So perhaps it was the little girl in me that got so excited last week when I discovered a real shoemaker’s shop right in the heart of the Sydney CBD. And not just any shoemaker’s shop but a delightful, whimsical, out-of-a-storybook-sort-of-shop.
I stumbled on it by accident and it instantly captured my imagination. It has an old-world feel. The windows are filled with old lasts and tools, quaint but beautiful boots and a sense of time stood still.
Andrew had found what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He returned to Australia, went to college and learned how to make shoes. A few years later he won a Churchill Fellowship to study in London, France and Italy, an experience that has significantly influencing the shoes he has made over the last twenty years.
His shoes are bespoke, handcrafted to a high standard with quality materials. Unlike the mass produced shoes available in shoe shops everywhere, they are made to last and each pair is unique.
There’s something terribly satisfying about finding something made by hand using the skills of a bygone era, craftsmanship largely lost or forgotten in our rush into the mechanical and digital age. His shoes are a work of art.
Every pair has to be uniquely crafted to support the deformity, to give them a strong foundation, enabling them to walk. His tools were incredibly basic but the old man was innovative. The work was arduous but his was a gift of love. Every stitch said, “I care” to people who had never known real care.
Two shoemakers from very different worlds, one sharing his talent with those who can afford bespoke and the other gifting those who have nothing of this world’s riches and who have know only exclusion.
Some of us will have our names in signage but most of us will work quietly in the back blocks unrecognised by the world. It's so easy to compare ourselves to others but that’s a terrible waste of emotional energy. I can’t know another person’s heart any more than I can walk in their shoes.
Each of us is unique and valuable as is the path we tread. Its not what we give but how we give it that is truly significant ... to give with love, compassion and grace.
A day in the life of Andrew McDonald