The holy grail of shoemaking the mighty whole cut, I have tried in the past but is a very difficult construction.
What is your favorite shoe ever?
I guess the very first one I finish, I still keep it and sometimes I look at it just a reminded of what you can achieve if you have discipline and work hard.
What shoe style do you prefer the most?
As a shoemaker I love the one piece shoe, simple, clean, beautiful and timeless, also enjoy patina work and this is the best shoe for it. As a wearer depends of the occasion, I think overdress is almost as bad as under-dress, but I like for the most part shoes with intense colors such as red and blue.
The key elements of a good shoe would be…
All elements are important. Some people claim the last is the most important element, some the leather and some others the craftsmanship. I strongly believe all elements are important. If you have the best last in world but don’t have good leather a pair of shoes will not be what it could be. Sports cars are a great source of inspiration for me and all elements in sports car are important, let say the car have very powerful engine but the chassis is ugly it will not be enough, what if you have the best interior and paint job but the car is bulky and slow?
Sports cars are for the most part timeless. A Lamborghini Miura still look spectacular after more that 40 years of being made and this is because engineers,designers and factory workers pay close attention to all details, shoemakers are no different there’s no detail small enough to be ignored.
What are your favorite places to sped your evenings?
Depends I like to be at my workshop working with no distractions while listening good music, also sometimes being outdoor drinking coffee and reading a book or the newspaper, on the weekends I love spending the evenings wearing shorts and riding my BMX bike.
What is your favorite word?
I could not pick one, it’s quite impossible for me but I find the word “dweeb” amusing
What is your least favorite word?
What turn you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
If you want to create beauty you need to be surrounded beauty, I believe beauty is universal does not matter your country of origin,culture,religion or race, you don’t have to be catholic to admire the beauty of the sixteen chapel, I always look to be surrounded by different art forms and take ideas from it, I’m avid music collector, also enjoy the works of the old masters in painting,films among other things, if you spend all your time looking what other people does on your own field you’ll end it up doing what everybody else is doing, you need to find inspiration and new ideas from fields different that yours.
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
“Fuck” is short, practical and convenience to use (I only used when is necessary and appropriate to the context of what is happening) What sounds or noise love? Great music of course! Sometimes you’re in the mood of something upbeat, sometimes you just need to listen jazz or classical music in the background.
What sounds or noise do you hate?
I don’t think I hate a certain sounds but I dislike dog barks (I actually live with two) but the sound is quite annoying.
What profession would you not like to do?
If heaven exist, what you like to hear god say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“Using a wooden box fitted with a lens on one side and a silver-plated sheet of copper on the other, Louis Daguerre set out, in 1838, to capture the image of a Paris street. The technique required a long exposure, too long to catch anything that was moving. So the shoppers and flâneurs who were bustling about that day are lost memories in the now-famous image “Boulevard du Temple.” All that remain are the trees and houses — and two motionless figures in the lower left-hand corner: a shoe shiner and his customer. They are the first two people ever to be photographed, in a strange moment of urban intimacy — one that slows the rush to a halt, suspending time.
In a city now lousy with canvas uppers and flip-flops, the bootblack has lost some of his cachet. But he was once a highly romanticized fixture of urban mythology — in popular imagination, often a street-savvy scamp or a jolly older fellow, laboring to assist and delight. (For example, take the lyrics to Red Foley’s 1950 hit “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy”: “Have you ever passed the corner of Fourth and Grand?/Where a little ball o’ rhythm has a shoe shine stand/People gather ’round and they clap their hand/He’s a great big bundle o’ joy.”) In reality, the people who shine shoes in New York today are mostly immigrants from Latin America — mainly Ecuador — and they labor for the same prosaic reason we all do.
Jessica Muy shines shoes up to six days a week, 11 hours a day, at the Leather Spa in the lower concourse of Grand Central Terminal. She told The Times that a good day brings $80 or $90 and a slow one brings as little as $40. What extra she has, she sends back home to her young daughter in Ecuador. Alex Valente, who works at the East 55th Street branch of Leather Spa, has had better luck. “I made my dreams come true in shoe shining,” he said. “I raised my son here, put him through college, helped with his wedding, and now I’m retiring and moving back to my farm in Brazil.”
Nearly two centuries after Daguerre immortalized that Parisian bootblack, Christopher Griffith photographed the hands of 52 Manhattan shoe shiners. The images are difficult to place. Flesh bound in cloth: They suggest fashion photography or classical statuary or even religious imagery, shroud-wrapped bodies in deathly repose. Inspired by one of the Irving Penn photographs of Miles Davis’s hand — leathery skin, natural light — Griffith said he tried to use “the texture of the skin, the crevices and the lines” to convey a sense of physical and personal history. The project started with Leonard Johnson, who worked at Drago Shoe Repair at the Port Authority until recently, when he retired after a 50-year career as a shoe shiner. His hands, Griffith said, “have this etching of year to year to year to year doing something physical.”
Audio interviews by Catrin Einhorn and Kristen Clark.
Produced by Stacey Baker, Jon Huang, and Riely Clough.
