Laughingcrowe Leatherworks – Shoemaking Class
I introduce myself to Jason Craban’s students as he spoils me with Turkish coffee poured into traditional cups as we sit in his living room. His house is filled with many Scandinavian fascinations from paintings to pottery, and leaning along the wall a sign reads Laughingcrowe in bold black lettering. After the coffee and dried figs are all consumed we tread downstairs to Jason’s basement and workspace. I see two sewing machines, a computer surrounded by guitars and tribal drums, and a large work table with sharp tools and dyes and leather on all sides.
Jason shows me a shoe that was made during the previous class in October. It’s a 10th Century Scandinavian Turnshoe with a single-cut upper, toggle enclosure, and a sole made of contact cement and recycled truck tire dust. Jason explains “what makes them distinctly Scandinavian is the ingenious way in which the north folk extended the sole up the back of the heel to act as a counter and eliminate stitches from a very vulnerable high wear place on the shoe.” It reminds me of the pictures that first caught my attention on his postcards that were stacked on the banister at Monograph Bookwerks.
Today they are also working a single-cut toggle turnshoe, but the shoe is a bit more durable with Vibram boot outsoles. The piece of leather for the insoles is large, formidable, and sourced from the Hide House in Napa, CA. It is vegetable tanned cowhide while the leather for the upper is chrome tanned bison. Jason demonstrates the first step: using a sole trimming knife with a hooked end he traces and cuts a student’s insole from custom measurements that were taken at the previous class. Then the students try it for themselves. The leather is unforgiving of mistakes and several inches are lost of the single piece of leather that is needed for everyone’s insoles, but after more guidance and some encouragement there is laughter, and the cutting becomes easier as their shoe’s foundation begins to take shape.
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