Mind what you wear on your feet. You don’t know just where they might take you.
I was searching for activities to do over the weekends when I came across another event posted on Facebook. This time it was about sandal crafting. While I was leaning towards leather wallet and bag making, something just pushed me into clicking the “Going” button and paying for a slot in that workshop.
The venue was hosted by Builtable Coworking, “the first ever co-working space + fabrication laboratory in the Philippines.” Located along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, this company aims to bring together innovators and makers and provide a space for enabling creativity, discovery and learning. Among them is this kind of workshop that I attended. You may also check their services and other events hosted from Builtable Coworking’s official website.
The workshop was headed by Tal de Guzman, founder of Risqué Designs. From my research, Risqué Designs is a Filipino lifestyle brand that creates very beautiful footwear. Bringing together far flung communities in Negros Occidental and Laguna and the city of Marikina that’s famous for its shoe industry, the company is among those reviving the “demand for age-old skills like loom-weaving, wood-carving and shoe-making.”
Ms. Tal’s business has been around for five years now and she has been sharing her talent and knowledge of creating footwear for about two years already. She was very patient with beginners like me and thorough in her teaching.
Included in the fees were the handouts, materials, and tools needed to create the sandals. However, we were free to bring our own leather for the upper part in case we preferred to. I did not have any with me so I relied on the available leather in the venue.
The soles were pre-cut already in order to save time since cutting it is time-consuming for beginners. Still, we were taught the proper way of outlining and measuring the important points of our feet.
Because my feet were not the standard size, I had to “hack” my shoe last (this wooden instrument shaped like a foot). It took some leather and some tape so it measured the same as my feet.
I chose size 7 for this activity without asking how they measure their sizes. I forgot that I go from size 6 to size 8 depending on the kind of footwear I was buying. I wear size 8 for leather heeled shoes; size 6 for slippers and rubber shoes; size 7 for all other footwear. Crazy, right? No wonder I take forever to buy shoes.
After hacking both shoe lasts, we were made to design how we wanted the sandal straps to look like. I chose a design that involved sort of braiding four strips of leather. Having irregularly shaped feet (I am pigeon-toed), I need to make sure my footwear have a lot of material to hold on to my feet. You have no idea how many times I lost one shoe as a baby, especially those I wore on my left foot. So, yeah. More straps equals less chances of them slipping off my feet.
We made makeshift stencils/patterns for our leather strips before actually cutting them. For myself, I chose two colors; brown and metallic gold.
I do not have steady hands so I failed to ensure all my strips were perfectly cut. At least I did not chop my fingers off. I think I did more damage to the ruler I used as a guide though.
Well, there they were. All eight strips that will hold my sandal soles and my feet together.
The next step was to secure the insoles to the shoe last in order to begin constructing/building the actual footwear. After securing the soles in place, I started to have a picture of what my sandals were eventually going to look like on the shoe lasts.
Time to open that jar of adhesive! I appreciated so much that we were reminded to bring our face masks in case we wanted to lessen the chances of inhaling the smell of some of the materials we were going to use. That adhesive’s smell was not as strong as your usual rugby, but it did smell strongly of chemicals.
It turns out though that you wait for the glue to become tacky so the parts will stick together. Pressing together the materials after being freshly painted with glue will not do anything to bind them. Patience is a virtue here.
We had to trim off some of those pieces of leather stuck on the sole so they won’t feel bulky when we step on them. I did not do a pretty job at it because my cutter was getting dull already. I figured, the more I tried to make a perfect job at it, the more there was a chance I was going to be sent to the hospital because I was bleeding out. I contented myself with what I could accomplish then proceeded to spreading glue over the two parts I was going to bind. .
After binding these two parts together came my favorite part. The hammering! It’s meant to help them stick together better. It’s also a great way to let out some of your stress–just kidding!
Once that was done, I got to glue on the heel. Unfortunately, for the left foot, my unsteady hands failed to make sure all parts were perfectly aligned. Thankfully, they had sand paper (the really rough kind) to help me “cheat” and “disguise” my mistake.
Everything I did for the right foot, I did with the left. Turns out, it’s difficult to ensure they matched. I may have missed a centimeter or two on the left side so they did not look like twins. They did pass as sisters though. That was consolation enough for me.
After four hours, I finally have my very own sandals!
The workshop made me appreciate our shoemakers even more. I have always had the thought that making shoes is not an easy task. Today, I had a feel of how tough it really and I just made one pair of sandals. Imagine how much more difficult it is to create shoes with beautiful and intricate designs!
That being said, Filipinos should support its footwear industry all the more. Marikina is a good place to get quality shoes. I heard that Liliw, Laguna also has its own footwear industry going on. No matter, supporting our own products will surely help the industry and the communities relying on it prosper.
Meanwhile, check out Builtable Coworking’ website or Facebook page for other workshops and events you might be interested in. You may also checkout Workshops by Tal on Instagram to see announcements for new workshops and pictures from those she has held.