Monday, April 25, 2016

The Arctic Landscape - Alaska

Figure 1 King Salmon Skin Boots, 1992. Bethel, Alaska. (Photo: Ron Wood © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
University of Manitoba researchers Rick Riewe and Jill Oakes first travelled to Alaska in the summer of 1989 on behalf of the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation. Visiting over fifteen different communities, they learned about hunting, fishing, skin preparation and bootmaking. Rick and Jill also developed important relationships with several seamstresses who contributed artifacts to the museum’s permanent collection. One such seamstress, Eliza Chase, created a pair of salmon-skin boots featured in our exhibit, Art and Innovation.

Figure 2 Eliza Chase Preparing Fish. Bethel, Alaska, 1990. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Through their archival research, Rick and Jill had learned about waterproof salmon skin boots, and they were eager to collect a pair for the museum. With its long coasts, as well as numerous lakes, marshes and islands, Alaska can have a very wet environmental landscape, particularly in the spring. For centuries, Inupiat and Yup’ik seamstresses resourcefully used natural materials such as fish skins to create warm and waterproof boots. By the end of the 20th century, fish skin boots had become increasingly rare in Alaska, as rubber gradually became more popular. Nevertheless, Rick and Jill remained determined to find a seamstress who still made these boots.

Figure 3 Kuskokwim River, Alaska. 1990. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
During their time in Alaska, Rick and Jill learned about a seamstress named Eliza Chase who lived at a fishing camp near the Kuskokwim River. They met with Eliza who promised that she would make salmon skin boots for the museum and mail them to Rick and Jill once they returned to Canada. Several months after returning to Manitoba, Rick and Jill still hadn’t heard from Eliza, and they figured that she may have forgotten about their request. Over two years later, they received a box in the mail containing three pairs of fish-skin boots along with a note. It turned out that Eliza had accidentally misplaced Rick and Jill’s business card, but once she found it, she made the boots and sent them right over!

Figure 4 Eliza Chase. Bethel, Alaska, 1990. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
The boots on display are made of king salmon skin and feature hard sealskin soles. Using a watertight stitch, patches of light salmon skin were carefully sewn onto the shaft in order to stitch-up the dorsal fin holes. The scales are still intact and add dimension, color and texture to the boots. This pair is completely unlined, but the shafts are topped off with textile cuffs and a drawstring. These boots are incredibly lightweight, and seem a bit fragile to the touch. However, pairs such as these often became much stronger and flexible once they became wet. In colder weather, boots such as these were worn with grass or textile liners.

Figure 5 King Salmon Skin Boots, 1992. Bethel, Alaska. ( Photo © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
This pair of boots is an important part of our collection because it provides evidence of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of seamstresses in Alaska who created waterproof footwear using a variety of locally-available materials. In addition, it demonstrates the close relationships that Rick and Jill made with local seamstresses during their field research. The Bata Shoe Museum’s circumpolar collection would not have existed without the kindness, generosity and expertise of the makers who donated their footwear.  

Figure 6 King Salmon Skin Boots, 1992. Bethel, Alaska. (Photo © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)

Listen to an audio recording of how we collected these boots and more by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Arctic Landscape - Greenland

Greenland is the world’s largest island. For most of the year, it is blanketed by ice, but its coasts are inhabited by numerous communities who have thrived in this arctic environment for generations. Though it is a North American landmass, Greenland has been culturally and politically connected to Europe since the 10th century. Over the past thousand years, Greenland has been settled by different groups of Inuit and Nordic peoples. After centuries of Danish colonization, Greenland became an autonomous country in the Kingdom of Denmark in 2009. Traditional Greenlandic dress reflects this long and culturally complex history, and often displays a mixture of Inuit and European influences and materials. 

Sakarine Steeholdt wearing the Greenlandic national costume that she made. Nuuk, Greenland. August, 1988. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Sakarine Steeholdt wearing the Greenlandic national costume that she made. Nuuk, Greenland. August, 1988. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Characterized by bright colors and elaborate embellishments, Greenlandic clothing can reveal a wealth of personal information about the wearer, including their gender, occupation, marital status, as well as which community they are from. Over the course of the 20th century, traditional Greenlandic clothing also became an important part of a larger discussion concerning national identity. As Greenlanders pushed for greater social and political autonomy, a colorful and recognizable national costume was gradually developed. Today, many Greenlanders wear their national dress during special occasions, to celebrate holidays and mark important rites of passage. A complete national costume, including several pairs of highly embellished boots, are currently on display in our latest exhibit Art and Innovation: Traditional ArcticFootwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection.  

Many of the Greenlandic artifacts featured in our exhibit were obtained by University of Manitoba researchers Dr. Rick Riewe and Dr. Jill Oakes. In 1988 and 1989, they travelled to Greenland on behalf of the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation not only to collect artifacts, but also to learn about traditional bootmaking techniques directly from those who made and wore these pieces. Their field trips along the northern and western coasts of Greenland yielded a wealth of information about hunting, skin preparation, sewing, as well as boot and clothing construction in these different communities.
White sealskin boots made by Sakarine Steenholdt. Nuuk, Greenland. c. 1970. (Photo: Suzanne Petersen © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)

One of the most interesting Greenlandic artifacts featured in this exhibit is a pair of tall white sealskin boots (right), or kamiit, which Rick and Jill collected while they were in Nuuk. Each boot is composed of two pieces; the short outer boot is made of bleached, dehaired sealskin, while the tall inner boot is adorned with red textile, silk-thread needlework, and a black sealskin cuff. The shaft of the inner boot features floral embroidery and lace decoration which shows European influence, while the horizontal band of seal-skin embroidery, known as avittat, reflects Inuit heritage. Sealskin is a material which has natural water-repellent abilities and it has been used innovatively in Greenlandic bootmaking for centuries. This particular pair of boots was made by Sakarine Steenholdt in the 1970s, which she wore as part of her national costume during special events and religious holidays.

Red sealskin boots. Disco Island, West Greenland. c. 1955. (Photo: Ron Wood © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Red sealskin boots. Disco Island, West Greenland. c. 1955. (Photo: Ron Wood © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Another highlight piece from the BSM’s Greenlandic collection is this pair of thigh-high red boots (left). They are made of de-haired sealskin which has been colored bright red using commercial paint. Each boot also features a sealskin inner boot topped with a black fur cuff. This pair was specially made by Laurie Jeremiassen in 1955 for her silver wedding anniversary, while she was living on Disco Island in West Greenland. Like the tall white boots, this pair is decorated with colorful lines of avittat. This embroidery is achieved with tiny, rectangular pieces of dyed sealskin which are painstakingly stitched one by one to create intricate designs. While conducting field research in Greenland, Rick and Jill learned how to create avittat embroidery, as well as other decorative techniques, from seamstresses such as Karen Nielsen (pictured below). As a result, they developed a greater appreciation of the creativity and skillfulness that seamstresses needed to create these types of boots.

Karen Neilsen and Jill Oakes. Nuuk, Greenland. August, 1988. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Karen Neilsen and Jill Oakes. Nuuk, Greenland. August, 1988. (Photo: Jill Oakes © Bata Shoe Museum, 2016)
Colorful and intricately embellished boots such as these examples were often reserved for special occasions, and could be worn as a part of the Greenlandic national costume. To make a pair is a huge undertaking as these boots require time, patience and dexterity to create. Traditional Greenlandic boots often display a resourceful mix of naturally-sourced materials such as sealskin and sinew, as well as commercially-available materials such as lace, cotton and silks. Through their choice of materials and decorative styles, seamstresses’ fashioned footwear which reflected a mix of European and Inuit influences in a way that was distinctly and uniquely Greenlandic.

These examples offer a brief glimpse into all of the wonderful footwear and clothing that we currently have on display in Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Clothing from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Empreintes": A BSM installation by Parisian artist Pascale Peyret

2015 has been a wonderfully busy year for the Bata Shoe Museum. We’ve been celebrating our 20th anniversary with new exhibits in our galleries and new art installations in our atrium. On October 1st, we unveiled Empreintes, an installation by French artist Pascale Peyret, which consists of 180 carbonized shoe lasts suspended from the ceiling of our 4-story atrium.

2015 is not only a celebratory year for us, it also marks an important date for the Government of Ontario: it is the 400th anniversary of the French presence in our province. In order to celebrate these two milestone events, The BSM worked with the Consulate General of France in Toronto and the Office of Francophone Affairs to invite Pascale to create a dynamic art installation in our museum.   

Pascale first visited the Bata Shoe Museum in December 2014 and spent several days going through our artifact collection. While examining the soles of our shoes, she became interested in the concept of footprints and what traces, both literal and metaphorical, human beings leave on the planet. Pascale began plans to create a large, spiral-shaped installation made of carbonized wooden shoe lasts that would hang in our atrium. These lasts were designed to represent our collective footprints, and the social and environmental impact of our lives.  

Shortly after her visit, Pascale began collecting wooden shoe lasts, which are forms that shoemakers use to shape and create footwear. These lasts came from several different sources around the world, and Pascale worked with Martial Acquerone in the south of France to carbonize these lasts; a process which gave them a rich, dark, black sheen. She also designed a large metal frame, shaped like a carbon molecule, on which these lasts would hang. Suspended from each last is a transparent label which has written on it an important message about the environment. Working with Alliance Francais, the BSM collected over 200 labels on which Francophone youth reflected on their own carbon footprints, and wrote messages about how we can collectively change our habits to reduce our negative impact on the environment.

After several months of careful planning, the installation began in late September. The lasts themselves were very fragile so we had to be extremely careful during the hanging process to limit any damage. Fortunately, we had an amazing installation team, which included very skilled rope climbers from Rope Access Maintenance, and after a few late nights, we had the installation successfully up! Pascale was here on hand when we officially unveiled the installation as part of Nuit Blanche, and visitors were excited to learn about Empreintes from the artist herself.

Visitors to the Bata Shoe Museum can see Pascale’s work through January 31st, 2016.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

20 Shoes to Inspire your Halloween Costume!

In honour of our 20th anniversary year we're creating some fun top 20 lists from the BSM collection! Join us in celebrating this milestone by learning something new and unique about the BSM collection.

In celebration of Halloween later this month, here is a list of 20 shoes that may just inspire your Halloween costume this year!

1) Astronaut
This astronaut’s training boot from the Apollo Space Program were worn by Jim Lovell and are on loan from the National Air & Space Museum.

2) Disco Queen 
This pair of platform sling-backs with a funky pattern are Loris Azzaro originals from the 1970s. 

3) Spy
These leather brogues were actually worn by James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan in the 1999 spy film "The World is not Enough".

4) Witch
This pair of lace-up boots from 1900 are perfect for a classic witch costume. 

5) Baseball Player
Worn by Toronto Blue Jay Dave Winfield at the last game of the 1992 World Series.

6) Knight
Sabatons are armoured footwear worn as part of a complete suit of amour. This pair of authentic German gothic sabatons are from 1490.

7) Ballerina
These silk ballet pointe shoes were worn by Veronica Tennant, one of Canada's most famous ballerinas. 

8)Race Car Driver 
These Sparco racing boots were worn by Nigel Mansell when he won the 1992 Formula 1 Championship driving for William Renault.

9) Pop Star
As a member of the Spice Girls, one of the most successful girl bands, Gerri Halliwell (better known as "Ginger Spice") rocked these platforms in the 1990s.

10) Policeman/woman
This pair of Canadian police motorcycle boots in black leather are from the 1990s.

11) Cinderella
These square-toed glass slippers look nearly identical to the ones Cinderella wore to the ball in the classic 1950 film.

