“Scarpits” was the name of the house shoes that my Italian “nona” (grandmother) made for all the family and required everyone to wear when visiting her home. I dedicated Crafting Handmade Shoes to her, and described our relationship in the following Introduction to this book.
I am elated with my discovery today – I was thumbing through my precious copy of Primitive Shoes by Margrethe Hald thinking, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if this book were available to everyone.”
I ordered mine from the National Museum of Denmark about twenty years ago and pick it up often to marvel at the brilliance of the minds that figured out so many unique and beautiful ways to cover their feet, and sometimes to attempt to duplicate their creations – the subtitle is: An Archaeological-Ethnological Study Based upon Shoe Finds from the Jutland Peninsula.
I believe the book was published post- humously. Thank you, Margrethe Hald, for leaving such a gift behind.
She even left us with this message and poem:
..”there can be no double that it was a hard fate, and evidence of bitter poverty, to have no protection for one’s feet when conditions were bleak. This can be gathered from the medieval vision poems. In these, to give shoes to the shoeless is accounted a good deed of high merit, in return for which the giver is promised relief on the hard road to the other world.”
(quoted after Knut Liestol)
“Gone have I over Gjaller Bridge
with sharp hooks in a row.
Yet worse I thought the stinking marsh
God help those who there must go!”
“Blest is he who in this life
gave shoes to the needy poor.
He will not have to walk barefoot
on the sharp and thorny moor.”
So, I googled for the book – and found the entire book available at no charge at: http://vitezek.io.ua/album213075
Last night I was scrutinizing a pair of shoes a woman was wearing that looked similar to a Roman latticework sandal – she said they were made by Mia, but I couldn’t find a photo of them on the internet.
The shoes in the photo below are somewhat similar to the shoes I saw, it’s a pair that I’d like to work out the pattern for some day.
I received an email from Ecopel, the naturally tanned and dyed leather from Germany, with information on an exhibition described in the following paragraph. One of the shoes on display is that of Otzi, the mummified man found in the Italian alps about twenty years ago, that proved to be about 5000 years old. (check wikipedia for more information, it’s amazing what has been discovered by testing substances found in his intestines, his mitochondrial DNA, and countless other aspects of him.)
I have been most interested in his shoes, in fact I’ll dig up an article about them and post, but in the meantime his shoes have been reproduced for the exhibit. Here’s a photo of them – I’m fascinated by the way the sole is molded upward and held in place by a strip of leather woven through it – now I want a pair!
The Rhineland-State Museum for archeological, art and cultural history in Bonn is currently showing a special exhibition about footwear. ‘From Ötzis’ shoes to high heels’ 400 samples can be seen here. The exhibition demonstrates that for us as humans, shoes have an essential jacketing and protecting meaning and at the same time are a kind of jewelry and serve as a way of self-expression. Shoe loans of famous people from Picasso over Jürgen Klinsmann to Lady Gaga can be seen there as well as women’s shoes of the Rococo or soldier’s boots of the Roman Age. Someone who is interested in shoes will find a rich fund of information and inspiration visiting the exhibition.
At a Renaissance Faire in CT a few years ago, I ran in to a fine leatherworker named Angus who surprised me with the news that he had made himself a pair of shoes by following the instructions in Crafting HandmadeShoes. When I saw them I was amazed; they were made of vegetable-tanned leather that he had dyed black, then very skillfully-lasted. He added a layered vegetable-tanned heel and fastened them with beautiful buckles, to complete the artisan-crafted look of another time and place. Here is a photo of his shoes.