Sunday I arrived at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina for a 2 week class. Penland is a little slice of heaven on Earth. Think summer camp for grown-ups. This year, my summer camp is a shoemaking class taught by Malika Green. Penland’s catalog of summer classes comes out sometime after the new year, but a tentative class list goes out by email a little earlier. I knew as soon as I got that email what I wanted to take.
When my paternal grandfather came to the United States from Italy he eventually started a shoe manufacturing business and my father and one of his brothers followed him into the business. I remember visiting the shoe factory when I was little to see my father. My recollections of the front offices are vague, but then my father was rarely there. He could usually be found in the factory amidst the powerful aromas of tanned leathers and glues and the sounds of machinery and men and women working. It’s those sounds and especially the rich smell of leather that has always stayed with me.
Just 3 days into class so far. Day one was a bit of a lost cause so days two and three are catch-up days. My first design concept has merged nicely with my second. Now to build up and shape the last, work on design sketches, make a mock-up and transfer the design to the last.
This morning as I sat over a cup of tea and refined my design I must confess I got a bit weepy thinking of my father. He’s been gone too long and I miss him. As my life has progressed I’ve learned just how much his daughter I truly am. I know the designer in me is a gift from him. He designed and built the beautiful house I grew up in and I felt him with me when I designed and build my own house a few years ago. He designed and made shoes and at least for this short class I can channel him as I design and make a pair of shoes for myself.