12) Clown
This pair of red leather clown boots worn and signed by Ronald McDonald himself!

13) Movie Star
These strappy high heeled evening sandals by Halston were owned by one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century, Elizabeth Taylor

14) Princess
These classic turquoise pumps were made in 1987 by Rayne for Princess Diana. 

15) Cowboy

These classic cowboy boots were made by Tony Lama in the middle of the 20th century and are ready to be worn on horseback! 

16) Cat
Throw on some cat ears and you'll be purrr-fect from head to toe!

17) Flapper
This pair of satin heels are from what many call the Flapper Era - the mid to late 1920s.

18) Basketball player
While not many people would fit into these size 23 basketball shoes belonging to Shaquille O'Neal, they may inspire some to dress up like their favourite basketball player!

19) Doo Wop Darling
These white and blue saddle shoes are from the 1950s. This saddle shoe style was popular among teenagers in the 1940s to the early 1960s.

20) Hockey Player
Jennifer Botterill wore these skates at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006 when her team won the gold metal for Canada in Women's hockey.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

20 French Shoes at the BSM

In honour of our 20th anniversary year we're creating some fun top 20 lists from the BSM collection! Join us in celebrating this milestone by learning something new and unique about the BSM collection.

This September marks the 400th anniversary of the Francophonie in Ontario and a new art installation is now on display at the BSM created by Parisian artist, Pascale Peyret. As such, we have compiled a list of 20 French shoes in our collection! 
1) Silk Slippers
These blue silk Albert cut slippers date back between 1860-1880 and are said to have been from Provence.

2) Chameleon Shoes
These women's dress shoes come from Montpelier between 1860-1863. 

3) Adelaide Boots
Found in a cottage on Peaks Island, Maine, these boots are French-made from 1855.  

4) Lace Up Boots
This pair of satin ankle boots were designed by French designer, Francois Pinet, in 1870. 

5) Single Mule
This brocade mule from 1700 has a needlepoint toe and a leather-covered Louis heel.

6) Court Shoes
This pair was handcrafted by Pietro Yantorny in the early half of the 20th century. 

7) Silk Boots
The style of this French pair of crimson boots is actually known as Polish or Hungarian.

8) Courreges Boots
Made in France, these cream leather boots are still with their original box from 1964. 

9) Plaid Ankle Boots
These lace up booties are dated from 1855-1865 and are currently on display in our exhibit, "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century".

10) T-Strap Heels
Handmade by French designer Andre Perugia in 1923, these two-tone shoes are fashioned from bronze velvet and metallic gold leather.

11) Wooden Platforms
These heels were purchased by a US army lieutenant while being stationed in France in the mid 1940s.  He sent them to Joyce (Sommer) Bull as a present who wore them and even had leather added to the soles after the war to prolong their longevity.

12) Roger Vivier Pumps
These Vivier originals are from 1963-1969 and have a novelty heel shape and design.

13) Sling-back Platforms
Designed by Pierre Cardin in 1976-1978, these platforms are made of red cast foam.

14) Patent Leather Boots
This pair of metallic wine-coloured boots were designed by Charles Jourdan in the early 1990s. 

15) Chanel Ballet Flats

This pair of Chanel shoes are signature to the iconic brand. These are from the 2007 collection and were used in Montreal as press samples. 

16) Christian Dior Court Shoes
These heels were designed by Roger Vivier between 1960-1963. 

17) Black Pumps
This pair of heels was designed by French designer, Andre Perugia, for Princess Lilian of Belgium in the 1950s.

18) Mules
This pair of sleek mules, by Charles Jourdan, were designed in the mid 1990s.

19) Cathedral Mary Janes
These Christian Louboutin originals from 2007 were inspired by the designer's visit to the Bata Shoe Museum in 2005. They are currently on display in our permanent exhibit, "All About Shoes".

20) Slippers
Made by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980s, these slippers are covered in pink suede and even have a small wedged heel.