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Shoes of New Orleans

I spent a week in NOLA for a conference. It is one of my favorite cities. I think it is the quintessential American city, a true melting pot. I’m pleased to say it is booming, a far cry from the early days after Katrina. I’ve never been there for Easter before and boy is it a special day. There are 3 Easter Parades. You can check out my Instagram and TravelPod for updates on these events. I got to partake in 2 before heading home.

It is also a city of fashion. One of the best places we found in the French Quarter was Queork! It is a store filled with accessories made of Cork – shoes, bags, tablet and phone covers, even umbrellas. All are made in Portugal where they are cork crazy. The cork I purchased to work with comes from there.

It is a wonderful material – light weight, waterproof, scratch/stain/mildew resistant and hypoallergenic. The cork is harvested from the cork oak tree. The bark is boiled and then thin slices are placed on polyester backing. The top is finished with waterproofing sealant. The resulting fabric is upholstery grade and said to be a s durable as leather.

cork booties by ruta
Cork that looks like fish skin

Take a look at these beauties by Rutz. End of season so also a steal. They were a perfect fit for my friend. Take a good look at the texture. Doesn’t it remind you of my red fish skin booties from a previous post?

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Inspiration Spring 2015

I’m getting a bit of a late start on my spring/summer shoes. This year I’d like to produce limited edition pointed toe flats with ankle ties. I’ve been inspired by a set of velvet ribbon from the Sundance catalog and some upholstery fabric I’ve had for several years as well as the French heritage sandal maker, K. Jacques. I relate to the artisanal quality that balances form and function in a simple, hard-wearing shoe. Comfort and versatility are key for city travel.

ribbon and fabric
Ribbon and fabric

I adore this combination.  The upholstery fabric will hold up well to wear. The black print will handle some dirt well. Each pair will take on a different personality with a different color ankle wrap. A little waterproof spray will seal the deal. They will work well with dresses, skirts or pants. Dress them up or down, no matter, you will always be chic.

I propose a leather soled flat with a pointed toe box and velvet ribbon ankle wrap, perfect for a European summer in a fashionable city. I’ll add a whip stitch detail on the toe box and a cork foot bed. Now if I can just find the time…. I am determined to at least make a pair for myself and perhaps my two traveling companions by July!

Spring 2015 Inspiration
Spring 2015 Inspiration

I am a professionally trained designer and my design process often starts with an inspiration board. I pull visuals from magazines, catalogs, the internet, my photos, etc. and then look for patterns in silhouette, color, texture, embellishments, techniques, details, etc. I group them in a way that is interesting to me and let it mull. I pull the elements that excite me and create designs from there. Interestingly many of my images this year came from the Sundance catalog. I have identified various wrapping techniques, the whip stitch, metallics/burlap/cork materials, and pointed flats as key elements that inspire me.

I’m also inspired by heel interest, perforation, slashes and hardware (of course I am – they create bad ass & beautiful), but I will carry these through in my vision for Fall. I hope to try them out on the pumps I make in Oregon in May.

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Shoe Shoot

I’ve been asked to participate in an article on shoes for the d&mMagazine through the Design & Merchandising program at Drexel University. I was interviewed about my Icelandic shoes by KronKron, featured in my City in a Shoe post earlier this year. I was also asked to participate in a shoe photoshoot. I decided to take my entire Icelandic shoe collection. The photographer, Leah Bank and stylist, Jacquelyn Fleurant selected 2 pairs, the KronKron’s and my red perch booties with optional buckle by MKM, Maria K. Magnusdottir. Here’s a couple of my faves that made the final cut. (NOTE: I have taken the liberty of cropping images further.)

shoes on bench
Bench in a shoe!
booties stepping into locker
Fashion photo fun!
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Shoe Design – 2 day workshop

drawn shoe draped last
Drawing and Draping

In addition to the 1-day sandal making workshop I took last summer, I also took a 2-day shoe design workshop at Prescott & Mackay, lead by Aki Choklat. I wanted to learn the process and pick up some more drawing tools. I hate drawing and I’m not that great at it. I much prefer to work things through in collage or 3 dimensions. It was enlightening and in the end I didn’t do so badly. My shoe is much like my mission “badass & beautiful” with a unique heel detail.

Caged shoe drawing
Badass & Beautiful

I’ve been working hard to set up my new shoe making studio and I’m nearly there. I hope to devote 30 minutes a day to drawing and I am sure I will see a great deal of improvement with practice.

I am also sure I will mostly design on a last in 3-D (otherwise knows as draping) as you can see in this image. I was working out how many straps there would be, where they would fall on the foot, how wide the center strap would be and where elastic would need to go to get the foot in and out of the shoe.

Outside view draping
Inside view draping showing elastic placement
Top view draping








personal printing and milling fabricator
personal printing and milling fabricator

I’m waiting for a 3D printer/milling machine from Fabtotum. I hope to try and make this heel and toe cap when that arrives.

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My First Pair: 1-Day Sandal Workshop

ankle tie sandals
6 hour sandals!

Last August I was thrilled to take my first shoe-making workshop, a one-day sandal making class offered by Prescott & Mackay in London. I arrived bright and early to the shop and joined 3 other women for the workshop. In 6 hours, I’d have a pair of sandals!

We started with a bit of an overview of the day and the process. We were shown some completed sandals that all in all were a bit disappointing, but I was not going to let that stop me. If making a boring sandal was what I had to do, that is what I would do. After all, I was there to learn how to MAKE the sandal, not DESIGN the sandal.

All components
All the parts about to come together.

We were shown our shoe components and then headed downstairs to the workshop. There we saw some pre-made straps and cords we could use. The straps require some preparation, so that part was completed for us. It would have been too much to do in the 6 hour time frame. There were straps of various widths that could go over the foot, around the heel and up the back. Colors were right up my alley, red, pewter metallic and black.

covered wedges
Half all black and half pewter and black with a zig-zag join. The pewter and black is the surprise inside.

Our first task was to find materials to cover our wedges. There was a big bin of left over leathers and the 4 of us dug through. This was a very interesting part of the process. Three of us took a bit of time and gave each other feedback as we made our choices. I really enjoyed this back and forth as it added a design element to the experience.

Shocking, I know – I settled for a black leather with pewter print. Of course I didn’t need another pair of black sandals, but I knew I’d wear black and pewter sandals and not the brown and ivory that I had also selected. We worked through the process step by step, cutting leather with a scalpel, gluing components, pressing the shoes. There were more design decisions to make along the way.

tack mistake
OOPS – I left the tacks in! My instructor got them out and says I should use it for my lable.

It was a great day and while the shoes are a bit large and I did make a few mistakes. I left the tacks in one of my sandals before pressing them. Luckily Melissa, my instructor, was able to pull them out through the insole. She says I should use the 2 dots as part of my brand.

three sandals
3 Women, 3 Sandals

I am proud of what I made and I wear them. It was also wonderful to see the breadth of shoes from three of the four of us. Each has a different aesthetic and every pair would work in a high end retailer.