Christopher Griffith is a photographer based in New York. He is working on his fourth book, a collection of pictures of New York City
There too many great parts just to mention a few: when random people tell you how cool your job is,when the customer is happy and order more pairs, the fact you’re contributing to your community and last but not least I love when people stop by the shopping window and look at the shoes on display.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
You never have enough time to do all you want to do!I spend the day talking to customers,thinking about solutions for them,taking care of the business making shoes for my customers and hardly have time to work on my own shoes, as estrange it sounds sometimes I wish someone would make shoes for me.
Tell me more about the different shoe options that gentleman can choose from and how does the bespoke service work?
We have two options: Personalize option: we already have a last collection in different shapes and sizes in which the customer can pick any option he wants, also we have a line of classic models (derby, monk, oxford and more) and also a number of kinds of leathers to choose from the customer pick his options, we have many options but for some customers this is now enough and it’s why we offer bespoke service.
Bespoke option: this is the most exclusive option for our customers, especially for customers who want a perfect fit or have something very personal in mind, customers understand this option also take a lot more time to finish a pair but the result is way beyond what they could get by going shoe shopping, in this case I offer to travel to the customer city at the customer expense or visit my Atelier, usually customers ask me to recommend something for them especially if the have a big event such weddings in some cases customers want something very classic but high quality.
Where do you source the leather to make shoes?
We have many supplies, I’m very lucky to live and work in a city where leather is abundant, we offer calf, alligator, crocodile, elephant, lizard, deer, fish, python among others, in some cases we import some Italian and French calf. When it comes to soles we work with a local company who provide us with the best pit tanned soles, in some rare occasions customers want rubber sole which is also available.
How many people work in your workshop and what are their roles?
Currently only four people work on my workshop: Don Beto, my master pattern maker he’s very calm and down to earth guy over 40 years of experience back his work Martin: he’s in charge of the sewing machine also things such as : gimping, preparations for assembling the upper, assembling the upper and skiving among other things. Gustavo (my dad) he’s in charge of choosing leather and finding the best materials,clicking,taking care of customers. Myself: Lasting, patina work,finishing and hand sewing besides take care of customers.
What was the most extravagant shoe that a client has ever ordered?
One time I was invited to a client’s home, he is a very wealthy person and a shoe lover, he show me his shoe collection (over 120 pairs) different brands and styles and he told me he wanted something very especial and different but he had no idea of what could be, for several day we were thinking what to offer him and we pitch the idea of a pair completely decorated only with tattoos, I friend of my is a tattoo artist and we work for months on the idea and by the end the pair of shoes was decorated with tattoos that represented different moments and events on my client’s life, he decided he will never wear those shoes and keep them as a collection piece.
Please name a few famous clients.
When it comes to famous clients I rather keep it secret, customers trust us with their personal problems or needs all, I can say we have a movie producer, a high profile soccer player, high ranking government officials and some prominent businessmen.
To be continued…
My dad was is charge of running a workshop when I was little, my fist memory was helping him and walking around lasts, uppers, leather hides and more vividly I remember the smell of leather.
What memory do you have of your first order?
Oh, God! That is a very good question, It was a very interesting mix of emotions especially the thrill of knowing we were in business and that order was the beginning of a very important chapter for me and my family, in the other hand the anxiety of not knowing what the client’s reaction would be, I still sometimes feel the same mix of emotions when we are about to deliver a pair to a very challenging customer.
Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career?
I stared working at a very young age doing all sorts of things, I have always been a very active person but never had a job I really like, my dad in another hand had always worked in the shoe industry and his talent was never appreciate and never got the chance to do what he wanted to do, I worked in a call center and one day my dad show me photos of some very beautiful handcrafted shoes made in France ( Berluti I believe) and I fell in love and decided to start learning the craft and weeks later I was fired from my old job and I had some savings and decided start Atelier Amareto.
For 4 years we did nothing but learning and practicing the art of shoemaking, So to answer your question my dad had the greatest influence for choosing this career path and most importantly my dad taught me the love for shoemaking and the values of hard work, honesty and the things you can archive when you do something you love.
Looking back at when you first got into the shoemaking , how does what you are doing now compare to what you thought you would be doing after many years in the workshop?
I think you do me same but in a more efficient and quicker way, you develop more confidence and have more control over a number of things, you also realize you’re never,ever going to stop learning and trying new things, customer always ask you do things you never thought before and also realize they are infinitive ways of doing things in the craft of shoemaking.
How would you describe a typical day of a shoemaker?
I think there’s no such thing as “typical day” when you are a shoemaker, I’m saying this in the most positive way, but usually I start the day by checking and answering emails and making some phone calls, after that I usually have lunch and plan the rest of the day according to appointments with customers, usually after 3 P.M. Until we close I’m just sitting making shoes.
Which other shoemakers do you admire?
There are some many, something I don’t understand is the fact there are some many great shoemakers we don’t really know about, you see amazing photos of shoes but you don’t know who made them but if I have to give names I would say Marcell Mrsan has been a great influence, he’s a big promoter of craft thanks to his tutorials,blog and Facebook group. Another big name for me is Pierre Corthay his style is unique and original the perfect blend of tradition and style, Lazlo Vass and Stefano Bemer among others.
To be continued…