This article was actual written back in 2010. It is reproduced here since we were prompted by a wonderful item in Issue 1 of a new magazine for leatherworkers called Waxing the Thread, where on page ten they have a two page interview with Jeremy Atkinson who we mention below. The magazine, which is now about to publish Issue 3 is full of useful materials for leatherworkers on linen threads, beeswax, leather types, projects and patterns as well as loaded with advertisements and links to sources for all types of materials and information. We repeat the old clog article again to encourage you to read about the remains of the industry in the UK – there is greater strength in some parts of northern Europe, and perhaps nine years on we can hope for a revival.
Waxing the Thread is published by GDH Leatherwork, based in Wales and found at GDH Leatherwork
So, what will take technology’s place? It begins with art, design and you
originally from 04 May 2010
If you worked in a tannery in Europe just a few decades ago you were given a pair of clogs to work in. I remember my first pair. A truly solid piece of wood, noisy irons tacked to the sole and hard leather uppers that broke the skin if you did not wear thick socks. I wish I had them now, much better than wellingtons for working in the garden.
Jeremy Atkinson is the last clogger in the UK who still hand crafts the entire clog. The most important part of this is the shaping of the wood, which he does by hand while others cut on machines. Alder, birch and willow are all used but he prefers Welsh Marshes sycamore, with a 6-8 inch diameter, and he cuts it while still green with old swivel knives. He works from a small studio in Duke Street, Kington on the border between England and Wales. You will find him there if it is raining or he has a back log of work, although a lot of the time he is working away at the historic County Shows and Country Fairs where he can talk to customers while working. He mostly makes for Morris Dancers and other very traditional groups of users.
Clogs are back in fashion these days, with none more important that the new Chanel styles for 2010. They are simple solid, secure and fit well with a world coming out of recession but not wanting to rush back to being ostentatious.
Well chosen wood and vegetable tanned leather give that nice link to history with sort of quality that we like to think is no longer available. Fashion clogs may not be the most practical footwear i the world but they are suitable for time off and the weekend. They look good on Alexa Chung and they fit our renewed nostalgia for all things old.
This seems to be a particular feeling from the boomer generation who are now sitting at home looking back on the days before the family motor car, the credit card and inside toilets. Yes, those were the days. Yet these products from the past are finding resonance with the young who have no knowledge of these mysterious days in the mid twentieth century but enjoy the products that combine the best of the old craftsmanship with contemporary concepts and materials. So a clog in Sanotan Titanium Leather while perhaps not suitable for Jeremy Atkinson would make a perfect updated clog. No chance of allergies, good for the blood flow and for health, and a wider range of colours than vegetable tanned leather and much less chance of blisters, although we would go the vegetable tanned route every time.
John Maeda at Rhode Island School of Design, one of whose quotes forms our title, argued in a recent piece in Forbes that we are starting to hanker for “products and culture that are made by many individuals, made by hand, made well, made by people we trust, and made to capture some of the nuances and imperfections that we treasure in the physical world”. Poetry, and we are expressing it in footwear today.
That neat mix of the artisan and the modern technologists encapsulates what is happening in Tuscany with Dude Shoes, which we watched flying off the shelves in Valencia as spring weather drove everyone into the stores for their summer wardrobes. “The function of sneakers combined with the comfort and weight of slippers” is how they get promoted with a leather insole and an Ultralite DuPont outsole. The Californian company Sanuk (Thai for fun) are also in this category of funky product with the hand-made look and a degree of irreverence. Cardiff by the sea (is there any other sort of Cardiff?) may seem an odd place for these comfortable shoes made initially of inner tubes and carpet, now describing themselves as a “semi-proper footwear company”. While they have some cool sidewalk surfers in leather and suede look out for the coated cotton uppers like the Pickpocket which are resonating with a global youth not just west coast beach bums. Both offer products for ladies but it is the men’s’ products which have real traction.
The odd thing today is that on a western University campus today you will find men in 60 Euro Dudes sitting comfortably alongside ladies in 1000 Euro Chanel clogs. This is the world of today.
It is May now, so the Morris Dancers are out with their noisy clogs and sticks. Some say Morris Dancers came from tannery workers – straight from the beamhouse. The clogs were the workshoes and sticks used now used to be the two handled curved fleshing knives. Now to go searching for those tannery clogs….I am sure we saved them somewhere…..
Chanel Photo from http://threeinacrowd.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/clog-it/
Chanel clogs from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection
John Maeda in Forbes http://ow.ly/1G8tg
(all sourced in spring 2010, but all except dudeshoes and sanuk were working May 2019 )
First published in APLF.com in 2010, where it is still available