In August I had a great opportunity to help further my pursuits in making shoes. I attended The Footwear Symposium, held in Savannah, GA that is put on by the Footwear Makers Guild. Not only is Savannah a beautiful city to visit in general, but to be able to visit while pursuing my passion made it even better.
The Symposium covered a range of topics, covering areas that were both informative and instructional. The topics covered went over various topics such as foot health and biomechanics, various types of leather and their uses, to machinery and industry economics.
One of my favorite presentations was by Christy Plott of American Tanning. I do have a naturalist nature, and at time people have asked me about there being a conflict of interest between that and my work with leather. Christy's presentation highlighted an excellent balance of how humanity and business can work together with nature.
A good number of the alligator skins that are tanned by American Tanning are from farmers in Louisiana. A vast majority of the marshlands in southern Louisiana are held privately. As a means of incentivising these owners from not developing this land a system has been put in place to pay the land owners per each alligator egg harvested on their property. The farmers then raise these eggs, and restore 10% of the alligators to the wild to maintain those populations. A tax that is applied to the CITES tag sale associated with the skins goes to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which helps monitor and fund research. You can read more details on the American Tanning website.
I also got to meet Jim McFarland, who's family runs a 100 year old cobbler shop in the next town over from me: McFarland's Shoe Repair. There are still a decent number of shoe repair shops as compared to shoemakers, but Jim is an award winning cobbler. I'm looking forward to being able to pick his brain as I continue my own journey.
I met many other shoemakers and have already been communicating with them to helping me learn. Networking makes a world of difference in any industry and being able to meet like minded people to communicate with will greatly help me to improve my skills.