As a child I read a lot of fairy tales. It now occurs to me that many of the stories involved shoe makers.
Shoe making is such an important occupation that many fairy tales give shoemakers magical powers. Some use them for good, others for evil. Then there is the story I love about a poor shoemaker who is struggling to get one pair of shoes done from one last piece of leather. When things are about to get really desperate, he gets help from little elves. These little industrious men show up at his house while he sleeps and make such beautiful boots and shoes that the shoe maker becomes prosperous and lives on happily ever after.
Here are a couple of illustrations to this story by one of my favorite artists/magicians, Oleg Dergachov, from his 2004 book “The Yellow Elves”:
Sometimes I picture Spanish shoe makers like these mysterious shoe makers of old – quietly working away, honing that individual pair of shoes, putting a charm on them, so that they bring luck to people who wear them and take them to good places. This a fairy tale view of it, of course, but time and time again I get reminded that not everything is governed by the bottom line, that you do need a bit of magic to persevere in this craft and that shoe makers have a lot to do with our paths in life.
At Manresa Cathedral in Catalonia they have a Saint Mark altarpiece, created in the 14th century by Arnau Bassa, where you can catch a rare glimpse of real shoe makers of old. It shows the craftsmen with awls, shears for cutting out soft leather uppers, and side-lace ankle shoes.
And finally, while browsing through Yoox, I found these recent creations by Spanish shoe makers that look like they could have been manufactured at least four centuries ago, but are as desirable today as they were then.
Chie Mihara square heel ostrich-print ankle boots that Puss in Boots wishes he could get his paws on:
Check out these textile fabric moccasins by Paco Gil – perfect for modern day courtly ladies:
If you feel like these are for you, click on the images to see whether your size is available.
Long live the shoe makers and their magic!