Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Inspiring the Artist

For centuries shoes and shoemakers have inspired artists.  From devotional depictions of the shoemaking saints to evocative interpretations of the elegant high heel, artists have explored footwear's rich symbolism and striking shapes in myriad artworks.  Currently on display until early 2012, Art in Shoes ~ Shoes in Art highlights the Bata Shoe Museum's own collection of shoe-related artworks from rare 15th century woodblock prints to whimsical 20th century sculptures.

La laborieuse cordonniere by Charles Philippon. French and English c. 1835

Historically, shoemaking was a predominately male profession but in the 19th century the advent of industrialization saw many women employed to bind uppers.  The colour lithograph (above) depicts one of these workers as a lovely young woman putting the finishing touches on an assortment of fashionalble footwear.

Adelaides, 1830s-40s

This pair of ankle boots (above) date to the period of the print and are very similar to the pair being made by the young shoemaker.  Upper-class women's footwear in the first half of the 19th century was often made using luxury materials such as silk and fine wool and all the details on the footwear were hand-finished.  Fashionable women's footwear was also remarkably narrow.

Habit de Coronnier by Gerard Valck, Dutch, 1690s.

Gerard Valck was inspired by Nicolas de Larmessin II's Costumes Grotesques: Habit d'Arifice and created even more fantastical costumes for his own prints.  Shoes and shoemaker's tool are cleverly used to construct the shoemaker's outfit. The cuffs of his jacket are decorated with pigs bristles, his belt displays shoe lasts and his hat is comprised of fashionable shoes for men and women.

German or Austrian, 1680-1730

The elegant pewter guild flask in the shape of a shoe with a square toe and a screw top was probably a presentation gift.  The honoured guests or presenters names are engraved on the sole of the shoes, indicating their titles: Stefan Walder, Oberzechmeister, Franz Eglseder, Jungmeister and Alebede Marg, Meister.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Providing Warmth and Protection

The Bata Shoe Museum's collection of footwear worn by the cultures living in the world's circumpolar region is the largest comprehensive collection in existence. These shoes and boots are made to withstand some of the harshest climates that humans can endure. Whether they are made from seal, caribou, or fish, they can provide the warmth and protection that is needed on snow, land, ice and in water.

The Bata Shoe Museum is committed to the collection, documentation, and care of the circumpolar collection, and we are equally committed the study of circumpolar peoples through field trips and living ethnographies. It is through these field studies that we can explore the construction of the footwear and the sewing techniques of the women who made them. This blog entry will look at some of the circumpolar artefacts in our collection from various regions of the world.

The upturned toes and colourful felt and leather decoration on these Anar Saami reindeer hair boots are typical of Saami footwear. They are made from the relatively rare white parts of a reindeer hide which was reserved for weddings and important ceremonies. This pair was made in Finland by Helena Naakkaalaajaarvi.

Inari, Finland, 1990. ©2010 Bata Shoe Museum

Colourful and elaborately appliqued cotton boot shafts and liners are the hallmarks of Nanai boots. Made in 1994 by Anna Michailovna Beldi of Sakhalin Island - which is just between Japan and mainland Russia, these boots feature fish skin soles and vamps which would be water-proof and lightweight.

Sakhalin Island, Russia, 1994. ©2010 Bata Shoe Museum

Most Ungava seamstresses follow traditional kamik patterns for their haired seal skin boots. This pair was made by Mary Luuku of Ivujivik and can be identified as being for a girl or a woman because of the dark triangle skin pieces sewn horizontally into the boot shaft. Seal skin is a popular choice for Inuit kamiks because of its water resistant qualities.

Ivujivik, Canada, 1981. ©2010 Bata Shoe Museum