How many cobblers do you know? Not as in the dessert, but as in the shoemaker. I’m fortunate to know two.
I met Jackie at university, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and university education in Australia was free — must be about 30 years now. Adrian, her shoe-business partner, a few years less than that. Together they run — are — Pendragon, a two-person cottage industry that’s been going almost as long.
Maybe a better term would be “back shed industry”:
Jackie and Adrian make shoes and boots and sandals the old-fashioned and time-consuming way in a shed behind Jackie’s house on the Sunshine Coast, an hour or so north of Brisbane. Many of their designs sport highly theatrical fantasy, mythical or fairytale flourishes; there’s a playful and distinctly Victorian-era quality to others. They sell at markets and online, and on commission, and have made footwear for theatrical productions and movies such as Peter Pan.
I’m not a boot wearer as a rule, northern Winters excepted, and I don’t think Pendragon makes a lightweight high-performance walking shoe (yet), but I did wear a magnificent pair of their prototypical calf-length suede hippie boots onstage in a rock band I was in back then. I remember thinking at one gig, on the outdoor stage in Brisbane’s Albert Park, “God, we sound like crap, but I look like freakin’ Robin Hood up here!”.
Nowadays my footwear, like most of my clothes, tends towards the practical rather than the whimsical. Just this morning, attempting to stalk a pelican on a muddy and mangrovey bank (that was for you, Kate), I became so mired in thick, deep, fragrant mud that in extracting my foot, I left the shoe (standard $60 Asics — I go through a couple of pairs a year and I only run if a bird or other beast is in pursuit) deeply entrenched. The resultant scrubbing and bleaching and sun-drying would surely be the death of a Robin Hood boot…
I caught up with Jackie and Adrian a month and a half ago for the first time in ages. Alex and I had lunch with them in her beautiful sunroom…
..before they headed to the backyard to get back to work in their newly refurbished and yet somehow eternally dark and dusty (in a good way) workshop.
I’ve had very little experience photographing people at work, and though rushed, really enjoyed the experience. Obviously most of their tools are simple, old-fashioned and serve a specific purpose. They’ve also accumulated a lot of suitably vintage accoutrements, such as their beautiful old chests of drawers, that complement the timeless, functional beauty of a craftsperson’s workspace.
Jackie & Adrian are presently in Paris, exhibiting their wares as part of World Fashion Week. Being but humble cobblers, they successfully sought — and exceeded — the required funds via crowdfunding. Félicitations, folks! Now it’s time I retrieved my skanky runners from the clothesline and headed back to the mud…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote