Nele-Northampton Museum for a 7 day work experience

Nele is a student of the University of Antwerp, where she is currently studying for an MA in Conservation and Restoration. Wishing to gain some experience with leather and organic materials, Nele is spending eight weeks working between the National Leather Collection, Leather Conservation Centre and Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. She is currently at Northampton Museum for a 7 day work experience.

Here is her Blog of her time at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

The journey continues with a 7-day work experience at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. I will be carrying various tasks under the supervision of Rebecca Shawcross, senior shoe conservator, who has been building up knowledge for the past 20 years on Northampton’s various shoes and shoemakers.

My first day at Northampton Museum, Tuesday, started with a tour of the store room. There are literally rows and rows of shoes, I could not wait to dive into the collection! But first things first, the staff meeting. Every week, on Tuesday morning, there is a staff meeting and since the exhibitions for the new museum were going to be discussed, Rebecca thought it would be nice for me to sit in on this one. And let us be honest, who does not like a sneak peek behind the scenes? After the meeting it was finally time to browse through the collection, I had been giving the task to locate a list of items that had been selected for the new shoe gallery. There is no better way to get to know the collection!

On Wednesday, I got to make a selection of jewelled heels for the new shoe gallery. I went through every box searching for the prettiest pairs and came up with a, though I say so myself, a varied, colourful and eye drawing selection. The afternoon was spent locating items that would go on loan to Fairfax House, whilst doing so, I came across a variety of shoes. From modern day, quite modest footwear to more extravagant and marvellous pairs of shoes to beautifully embroidered silk shoes from the 17th and 18th century and to even a pair of pink kinky boots.

The work on the loan to Fairfax House continued on Thursday. Every item that goes on loan needs be condition checked, so I spent most of the day examining the items up close and writing condition reports on them. What I particularly like about it, is that you are given time to investigate up close, to see perhaps signs of pests and what I am always very interested in, previous restorations. It is very interesting to see how approaches towards restoration of objects change over the years. In the afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting Norma Pierson, someone who has been very active in cultural heritage and who has been so kind to donate a few much loved items, amongst which a few designs of Vivienne Westwood. It is always a pleasure of knowing the story behind every piece clothing and knowing the memories attached to it.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of processing a donation of shoes by Andrew Roberts, now retired after working in the family shoe shop, David Roberts, for over 50 years located in Llandudno, Wales. The two big boxes in which the donation was sent to the museum were standing in the office, grabbing my attention every time I saw them and making me wonder what exactly was in there. So I had the pleasure of opening every box (no less than 38 of them!) and seeing what was inside, I made a list of all the items and checked the condition of every object, paying special attention to signs of pests and how fragile the object is. With one box still waiting to be unpacked, I will continue the processing of the donation on Monday, I can’t wait to see what treasures are hidden inside!

Endless rows of shoes

Endless rows of shoes

One of the many treasures in the collection, a pair of jewelled heels, circa 1920s

One of the many treasures in the collection, a pair of jewelled heels, circa 1920s

The occasional pair of pink kinky boots, these would have been worn in the film 'Kinky Boots'

The occasional pair of pink kinky boots, these would have been worn in the film ‘Kinky Boots’

Feeling like a magpie searching for the most glamorous pairs of shoe buckles

Feeling like a magpie searching for the most glamorous pairs of shoe buckles


Shoe of the Month-Exquisite Designs

Exquisite Designs

The Italian Pietro Yantorney is considered to be one of the first known shoe designers in the modern sense. Shoemakers had been designing shoes for centuries but most early shoemakers were anonymous. By the end of the 19th century individual names were becoming prominent, including François Pinet and André Perugia.

These particular shoes made from red Genoese velvet with gold floral embroidery and a diamante buckle were worn by interiors designer Nancy Lancaster in the early 1920s. They still have the original cherry wood shoe trees inside them.

Shoe of the Month-Brothel Creepers

Brothel creepers

This style of shoe are known as brothel creepers or beetle crushers – the former reputedly because a wearer could creep out of a brothel without making a sound and so avoid payment and the latter because the thick sole was perfect for crushing small insects!

Brothel creepers were popular with 1950s Teddy boys who thought the extravagant proportions accentuated their flamboyant Edwardian inspired dress which included long drape jackets with velvet collars, drainpipe trousers and skinny ties.

This blue suede pair are a little later in date – from 1973 – but they still sport the thick crepe sole. They were also a popular choice of footwear for punks in the mid-1970s.

Brothel Creepers

Brothel Creepers

Shoe of the Month-Pin Work

Pin Work

Pin work is associated with the shoe repair business and can be seen as an extension of repairing heels and soles that were nailed or riveted.

Tiny brass pins are nailed into the sole to form the outline of a design, this can be filled in with coloured wax, creating a fine and elaborate image.

They were often made to go in the shoe repairs shop window to advertise his trade.

This is one of a pair of men’s black leather Oxford shoes from the 1920s. The sole is decorated with pin point work red roses. The donor used to display these shoes as part of his shoe repair demonstrations. They may have originally been created by shoe repairer Harry Stone.

Pin Work

Pin Work

Shoe of the Month-Crocs

Love them or loathe them?

Crocs Inc., is an American company founded by Lyndon ‘Duke’ Hanson, Scott Seamans and George Boedecker in 2002. Based in Boulder, Colorado the firm was created to market a lightweight plastic shoe first developed and manufactured by Form Creations, Quebec.

Originally intended as a boating shoe because of its slip resistant, non-marking sole. The first model was the Crocs beach known as the Cayman. Launched at a boat show, it sold out.

Despite only a small marketing campaign, Crocs became popular through word of mouth. Wearer’s praised their comfort, bright colours, and unique design plus how lightweight they were.

Today crocs are still popular, as both leisure and work wear, but they do tend to divide people into those that love them and those that loathe them.



Shoe of the Month – Take a Peep

Take a Peep

Made from snakeskin these shoes are from the 1940s. A well-worn and loved size 3, they were worn by Joan and were a present from her husband.

At the beginning of the Second World War a number of crocodile, snake and lizard skin shoes came onto the market, the last stocks of these valuable leathers, which were not suitable for making footwear for the Forces.

Shoe designs at the time were under strict rules. In Britain two inches (50 mm) was the maximum heel height allowed. The heels on these shoes conform to the regulations.

Peep or open toes became popular, although Vogue magazine in 1939 informed its readers that wearing peep toes during the day was like going naked! Vogue maintained that footwear for the street should have a certain integrity and peep toes should only be worn for evening or formal afternoon occasions.

Peep Toed Shoe

Peep Toed Shoe

Shoe of the Month – Tuscan Craftsmanship

Tuscan Craftsmanship

A very elegant pair of women’s ankle strap sandals with an unusual crossed double strap at the front. The classic pale green leather, oval toes and ankle strap are more reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s than the 1990s, when they were made.

Bruno Manetti is a family company based in Tuscany and embody the Italian design aesthetic which embraces natural materials and traditional workmanship.

Ankle Strap Sandals

Ankle Strap Sandals