Make Your Own Shoes, Make a New World


Make a New World: Handmade Shoes

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My adventures in shoemaking began back in 2004 when I needed a new pair of shoes but wasn’t feeling great about buying something made overseas in, shall we say, less than ideal working conditions. I couldn’t find any shoe companies that I felt 100% comfortable with, so instead I found a wonderful how-to book from the 1970s, The Make-It-Yourself Shoe Book by Christine Lewis Clark, and picked up a sewing awl. They ended up looking a little bit like bowling shoes, but I love them anyways!


Along the way, an exciting possibility revealed itself. I’d long admired the textured prints that footsteps sometimes leave on beaches and hiking paths. Back in high school when I wore Chucks everyday, I left long trails of diamond shapes wherever I went, just like in the Paul Simon song. I also delight in knowing that the first pair of Nike “waffle sole” running shoes were indeed made in a real waffle iron. If only they still made them in just the same way! And finally, I’ve always loved the ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals that I recently saw in the British Museum in London. They were used over and over again to impart the same message into tablets made of clay.

These three varied and lovely moments of textured meaning inspired me to carve words into the rubber soles of my homemade shoes. As a result, I left trails of text behind me when I walked on surfaces receptive to my invitation to: “Make a…new world.”


After each resole, I leave a different phrase in my wake. These days, my shoe prints say, “is this… the way… is this…” In the video below, I do a brief “show & tell” followed by some shoe print making on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes.


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Lea Redmond is always looking for the poem hiding inside things: a salt shaker, a clothes tag, a hand gesture, a cloud. She is infinitely intrigued by the way experiences can slip from the ordinary to the extraordinary and she endeavors to design things that hold this possibility. Leafcutter Designs, her creative studio in Berkeley, CA, makes the world more playful and peaceful one little experience at a time.


  1. gnhusaamericanproject

    June 29, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Hello Lea! I have an idea I would love to pass by you. I’m a long distance walker with the same vision as you of messages on soles. Can we talk?
    Ps Love your site!

  2. robin helbling

    December 5, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I love your idea. What if, to make your shoes more interactive, you posed a question or left a fill in the blank message for someone to find and think about?
    That kind of idea seems to fit with your thought provoking sense of play.
    Anyway, love your stuff.

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