Australia, Random Rambles
Comments 10

This Post Was Cobbled Together

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”:

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Jackie’s place & the cobbling shed, right.

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…

mmm

A world-class collection of junk art.

..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.

Over the last 23 years we have managed to collect a great amount of lasts, tools, leather, heels, vintage fabrics and braids, buckles, old machines (some working), and books. People often ask us where we get our inspiration. The designs we come up with are often a result of being surrounded by so much stuff…stuff you can make things out of on a whim. Each pair of shoes is handmade by the two of us using a variety of materials and tools and a few essential but ageing machines. We have a large border collie dog called Sunny who spends most of his day lying on the floor in the most inconvenient places seemingly unaware of the activity around him. Until we turn on a noisy machine like the compressor or the chickens walk in and he springs into action dashing around the place to round everything up and check all is in order. It all makes for the perfect organised chaos that is Pendragon ~ From the Pendragon website

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 crowdfundingFélicitations, folks! Now it’s time I retrieved my skanky runners from the clothesline and headed back to the mud…

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~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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10 Comments

  1. joannie6535 says

    I love the thought that these two are out there somewhere in the world doing this – living out their lives devoted to their craft and making these fine shoes….and I think that pair of boots are just my size and would look superb…guess I’ll have to visit the website. Hmmm.

  2. You are in new photographic territory, and this is right up there among my favorite posts ever on your blog. Your cobbler friends and their workshop are entirely engaging. I love seeing all the tools. The shoes are works of art. I especially like the photo of Sunny with Jackie and Adrian. Excellent!

    • Thanks, Am! Made a nice change from sunrises, various beasts, trees and mudflats. You have to admire their dedication to their craft — and the constant improvement to their product, not to mention the variety. I envy anyone who can make a living doing something so satisfying and expressive.

  3. Nerolie Wallace says

    A fantastic post Ian. A very interesting intro from you but frankly your photos told the story. Absolutely STUNNING photos… Gorgeous colours. I really enjoy reading this kind of blog – a peek into the lives of people doing unusual and interesting things. More please 🙂
    Ps what about submitting this post and photos to a local Sunshine Coast lifestyle mag or paper?
    Pps Crowd funding…. Are you still considering it?

    >

    • Thanks, Nerolie, it was a nice change for me. I don’t do many people shots and I’ve missed a few good opportunities with strangers as I don’t like imposing myself on them, brandishing a camera. Landscapes and insects are so much more accommodating.

      As for the crowd funding, my immediate priority (apart from writing a long-overdue post) is looking into a new look for the blog, something that will show off the pictures a bit better. Maybe after that…

      As for the shoemakers, this is a few days old. The bottom picture (uncredited 😦 ) is mine: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2014/10/16/4108326.htm

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