If Mary Poppins’ bag maker did rooms then they’d be proud of shoemaker extraordinaire Brendan Dwyer’s office/man-cave. Crammed full of shoemaking tools from every country and century, it’s a fascinating, and joyfully distracting, backdrop to an intriguing course.
Prescott & Mackay are British fashion educators, specialising in shoemaking and accessories in London, New York, Berkeley and now Melbourne. Their courses enable anyone to make a pair of wearable leather shoes in just two days.
The Melbourne course is run by Brendan Dwyer, a custom, bespoke shoemaker based in that hub of old-school creativity, the Nicholas Building on Swanston Street. Littered around his rooms are shoes in various stages of construction. He’s made designs for film, theatre and television as well as the soul on the street.
His course provides an insight into the complete process of shoemaking, which is way more complex and involved than the novice might imagine. First up, Dwyer produces shoe ‘lasts’ based on careful measuring of each student’s feet. Lasts are wooden or plastic models of feet that the shoes are moulded around. Next comes the design process. The course stipulates that students make mules, but under Dwyer it turns out that mules can be much more fun than a basic slipper.
The design process involves several delicious hours pouring over shoe books, feeling leathers and even having a browse through shoe shops. That’s research, not shopping! Finally the design is drawn onto paper before being transformed into a 3D leather object around the last. Several hours later, after much sticking, gluing, cutting, playing with knives and admiring each other’s work, each student holds a slipper in their hands.
Dwyer is a knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic teacher and the location is fabulous. And to top it all off, every student leaves wearing the shoes they’ve made.