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Workshop at Green Shoes

Monday 18 th June 2012

Ruben cutting Lorica, synthetic leather for vegan shoesOnce upon a time we had a question: what about vegan shoes? People who don't want to eat meat, should not wear leather. But what do they put on their shoes? After all, it's not only the leather: contact glue also comes from animals.

Searching and searching we found Green Shoes in England, a lovely shoemaking shop... Which had vegan shoes and courses on shoemaking. We could not let this opportunity pass to learn new methods and how to work new materials. Meeting shoemakers abroad was also thrilling.

Laia hammering Lorica, synthetic leather for vegan shoesSo we booked the course, booked a flight and a charming bed and breakfast. All set for a quick trip to the land of tea and fish and chips.

The course was in Buckfastleigh, a medieval town not excessively far from Exeter. The trip was quite long: Barcelona-Gatwick by plane and then train to Reading, train to Totnes and bus to Buckfastleigh. Looong... On our way back to London we made it quicker via Victoria Station-London Paddington-Exeter and a bus to Buckfastleigh. A pity our schedule for the first day didn't let us. Back in Buckfastleigh, Kilbury Manor – our bed and breakfast – was a quiet place to relax before the course the next day. A good cup of fairtrade tea by the window and a good night's sleep made wonders for our "train lag."

Ruben sewing his handmade artisan shoesAn English breakfast is always a good set-up for the day (even more for Spanish people, not used to so big breakfasts,) luckily Green Shoes was just 5 minutes shy from Kilbury Manor and we could eat slowly. We got there early and chatted a little with the teachers and shoemakers, about how Lorica (the synthetic leather we would use) works and how their designs came to be.

Laia putting the last inside her handmade artisan shoesThe course was taught mainly by Alison and Steph, who have been making shoes for 50 years combined, and we also got tips and a good time with Amy and Becky. We were just Laia, Ruben and Lizzy taking the course, so it was quite a relaxing experience. The workshop is in an old mill, which can get chilly at times, or so they say. Although the weather had been horrible the day before, on course day a little sun warmed the day.

Ruben made English field boots with navy and brown Lorica, Laia made a pair of loafers with maroon Lorica. Lizzy, our classmate also made field boots (hers made of crimsom leather.) It was wonderful to see how other shoemakers follow the process, since their method of making shoes is very different from what we were used to do. We also found new ideas on design, useful tools and just a different approach to shoemaking. Very refreshing!

We can only recommend them if you happen to be in England and want to do a shoemaking course. If you do, say hello from Ruben and Laia from The Fancy Puffin!

Rubén Berenguel
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