Saturday 26 December 2009

Introducing... Emma Shirgwin of Emma the Shoemaker

Having recently exhibited at Craft Victoria as part of Shoe Show and taking part at the recent Craft Hatch market at the State Library of Victoria, Emma Shirgwin has been a Craft Victoria darling of late. Emma is based from her East Brunswick studio (which she shares with fellow Shoe Show exhibitor Phong Chi Lai and COUNTER stockist Sarah Russell of Scottato), and her label 'Emma the Shoemaker' has been in place for nearly three years now - something that is no small feat at all!

For today's post, here's a peek into Emma's working space. Why not treat your feet good in 2010... and if you'd like to be custom-fitted for a pair of bespoke summer sandals, or perhaps get ready for the winter chill with a pair of lace-up leather booties, do get in touch with Emma to make an appointment for a studio visit. She'd be more than happy to measure you up!

Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day everyone! Make sure you get those elbows out when you hit the sales today, or if you're like us, prop your feeties up and enjoy a beautiful day off.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up, what you studied at school?
I grew up in England till the age of 5 then moved to Adelaide, then Melbourne aged 13. I grew up with 2 other closely aged siblings. Mum did not let us watch much TV and we did not have much money so we had to invent our own fun often role playing, I really appreciate that now. At school I was terrible at maths and science so studied mostly art and literature classes and especially loved woodwork. I then went on to study primary school teaching but was not satisfied and quit to travel the world searching for a passion, I had an inkling for shoes and had enquired in Melbourne but thought this could only be a hobby, surely. After four years of various shoemaking studies and experience, here I am!

Some of Emma's shoes hanging with Phong's (top rack)

You began your career in shoemaking with a short course completed in London. Was this something you planned to do while still in Melbourne, or was it something more spontaneous that happened during your travels?
I had planned to study this in Melbourne but the waitlist was too long I had also planned to go travelling, I found a course in London to get a head start then once returning to Melbourne a place in the course became available, and slowly my shoemaking career began!

Your shoes are extremely well-crafted and beautifully detailed, aspects that have undoubtedly contributed towards establishing your brand, Emma the Shoemaker. What/who has greatly influenced the way you approach shoe design?
I aim to make simple designs that are comfortable, fun and won’t age with time. I aim for well-made shoes with little quirks found hidden in the simple designs.

'The Victoria' wedge

With Emma the Shoemaker almost in its third year now, how else do you hope to develop your practice? Do you have a specific goal in mind that you are working towards?
To keep learning the craft of shoemaking, maybe travelling overseas to gain more knowledge and bring that back here to constantly improve my shoes in design and make.

Sharing a studio with two other shoemakers must create a wonderfully inspirational space, not to mention efficient in terms of sharing equipment! Have you always worked in a shoemaker-exclusive studio? How do you think this arrangement affects the dynamics of your practice?
I worked previously in my garage at home. Initially I loved this, but as time went on I felt limited (with space and ideas) therefore a little uninspired. Working with three other shoemakers has been amazing, we are all share ideas and contacts, offer tips and support each other through the hard times when we feel like throwing it all in.

Do you see shoes more as ‘fashion’ or ‘art’, or both?
Both, as I do everything from design to patterns and then making the whole shoe which involves many crafts, material and colour selecting, sewing, lasting up, sculpting heels and making sure the shoe balances and is appealing to the eye, yet also functional, so I think these aspects lie amongst art and fashion.

'Giddy up' riding style boot

And finally, “If I were a shoe I’d be…
…a lace up boot with a Cuban heel. I love lace ups, nearly all my shoes have laces, I never wear stilettos or particularly like them. This sums up me as I like my shoes to be ready for any kind of day!


Reesa Wood said...

hello! I am interested in learning how to make shoes by hand in the traditional way. Where can I learn to do this?

Craft Victoria said...

Hi Reesa,
You could check out the CAE for shoemaking courses, Shoe Show exhibitor James Roberts did one of those under Brendan Dwyer.

Hope this helps!