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Sep 2016

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Posts Tagged ‘Vanishing Craft’

Esquivel: Putting the Kick-Ass in Artisanal Shoes

esquivel-shoes-legs

Since all of Paris closes shop in August, I’ll be posting “by appointment” discoveries made during my summertime travels back home in the USA this month.  Hope you enjoy this special summer edition with content from New York and Los Angeles.

Custom. Handmade. Shoes. Say those three words aloud and your mind hops a plane to the fashion capitals of Europe where couture cobbling has been celebrated for centuries. But don’t buy your brain’s tickets just so fast… The special new stomping ground for original, handcrafted shoes is neither in Paris, London or Milan, but in a back alley, by appointment shop in none other than Los Angeles!

garden-tables

Over the last fifteen years Southern California native Georges Esquivel—whose men’s and women’s shoe brand Esquivel Shoes was recently announced as one of the 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists—has built a mini shoe empire to rival Europe’s leading luxury labels. The best part of all, it happened entirely by chance (ahh, you gotta love America!).

handmade-shoe-mold

Years before “artisanal” became a marketing buzzword, Esquivel was reworking vintage clothes for his SoCal musician friends. An unexpected jaunt to a cobbler in Mexico spawned his first pair of custom shoes. His friends went wild and started clamoring for their own pairs. Before long Esquivel found a seasoned shoemaker in L.A. to build his designs. To cut costs, Esquivel offered to help out around the shop. “He said, ‘sure, take out the trash,’” recalls Esquivel with a chuckle. “So I went from taking out the trash to organizing the shop and cutting leather. Two-and-a-half years later I knew how to make a pair of shoes.”

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Catherine Hervé Lifts the Veil on Handmade Lace

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Appointment with: Catherine Hervé, Meilleur Ouvrier de France in duchess lace
When: 2pm, February 17th, 2009
Where: Her weekly lacemaking class at a community center in Paris’ 15th arrondissement.
On the Agenda: Learn the secrets to handmade lace from France’s preeminent expert.
Glossary: Métier (cushion), gatlap (cloth with cut-out center), fuseaux (bobbins), fil (thread), grillé (grill-like pattern), toilé (cross-cross pattern)

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This might come as a shock, but before I discovered the haute handiwork of lace designer Catherine Hervé at a fair devoted to French artisans, the subject of handmade lace had never once flittered through my mind. (Crazy, I know!) Was it like crocheting? Did it require looms? Were there patterns? Easels? For the life of my, I just couldn’t picture how it was done, who was doing it, where they did it and why.

There was only one person I knew could solve this puzzle: the Queen of Lace herself.

In 2004, Hervé became the third person since 1924 to win the Meuilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) title for duchess lace, giving her instant street cred as France’s leading practitioner of this painstaking craft.

lace-pillow-bobbins

After winning the MOF, Hervé traded in her job as a legal assistant to devote herself full-time to lace. By blending traditional techniques with non-conventional materials (colored threads, rayon, leather, wool, silk) she hopes to give the endangered medium a fresh, modern patina. In addition to creating her own original designs (which include three-dimensional lace sculptures, lace jewels, lace canvases, and lace appliqués for apparel) Hervé teaches the art of this mysterious medium each week to a growing number of devotees. From fashion designers and chatty grannies to summer tourists and this guy from Chartes who likes frog motifs, lace holds a seductive spell over a rather eclectic cast—one that I plan to temporarily join to witness the virtuoso at work.

herve-lace-close-up

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Baby-Faced Cabinetmakers Redefine Their Craft

Avenel-christophe

It’s only my fourth post but I already have a confession to make (and no, it’s not about the cutie above).

One of the reasons why I’m doing this project is to satisfy my longstanding curiosity for people who pursue unusual professional paths. I have never been blessed (or cursed, perhaps?) with a burning career calling, but I am fascinated with those who are—especially when their shtick is super obscure.

Working as a journalist has served me well in this department. Interviewing someone is like having a giant question pass printed on your forehead. From challenging and quirky to just plain personal, you can ask your subject just about anything.

For me, the ultimate “jackpot conversation” is when I walk out of the experience with a juicy slice into someone’s life and a completely new window into the world.

That’s how I felt after my visit to Avenel L, a year-old workshop and design firm dedicated to the art of woodworking.

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