After a thorough four year steep in the classics, the ancients, the ordinary, and the extraordinary, I graduated from New College Franklin, May 2012. As a creative, my academic career was one of the most challenging times of growth in my life. I acquired the tools of diligence, persistence, failure, and determination to complete my program a different person than when I first stepped over the threshold.
After graduating, I was ready to begin a life in craft–my two great loves in beauty were eyeglass and shoe making. I battled between the two, but eventually pursued my first love, shoes. I found that love during my high school senior trip to London as I walked into John Lobb ltd on St. James Street. My foot tread over plush royal carpet; my eyes were first drawn heavenward at a wall-length glass and wooden case filled with gorgeous samples reaching ten or twelve feet high, next to a craftsman on his hands and knees recording the dimensions of a jolly man in a leather back chair–I’m told that my jaw was simply hanging at this point. Love struck, I continued to see more layers: a man in his 50’s shaping a last with a rasp, another man examining leather, and then a young man apprenticing. The apprentice gave me hope, a hope that I too might be able to learn under 150 plus years of tradition and craftsmanship.
My experience never left me. I dreamt of the opportunity and made steps towards a life in shoemaking by taking an intensive shoemaking course in 2010 with shoemakers, Carreducker (I highly recommend their class and respect their work as shoemakers and pioneers in reviving a dying craft).
Nearing graduation, I pursued John Lobb ltd for an apprenticeship. I began the journey through logistical and cultural hoops but in the end found all the apprenticeship spaces were filled for atleast two or three years. Devastated but not defeated, I kept the course; a few weeks later I was approached by Carreducker about an opportunity with the shoemaker Norman Vilalta in Barcelona, Spain.
Norman spoke of passion, love and beauty like no craftsman I have ever met. His words gave legitimacy to my own passions. I’ve learned that as a craftsman loses connectedness with universals, the particulars become mechanical. He encouraged me to explore a new frontier of maturity in my own life, as well as a frontier of the oldest makers in Europe. Our conversations rarely breached logistics, but waded in the waters of growth, love, maturity, self-discovery, dedication, and passion. I took his advice and planned a trip to London, Paris, and Barcelona. Equipped with backpack and map, I paid homage to London and Paris’ greatest makers of old. Eventually, I found myself in Barcelona conversing with Norman himself. Although we had not signed a contract before my departure, I was committed to a future in Spain. The anxiety of not knowing was overwhelming, but I forced myself to embrace the unknown.