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Hand Made in America: Contemporary Custom Footwear

I am honored to share the stage in 2023 with so many footwear makers that I have admired FOREVER!

From February 8-May 14, 2023

at the Center for Design and Material Culture

University of Wisconsin - Madison

curated by the extraordinary

Amara Hark Weber

Opening Reception on February 9, 2023 5:00 -7:00

Information on the exhibit HERE


We had an extraordinary panel discussion with Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum, Amara Hark Weber, and Jesse Moore, shoemakers. Find more information HERE.

Wisteria Bronze photo credit: Becky Behar

While I do make boots for clients, some of my work crosses over into an art practice where I am learning through a craft-based process and communicating ideas through craft. One of the pieces in this exhibition started as a straight forward pair of boots early in my bootmaking career, that evolved into something else. This project is good insight into how I use process to "think".

As a student of Jim Covington, he discouraged me from making elaborate boot designs and instead to focus on the structure of the boot. It was difficult to explain that as an artist sometimes I HAVE to make certain things and analyze why later. Jim was 100% correct in that these elaborately inlaid/overlaid boots are worthless as boots since they are unwearable, but they are a perfect example of how process for me extends beyond one stage, one intent.

Left to right: Photocopy of a photograph of wisteria leaf shadows on a screen, bootmaking pounce pattern in leather inlay process, light shining through pounce pattern, powdered marks of pounce pattern on leather.

These stages demonstrate a "removal of marks" from one ephemeral moment in time to an eventual 9 stages toward bronze.

These boots have decorative designs that began with an ephemeral shadow of Wisteria leaves on a window. The ensuing process of translating an ephemeral moment of nature into a decades-lasting work in leather, then centuries-lasting in bronze, is evidence of the themes I work out in my head through process:

What does a shadow mean when it is removed from plant, to light, to photo, to xerox, to drawing, to pounce-pattern, to leather clicking, to 3-D scan, to rubber mould, to bronze casting? If these boots had been a simple exercize in boot construction their life and potential would have been very different. They are failures as wearable footwear, (which makes their 2nd place award at the World Leather Debut in 2017 ironic) but they are also gateways of potential in questioning marking-making, tradition, legacy, and the human need to try to capture and preserve moments that cannot be truly preserved: like the casting of baby shoes.

Here the American tradition of using a boot-wearer's initials as a design element merges with the European tradition of hand-embroidering monograms. The script font is from a text at the Boston Public Library's French monogram collection from the 1800s. Piece by piece, I connect to my foremothers through hand-stitching techniques, as I locate my place within several living traditions.


More to come on the stories behind the works in this exhibition in future blog posts.



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