Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crafty Folk: Damned Soles

Welcome to Jen from Damned Soles and thanks for sharing a little about yourself and your business.

 Describe your creative business in one sentence.
Oooh – tough one.  Amazing shoes for amazing women doing kick-arse things with their life.

How did ‘Damned Soles’ come into being and what is it all about?
Almost 8 years ago I participated in the shoe making workshop at the inaugural Brisvegas TAFTA forum.  I’d seen the flyer for the event, and was speechless –someone could learn to make shoes?  I didn’t waste any time signing up.  I took a few more short courses over the years, but couldn’t carve the time out of my working life to follow my interest… so in 2011 I stopped working, moved to Melbourne, and enrolled in the RMIT Brunswick bespoke shoe making diploma.

2012 sees me back home, developing my shoe making business through the NEIS program.
That’s the how of Damned Soles, but as to the whys – I’m happiest working with my hands, I love taking on challenging tasks and problem solving, and live for understanding how we, as humans, relate to and shape out world.  For me, making shoes meets all of these needs.  It’s a physically demanding task, part mathematics and part art, poses unique problems, has a wealth of history behind it, as well as offering up the subject matter of fetish and desire.

As a business, Damned Soles builds custom footwear that clients will love to death and beyond, as well as resurrecting those “old favourite” shoes, giving them new life.  Principally, though, Damned Soles builds custom roller-skate boots for the Australian Roller Derby market; I had the brainwave that Roller Derby girls needed better/ more interesting boots for their sport, and through product and market research I’ve developed a roller-skate boot design that responds to common fitting problems skaters have with their boots, as well as also offering unique style options.

After measuring a client’s feet, I create a unique pattern for them.  From here I modify the last (plastic form shoes are made over), cut the kangaroo and calf leather, cement, stitch, last, sand, and polish my way through the process of building bespoke footwear.  All work is done in my home-based workshop in Ipswich, using a variety of hand-tools and an industrial sewing machine.

 Who or What inspires you creatively?
I’ve always loved the Cendrars’ quote in Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (Robbins) –
I am not of your race. I belong to the Mongol clan which brought to the world a monstrous truth: the authenticity of life and the knowledge of rhythm… You do well to hem me in with the hundred thousand bayonets of Western enlightenment, for woe unto you if I leave the dark of my cave and set about in earnest to chase off your clamorings.”

In 2010 I moved to the desert near Birdsville (Queensland) and experienced a creative epiphany – the sky was so big, and the land so open and quiet, I was able to simply exist and discover what truly fired my spirit up.  Cendrars finally made sense to me – it’s the stark beauty, subtle intricacy, and boldness of presence in the face of terrible forces that challenge and inspire me.  The artistic works of O’Keeffe, Olsen, and Napangardi help me tap into those memories, as do the all the women who have pioneered new territories throughout history, spinning lead into gold by the feminine alchemy of their spirit.

Does ‘Damned Soles’ have any special events coming up?
I will be launching my product “Save Your Sole Shoe Salon” at Fourthchild caf√© (Ipswich) with the help of the Cultiver team.  I’ve been developing the shoe repair side of Damned Soles for the last 3 months, culminating in the product “Save Your Sole Shoe Salon”.

Salons are based on party-plan business delivery – they are “a gathering of like-minded individuals in the parlour of an intriguing host; held to entertain, to refine tastes, and to increase knowledge of the care and repair of shoes.”  Guests bring along their shoes, from dead to damaged, and learn simple strategies to avoid future harm to their shoes, as well as choosing from repair services and maintenance products; the veil of mystery surrounding shoe repairs will be lifted forevermore.  Shoes will be returned to clients within the month, and payment for services and products is through either direct debit or PayPal.  I was going to let this event slip by without pomp or ceremony, but fellow BrisStylers convinced me otherwise…  starting a new product line in a new business *is* a big deal.  It’s definitely worth having a party over.

I’m also working on the second, and hopefully final, test fit of my custom made Roller Derby roller-skate boot style “Leviathan”.  The crew at Skate Salvage (Rocklea) have been helping me over the last year to refine and physically test the design and fit of the boots – they are most excellent.  Releasing Leviathan will be a major milestone for Damned Soles, and lots of champagne will be in order.  Stay tuned over the next month for that product launch!

Is the motto of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ a part of your creative business?
Absolutely.  ‘Sustainability’ is the hallmark of environmental consciousness, but I choose to take it a step further to resilience – not only reducing the amount of waste produced (economical use of materials), reusing materials available (using material offcuts from one project to make other products) and recycling that which cannot be easily reused (school crafty materials!), but also building business practices that are able to bounce back from adverse conditions.  In practice, this means sourcing materials from local suppliers, building diverse business and social networks, and sharing business and product information whenever I can.  Through these actions I support the growth of local industry, receive the support I need to develop my business, and encourage and educate others – all this works towards a positive future for not only shoe making, but all businesses run by artisans, crafters, and amazing women.

Where can people find out more about ‘Damned Soles’?
I’m a very recent convert to Pinterest, but I use it every day… multiple times… my boards keep track of inspirational projects and images, as well as projects I’d like to get my hands into.  There are pins of everything from terrariums (yum!) to awesome tattoos.

Damned Soles on Pinterest
Damned Soles on Facebook
The Damned Soles blog

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