Chicago School of Shoemaking | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

Chicago School of Shoemaking 

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Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh cuts the pattern pieces for a new pair of sneakers from a navy-blue leather hide.
Jamie Ramsay
Wooden lasts, acquired from a Detroit shoemaker, show the late cobbler’s notes and wingtip designs. CSOS students start with nonlasted shoes.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh focuses more on the school than on fulfilling orders these days, but she still makes custom shoes on occasion. This is a pattern for a pair she’s crafting for an elderly man whose swollen feet make it difficult to find commercially available shoes that fit.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh created this sample shoe, made of upcycled denim and leather while mentoring Yohance Lacour, with his line of sneakers called Motif.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh keeps a binder of ephemera from throughout her career that include thank you notes from customers and fitting brochures that featured hand drawings created by a friend. At one time she kept a map of all the places around the world her shoes has walked.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh recently acquired a treasure trove of shoemaking tools from the shop of Detroit shoemaker in his 90s.
Jamie Ramsay
Leather hides are the raw source materials for class projects.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh hammers a punch to create holes for hardware in a leather cuff.
Jamie Ramsay
Instructor Yohance Lacour explains leather hardware to students Kathy Engstrom and Maureen Smith. Like McIntosh, Lacour taught himself leatherworking by dismantling bags and re-creating them. Now, under the mentorship of McIntosh, he’s started up his own line of leather sneakers, called Motif.
Jamie Ramsay
Joanne Bell, a native of Orlando, Florida, cuts the pieces of her shoes from patterns. Her father worked in the shoemaking industry in the 60s, and since his passing, she’s decided to carry on the tradition.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh instructs her shoemaking students in using the industrial sewing machines to begin making the heels of their boots.
Jamie Ramsay
Christina Hamada stitches her shoes on an industrial machine.
Jamie Ramsay
Metal punches shape leather and creating holes for hardware.
Jamie Ramsay
Kyle Hunter of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, roughs the back of the midsole for gluing. Hunter is a self-confessed “shoephile” and wanted to learn to make his own.
Jamie Ramsay
Joanne Bell carefully aligns her assembled uppers with their leather soles.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh stitches a leather window on a sneaker toe vamp.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh works with Bob Strawn of College Station, TX, to glue his shoe upper to the sole.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh shows Joanne Bell how to stretch and form the toe box while Lorraine Jones of Vancouver, British Columbia, chooses laces with Bob Strawn. Jones needs orthotics in all her shoes.“CSOS was the only place I found that had what I was looking for,” she says.
Jamie Ramsay
When McIntosh started going home from work with headaches in the mid-70s, she created a ventilation system out of cardboard and took it to a sheet metal fabricator to have the above exhaust system made. “I’ve met shoemakers who’ve stood over glue pots for years, and their minds don’t work,” she says.
Jamie Ramsay
Lorraine Jones of Vancouver, Canada dries gues on the midsole.
Jamie Ramsay
Christina Hamada of Madison, Wisconsin, connects the sole to the shoe by gluing it, then hammering it over an anvil.
Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh trims the midsole and outsole on the bandsaw.
Jamie Ramsay
Christina Hamada and McIntosh finish sanding the shoe sole.
Jamie Ramsay
A pair of completed desert boots made by Bob Strawn of College Station, Texas, finish drying in the sun. The leather is fully wet for the final stages of the process, in which the toe box is rounded out by hand.
Jamie Ramsay
Traccee Black shows off her handmade clutch after her first Leather 101 class. Black is a jewelry maker whose clients have been requesting purses, so she's started classes to expand her business.
Jamie Ramsay
Antique industrial machines and leather projects fill the studio at the Chicago School of Shoemaking.
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Jamie Ramsay
McIntosh cuts the pattern pieces for a new pair of sneakers from a navy-blue leather hide.

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