Falling Head Over HEELS For Cobbling

Inside the store.

My mentor is Ron Nijdam, a third generation Dutch cobbler. He is well informed about shoe repair and has been involved in cobbling from a young age. The first time Ron tried his hand at cobbling was as a child in his grandfather’s shoe repair shop sanding and gluing heels. However, Ron learned the fine art of cobbling as a teenager when he worked in his father’s shoe repair shop. Ron was always very involved in his family’s business and was exposed to shoe repair from a young age. Ron soon moved from Holland to Canada and created his own shop in Vancouver on Denman Street where the Quick Cobbler operated for over 20 years. He has recently re-located the Quick Cobbler; but has added on some new branches to his store including Northopedics and Shuz Canada. Northopedics specializes in orthopedics while Shuz Canada creates custom made shoes in store. Ron has a lot of experience in repairing and creating shoes.

Work Space.

Ron is no doubt experienced when it comes to shoes. He uses his knowledge to mentor and teach others his unique methods for creating and repairing shoes. He has kept his family legacy alive by teaching his sons who actually work in the shop. He has also been mentoring me for the past few weeks. He has created a very welcoming learning environment and encourages my curiosity and creativity in this process. Shoe making is not an exact process and changes with circumstance; Ron’s teaching style reflects that. Each week we meet and work on my pair of shoes for about an hour. Usually Ron will give me instructions, an example, then lets me try complete the task on my own before jumping in near the end to check my work and facilitate any questions that I have. He has been very helpful in explaining all steps that I need to take, but more importantly, the logic behind those steps. Learning the principles behind the tasks I am doing has really helped me get a better understanding of shoe repair and creation on a broader spectrum. I have learned a lot from this mentor-ship so far including things like all of the different components of shoes, the steps needed to take during the design process to create durable shoes, how to take proper measurements of feet, the role of lasts in creating shoes and the importance of design. However, I have also learned a lot about myself from this mentor-ship. I have learned that I am good at taking initiative and working independently when needed. I think that I have developed better inquiry skills.

I think that so far my official mentor Ron has been a great help, however, I have also learned a lot from some unofficial mentors including everyone who works in the shop. I work there about four hours each week, so I have a lot of time to observe how they repair shoes and ask questions about the process. The people who work at the Quick Cobbler have been very helpful and kind. Louis in particular has really helped me adjust to the new job and has showed me all the tasks we have to do. They have all helped along my learning in different ways and have all been very patient with me, even when I made mistakes[1]. They have created a very welcoming learning environment for me and have made me feel like a part of the team.

Having such a good mentor and a community of well-informed people willing to teach me has been absolutely wonderful. I think that my persistence in finding a mentor has really paid off; the Quick Cobbler seems like a very good fit for me. Everyone is very encouraging of my curiosity and creativity. Everyone at the Quick Cobbler has really helped my learning along and has been supportive of my goals. I think that I am making good progress so far, but still need to adjust my goals. I set out to make at least two pairs of shoes, but after working on my first pair for only a few weeks I have realized the process is a lot more complicated than I had originally thought. My new goal is to make only one pair of shoes by the end of this project. I am very glad that I get to reflect in these blog posts and asses my progress so that I can adjust my goals. I have learned a lot in these past few weeks through my experience with my mentor and everyone at the shop. I am very excited for the rest of the project.

Shoe Update: I am in the late design stages. I have found the measurements of my feet for the shoes and lasts (molds) that fit my measurements. I have finalized my design after going back to the drawing board many times. I have decided to make a pair of oxfords with a monk strap. The next step I will take is actually cutting out all of my materials so that I can assemble. I am very excited with my progress and cannot wait to work on my shoes!

[1] I was cleaning out the air compressor by draining the dirty water, however when I went to turn of the nozzle, I increased the velocity of the mud shooting out of the air compressor instead. I got the mud about ten feet up into the air. Cleaning up was a big task, but I have learned from my mistakes.” Righty- tighty, Lefty-loosey” is a very important rhyme to remember.

Image locations for Image one, Image two,  Image three, and Image four.


2 thoughts on “Falling Head Over HEELS For Cobbling”

  1. Your post is informative. I am learning a lot, too. Great hyperlinks and photos throughout. Make sure you take photos of every step you do to make your shoes as well.

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