During the week I received an intriguing email from Carmel who, together with her husband, has the enormous task of cleaning out her late parents' home. It just so happens that her father was a shoemaker, would I be interested in any of his old things, before they go into landfill via a skip?
Wow - these instances are what a young shoemaker dreams of, it's always so interesting to see another person's equipment and supplies, let alone get to take them home. Carmel showed me all the various stash spots her father had; the timber lasts had been under the house, the rolls of leather and thonging were in huge trunks in the garage (which had been used to ship his belongings to Australia when he emigrated as a young man), and the hand tools were in another separate shed out the back.
I managed to find some amazing items to bring home, I've just sorted through them and am airing the studio, as they have a particularly strong ancient leathery-dusty smell that is not quite but almost overpowering.
Rolls and rolls of leather thonging, some folded, some wide.
Some impressive hides; huge full grain brown ones, waxy pistachio, rich glossy burgundy, divine black kid. Some of them are quite large, and at current prices would be way out of my range, but will be perfect for belts.
The smallest last I have ever seen, and it's obviously been used for a wee person's christening shoe or something for a big occasion. Unfortunately we couldn't find its partner, but I did get a full range of well-used timber childrens' lasts.
A box of toe stiffeners, and numerous pairs of leatherboard heel stiffeners.
Amazing old awls and a hammer used for nailing heels on. I'm totally in love with the awls, you already know that I have a real fondness for old tools, and these are aged in such a special way.
I put my apron on, as I'm wearing head to toe white today, looked a bit like Friar Tuck as I attempted to tie the strap around my ever-increasing girth, and as I type I can still smell that old leathery smell (from the supplies, not me smelling like Friar Tuck!).
Thanks so much Carmel, it's incredibly thoughtful and generous of you to pass these items on. Mille Grazie!