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Hone Your Craft

How to Make Your First Pair of Kicks—Even in a Tiny Spare Bedroom

Hone Your Craft BY tess falotico 11/03/2016

 

Look, we’re in awe of anyone who makes an actual, wearable product in their apartment (which so, so many of our designers do or did at one point). But we reserve a special caliber of snaps for Ariana Bohling, who started making leather shoes (!!!) out of her spare bedroom—and did it so well that she turned it into her livelihood and moved part-time to Peru, where she works with local leather workers to create each new collection. But she took a trip down memory lane for us to explain how she sandal-strapped her way to success in those early days (and to maybe motivate you to do the same?).

 

Arianabohlingblackwhiteadultscuffs product 10
Alpaca Art Deco Adult Slippers
50 OF A KIND . SOLD OUT
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FIND A SMALL-SPACE SOLUTION

 

“I lived in a two-bedroom apartment when I first started out, and I turned the second bedroom into a teeny-tiny shoemaking studio. I just had a sewing machine, a table, a sanding machine, and a band saw, and I cut everything by hand.”

 

DRAW IT OUT

 

“To develop an idea for a shoe, I start with a little sketch (nothing fancy). This eventually gets broken down into individual patterns for of each piece of the shoe. In the early days I did all the pattern making and grading by hand.  The only time i used a computer was to grade the sole for the sock wraps on the sandals.

 

Arianabohlingblackwhitebabyscuffs product 4
Alpaca Art Deco Baby Slippers
40 OF A KIND . SOLD OUT
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GET THE GOODS

 

“When I was still making everything in NYC, I would buy my insole boards, soling, shoe glue, and cushioning at Kaufman Shoe Repair. I used Ecoglue to bond the uppers (the top part of the shoe) to the rest of the shoe, to make the process a little less toxic for myself. For the soles, you have to use super strong glue, unfortunately, which isn’t great for you. I got my leather from a super high-end store called Libra Leather, which is where Alexander Wang went when he started doing bubble leather. Then I would collect any buckles or knobs I needed from stores like M&J Trimming in the Fashion District.”

 

PUT SOME SOLE INTO IT

 

“Once all the pieces were in place, I would cut out the insole boards and the cushioning using my patterns, and then wrap the insole boards in leather. Then I’d use one leather for the lining and another on top of it for the upper, and laminate those two together using the Ecoglue. When I first started out, I was making a lot of braided sandals. I’d braid the two thin strips of leather by hand to make a strap. I left a lot of the edges raw for a Brazilian-inspired look, but I’d do some stitching in the back of the shoe where the buckles were.”

 

TIE IT ALL TOGETHER

 

Lasting is the  process where you glue the pieces of the shoe into place and then sand everything down to create nice smooth surfaces. I’d cut the outsoles out of leather using a bandsaw, attach it to a rubber heel, and glue the whole thing to the bottom of the shoe. I actually made this machine that looked like a car jack and used to apply as much pressure as possible to the shoe so the sole would be really secure.”

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