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craft counsel

2nd March 2015

​After the break in the sun, time to get down and dirty with the craft community for more slow-moving construction narrative for the BBC.

Recceing this series is as much fun as shooting it; days spent in ateliers, or in the case of the more earthy subjects, workshops.  Amongst them, time spent at the new/old premises of uber-cool bespoke footwear makers, Gaziano and Girling.

it's mostly hand-work
it's mostly hand-work

Three years ago I shot with G&G in their old works. The adjective Dickensian is over-used, but their artisans created shoes that only the most dedicated followers of fashion could afford, and amongst them only the richest, in a place where Dickens would have sat, if he could find a space, only after putting his hankie down first. In truth it wasn’t filthy, but it was atmospheric.

machinery is hard to fidn - they had to make their own Bed Laster
machinery is hard to find - they had to make their own Bed Laster

You could eat your breakfast off the new facility. It’s the first new set-up in the Northampton footwear trade for more than a century.  If Tony and Dean are judged right for the series, I’ll soon be moving back into my old suite at the Premier Inn, Kettering, and enjoying the dexterity of skivers, closers and clickers once more.

Dickens would have known what this did and still does do
Dickens would have known what this did and still does do

Today Tony was as kind and accommodating as before, guiding me around machines as old as God and explaining the difficulty of finding equipment that was once ubiquitous in this leathery city, but is now impossible to find. Spares are sourced on Ebay, or rescued from rivals going out of business.

that's a fudge wheel - really it is.
that's a fudge wheel - really it is.

The overheads are massive, the labour costs rightly significant, the profit margin tiny, but the men and women who pause in their work to show me shoes that are as much sculpture as footwear, are cheery and characterful. They’re proud of their special place in a trade that’s growing big by shrinking, pleased to again see a time when something well-made is cherished, expensive but worth it. I reckon that’s Dickensian.

only the most dedicated need apply to wear Tony G's shoes, and he likes it that way
only the most dedicated need apply to wear Tony G's shoes, and he likes it that way