Most of us are familiar with the sensation of looking at a particular painting or a sculpture and feeling it somewhere deep within. It’s no secret that art speaks, directly from the canvas or the clay to the soul.
But fashion not only speaks—it sings. And in doing so, it seeks a wearer who hums a harmonious tune. In this way, handmade wearable products are a uniquely intimate artform. People develop bona fide relationships with their favorite pair of designer jeans, with a handmade handbag they adore—or with a pair of shoes they never want to take off.
Erik Martin Lawart has been making shoes in the Czech Republic since 1995. His passion for the work is evident in his painstakingly handmade products, which are crafted using golden ratios and high-quality leather.
Below, we talk shop with Erik and his apprentice Jarda Gazda, digging into their creative process and what it feels like to make their customers’ dreams come true.
Colorful conversations: In their own words*:
On discovering the art of shoemaking…
It all began with Native Indian Moccasins and cowboy belts. I fell in love with the process of transforming raw material into my idea/design. So my passion is the process itself.
Today, we are focusing on variations of classical men’s patterns based on the latest world trends in bespoke shoemaking. Sometimes, we produce women’s shoes as well.
Every project is exciting, especially when the customer has an exact idea what he or she wants—and if the idea is a bit challenging. It is very exciting to fulfill our customers’ dreams.
On form and function…
From my point of view, the value of art in general is defined by its usability. Whether it is the painting hanging on the wall or my shoes on a client’s feet, the utility of the final product is the true value.
The difference between the painting and the shoe is that we can talk a lot about the quality of the picture as well as about the shoe—and of course there are objective qualities we can talk about—but when it comes to the shoes, the interaction with the human being is the strictest arbiter. There is no space for discussion compared to “non-wearable arts.”
On studio life…
There is no typical day, because we are working on more projects simultaneously, so every day is a bit different. But of course, there are similarities—we are still (mainly) producing shoes, so there are some routine patterns. On the other hand, one can be surprised, because to be a shoemaker means to be able to handle a few crafts. In fact, you have to be a smith, a carpenter, a painter, a repairman, and much more.
On living and designing in Prague…
Prague is more and more internationally recognized not only as a nice, historic city, but also as a home of progressive young artisans. It is really almost impossible not to find inspiration in such a beautiful city.
On what VAWAA guests can expect to experience…
He or she will undergo the whole process of the shoemaking, from the pattern-making to the final shoe. The student will learn “flexible” construction and what is most important. He or she will also learn how to make a shoe by him/herself at home, with some basic tools.
*Comments have been lighted edited for clarity.
Written by Stephanie Elizabeth
Vacation with Erik Martin Lawart