Sep
25

Daniela Ghezzo dresses your feet

By

It’s remotely conceivable that I might attempt what Daniela is doing (actually, it’s not), but I can promise I wouldn’t be smiling.

Several readers were kind enough to inquire as to what could possibly be so big and impressive (or time-consuming, or distracting, or whatever) to keep me off my blog for so long.

Now it can be revealed that I was writing a rather big article about Daniela Ghezzo, a Venetian custom shoemaker, for an excellent new online magazine called “Craftsmanship.”  And if I have not yet bombarded you with the news via the social networks, let me bombard you here.

http://craftsmanship.net/the-soul-of-the-italian-shoe/

The point of mentioning it isn’t so much to display my amazing creative abilities, but to bring forward a person with even more amazing creative abilities, not to mention skill, not to mention manual dexterity and fabulous imagination.  Why do I know how hard it is to do what she does?  Because she makes it look so easy.  Zwingle’s Third Law: The harder something is to do, the more the ignorant onlooker thinks “Hey!  I could do that!”  Fred Astaire always looked as if he didn’t even have sweat glands.

I hope if any of you finds yourself in her street that you will pause to imbibe the beauty, but that you will manage not to let your pause interfere too much with whatever she’s doing.  Being open to the public is a great thing for her business, of course, but can be a drawback to her work, and if it turns out you’re the tenth person to stop to ask her what she’s doing– which of course, you won’t know — it means she will probably have donated more than an hour of her day to friendly questions, and when you’re working it’s not so easy to start and stop and start again.  Some shoemakers work only by appointment for that reason, and some beleaguered artisans in Venice now charge money for stopping long enough to talk to people. Just saying.

Of course, if you intend to ask her to make a pair of shoes for you, your encounter obviously will not qualify as time wasted.

She'd probably make a superb guitarist -- she knows exactly what each finger has to do, and she makes them do it.

She’d probably make a fine guitarist — she knows exactly what each finger has to do, and she makes them do it.

Which is not to say everything always goes smoothly.

Which is not to say everything always goes smoothly.

Zwingle's TK Law, illustration #1: The simpler it looks, the harder it was to accomplish.

Zwingle’s Third Law, illustration #1: The simpler it looks, the harder it was to accomplish.  Each millimeter has been calculated with implacable precision.

But there are also shoes that make me smile, like these sandals.

But there are also shoes that make me smile, like these sandals.

Especially the heels. It takes a certain turn of mind to enjoy putting the best bit where nobody can see it.

Especially the heels. It takes a certain turn of mind to enjoy putting the best bit where nobody can see it.

An artist making shoes will eventually do a little painting on them.

An artist making shoes will eventually do a little painting on them.

It's the border that makes this shoe, though the thought of folding and stitching it makes me grind my teeth. Her logo is the symbol that was used by the Venetian shoemakers' guild, or scuola.

It’s the border that makes this shoe, though the thought of folding and stitching it makes me grind my teeth. Her logo is the symbol that was used by the Venetian shoemakers’ “scuola,” or guild.

Sure, I'll just fold this piece of leather into the narrowest conceivable border.

Sure, I’ll just fold this piece of leather into the narrowest conceivable border.

This relief sculpture over the main door of the Scoletta dei Calegheri in Campo San Toma' shows the miracle of San Marco healing the injry suffered by Aniano while repairing his sandals. Saint Aniano became the patron saint of the guild.

This relief sculpture over the main door of the Scoletta dei Calegheri in Campo San Toma’ shows the miracle of San Marco healing the injury suffered by Aniano while repairing his (Marco’s) sandals. Aniano became the patron saint of the guild.  Meaning no disrespect, their encounter does sort of look like Androcles and the lion.

On the other side of the city, near Campo Santo Stefano, is what remains of the scuola of the calegheri tedeschi, or German shoemakers. No mingling, no fraternizing.

On the other side of the city, near Campo Santo Stefano, is what remains of the scuola of the calegheri tedeschi, or German shoemakers. No mingling, no fraternizing.  Here the scene is the classic depiction of the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Annunciation being the guild’s patron saint.

The corner of the building has more shoes, just to make sure we know it belongs to the Germans. The hammer and sickle graffito at no extra charge.

The corner of the building has yet more shoes, just to make sure we understand its significance. The hammer and sickle graffito at no extra charge.

Tracing the shoe's pattern onto a sheet of ostrich-skin is careful work, what with the bumps and all.

Tracing the shoe’s pattern onto a sheet of ostrich-skin is careful work, what with the bumps and all.

This pin-up has been in the shop since the last Ice Age, and she has no intention of removing it.

This pin-up has been in the shop since the last Ice Age, and she has no intention of removing it.

Every step requires some sort of exertion -- here she is pulling the last out of a nearly finished man's oxford. Talk about a perfect fit: The only way to pull the last out is to hook a long metal rod into a special hole in the plastic form, brace with foot, pull with might and, if necessary, also main.

