoken to quite a few people about how the whole industry was lost to offshore production / how Collingwood used to be a goldmine for components…. yadda yadda.

So, on top of having to make my own heels and platforms etc, I am now looking at having to make, or possibly re-invent my own insole units (which you may remember I attempted a year ago with plywood) so that I can make shoes in the dozens, rather than one at a time using odd scraps and makeshift solutions.

Hopefully this doesn’t bum anyone out too much, I’m just venting a little to what I assume is an audience that might face this same problem now or in the future. There is plenty of scope for making amazing shoes here in Australia, lots of passion in the marketplace and plenty of skillful designers and crafty people around, but fuck, it’s reeeeeally hard to get something off the ground when each thing you go to make/order/buy is no longer available or just not viable to buy or use.


empty factory image for added dramatic effect.

Looks like I’m headed towards a Haute Couture level of shoemaking now… where everything comes from my little ol’ hands and every component is customised to my specifications. I guess that’s the price you pay for not accepting mediocre or you-cant-have-that as an answer. It will of course allow me to make jaw dropping designs that aren’t just factory produced items, but it means I need to keep finding reserves of enthusiasm and motivation from a well that is admittedly pretty dry at the moment.

As they say, the night is darkest (or is it coldest?) right before the dawn, so this will hopefully be one of those posts I look back on and go “shit, you were a sook back then” when I get this one million point list all crossed off and some money in the bank  – which would be verrrrrrrry helpful about now.

Keep on at it folks, nothing good comes easy, and um, a watched pot never boils.
That last bit has nothing to do with anything, but why not throw in some more idioms for good measure?

Listening to : Eyehategod. Grrrrrrr.

Doing our part to keep things afloat

I recently found the article below via the Carreducker blog and thought it might be good to share with all our readers (and there are quite a few of you now!).

http://www.mydigitalfc.com/fashion-and-style/luxe-goes-crafty-193

For those of you that don’t have time to read it, the basic premise is that high end luxury brands (Louis Vuitton etc) have been pulled up for representing their brands as ‘craft’ and ‘handmade’ while the truth is they’re just pumping out mass produced machine made goods – granted, they are using high quality materials – but not in the ‘little old Italian man sews them together by hand’ way they imply in their ads.

This has lead to a renewed interest in associating ACTUAL hand crafted goods and labels with bigger brands, so that they can retain their heritage values. Sort of absorbing real makers and craftsmen to keep their street-cred.

Anyhoot, the article tells the rest of the story, but this is quite topical for Dani and I at the moment as we are preparing a thorough business plan and looking at sourcing funding / grants to get this all off the ground

Seems we’re on the opposite side of this issue, plenty of skills, no money – so it is good to read that our concerns that we might be too tiny a fish in the big commercial world of luxury goods are perhaps not that big a worry… if we stick to our guns and MAKE what we sell, and also keep our integrated show-and-tell style workshop it will help us stand apart from the not-really-handmade luxury brands that are losing their credibility to real (not Nouveau Riche trashy luxury addicts) traditional luxury customers.

That said, what we personally have in hand craft skills we lack in crucial admin and business skills, so we are now weighing up the idea of getting a 3rd person on board who has some room in their brain to plan and run this business. If you’re interested, let us know, we will probably put out an official ‘expressions of interest’ thing in the coming weeks.

Cheers!

 

Virtual Shoemaking

Well, I’ve always insisted I wasn’t going to do it, but the time has come to give in to the lure of the 3D modelling virtual shoe world.

The only reason I was trying NOT to get too nerdy with this stuff was a fear that I’d spend 57 hours a week in my spare room on a computer, and somehow classify that as a craft. As a bit of justification for the jump back in to the digital realm (not that I need to justify anything, but I may as well) … a few conversations lately have lead to me decide that if I’m going to release a range of shoes that are worthy of a high price point and a super level of exclusivity – dictated by my personal involvement in their construction, and thus high labour costs – they may as well have all the bells and whistles I can possibly muster up.

So this week I am looking in to custom digitally printed fabrics to integrate with the leather uppers, and it was pretty obvious that ‘guessing’ what pattern goes where, and what scale / orientation / colour to use would be a never ending task if using actual fabric samples. I have modelled up my chosen last in 3D, knocked up some quick indicative geometry for the rest of the components and now I can get to work on laying out patterns and colour combos much faster than using the ol’ textas.

I will also be pushing the limits a bit with my heel and platform shapes, so having 3D digital models = direct rapid prototype prints = much better results than my hand carved ones.

Things can get pretty crazy in a short amount of time….

With that mini milestone under my belt I’m off in to the city to meet another new shoemaker in the making to see what she is planning on doing. Exciting.

Enjoy the sunshine today if you’re in Melbourne (and I assume the snow if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and Happy Valentines Day.