Every step requires some sort of exertion — here she is pulling the last out of a nearly finished man’s oxford. Talk about a perfect fit: The only way to pull the last out is to hook a long metal rod into a special hole in the plastic form, brace with foot, pull with might and, if necessary, also main.

Speaking of exertion, consider this 70-yeer-old boot from Switzerland. I'd never given much thought to what hobnails really were, but this object looks like it could double as the murder weapon.

Speaking of exertion, consider this 70-yeer-old boot from Switzerland. I’d never given much thought to what hobnails really were, but this object looks like it could double as the murder weapon.

These nails are all over the sole, too. This shoe's in better shape than I am, but then, I'm not studded with hobnails.

These nails are all over the sole, too. This shoe’s in better shape than I am, but then, I’m not studded with hobnails.

When you think of Venetian art, you usually think of paintings and, occasionally, sculpture. Please add this to your artistic considerations: the outer edge of the heel protrudes infinitesimally further than the inner side of the heel. This refinement is to resist the wear which inevitably occurs on the outer edge of the heel -- you know, the part that finally forces you to take the shoe to the shop and have the thing repaired.

When you think of Venetian art, you usually think of paintings and, occasionally, sculpture. Please add this to your artistic considerations: the outer edge of the heel protrudes infinitesimally further from the vamp than does the inner side of the heel. This refinement is to resist the wear which inevitably occurs on the outer edge of the heel — you know, the part that finally forces you to take the shoe to the shop and have the thing repaired.

You're not looking at a mere shoe, but at years of someone's life -- the same sort of years that Vladimir Horowitz spent learning to play an arpeggio that floats itself off the keyboard. This shoe is another of those "nothing to it" feats that lure civilians into dark jungles of unsuspected struggle.

You’re not looking at a mere shoe, but at years of someone’s life — the same sort of years that Vladimir Horowitz spent learning to play an arpeggio that floats itself off the keyboard. This shoe is another of those deceptively “nothing to it” feats that lure civilians into dark jungles of unsuspected labor and toil.

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Comments

  1. Sean says:

    The piece on the Craftsmanship site is astutely observed, deeply reported, sensitively photographed and worth the wait for your regular readers here. Hope you were generously compensated for the considerable effort that went into it such that you could splurge on a pair of shoes for yourself 😈.

  2. Michelle says:

    I agree with the comment from Sean.
    The only problem is to find some way to pay for a pair of her shoes for myself! Maybe if I start saving now…

  3. Rosalind says:

    Great articles (both of them) and superb shoes.

  4. Andreas Jonsson says:

    Thanks for the beautiful glimpse of craftsmanship in Venice. There is something really special about watching skilled persons in their crafts. I like stories about ordinary, however talanted, people going about their everyday business. It gives a reassuring feeling that life goes on also in Venice.Like Jerome said: “I love work: It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours” 🙂
    Unfortunately I suppose her shoes are well out of range för my wallet, otherwise I’d bring my wife around her shop when we come to Venice. Oh, well. What’s shoes when you could have un’ Ombra at El Refolo instead. 🙂

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I’m glad you liked the post. As noted in the article I linked to, her shoes for women start at 1,400 euros. Only you can decide which is more desirable at that price, a pair of shoes or 560 ombre….

      • Andreas Jonsson says:

        Perhaps not all in the same afternoon…

        Talking about everyday work in Venice; How is the Internet connection? After reading your blog I find it hard to belive that the city, in it’s wisdom, have installed optical fibre throughout the city but you’ll never know. I was wondering if telecommuting could be a possiblilty to make it possible to live in Venice and go into the office in, say, Padova maybe once a week?

        • Erla Zwingle says:

          It’s not the city that installs fiber optic cables, it’s the companies that are directly involved. At the moment, the only two providers of telephone/internet service that use fiber optic cables are Telecom and Vodafone. I use Fastweb which is usually fast, though certain sites (such as Dropbox) take forever, while others (Google Photos) are very quick to upload. Otherwise, you must research the issue on your own — there are other companies as well — seeing that only you know what sort of demands you have to make on the communications systems here.

          • Erla Zwingle says:

            I have since learned that there are more than two providers with fiber-optic cables; Fastweb and also TIM and also Wind (“Infostrada”). So to conclude, you won’t lack options for internet connections here.

          • Andreas Jonsson says:

            Gramersè! 🙂
            Thank you for your help. I was just dreaming of the possibility of telecommuting. Given the decline in the really local workplaces like the small shops and factories perhaps the future lies in technology if people are going to be able to live where they want and also make a living there.
            I’m actually taking my wife and daughter to Venice this week-end so we’ll probably swing by sior Bianchi on via Garibaldi. I’m so looking forward to seeing Venice again.