11.6.11 77PR Ruth Emily Davey
Crafty shoemaker proves she’s become real master
A young Wales based Shoemaker has just been honoured with a prize for her skills just one year after setting up her own business in 2010. She has been named the Balvenie Young Master of Craft 2011, which recognises outstanding skill and young emerging talent in the crafts sector.
Ruth Emily Davey, who designs and makes Italian leather shoes from her workshop on the mid Wales coast, was honoured with the Balvenie Young Master of Craft Award 2011. The inaugural Balvenie master of craft is a programme which recognises honours and celebrated highly outstanding skilled craftspeople around the UK. The awards ceremony was held on the 1st of June in the Connaught Hotel, Mayfair London and judged by Kevin McCloud TV presenter, the chairman of the Heritage Crafts Association, Robin Wood, expert crafts photographer, Nick Hand, Editor of The Sunday Telegraph Life, Anne Cuthbertson and the whisky industry’s longest standing Malt Master, David Stewart.
Being presented with the award during the London Ceremony the 24r year old was highly praised for her skill and talent in crafts which she passes on with every pair of shoes she creates. Ruth began learning the craft of shoemaking when she was 18 and after her 5 year Apprenticeship with Alan James Raddon she set up her own business just over a year ago. She says she is delighted to be given the award after years of hard work to master the skills which have won her the award “it is just a wonderful accolade”.
Ruth’s customers range from dukes to dustbin men, between the young and the old, yoga teachers and therapists, artists, poets, doctors, nurses and even the odd film star. Her individually crafted footwear is made from a very high quality, soft, durable Italian leather that comes in over 50 different colours and are “designed to last”, she said.
Making shoes by hand is an antiquated art form says Ms Davey. Individual Shoemakers were once common in the high street, but after the great rise of manufacturing and the industrial revolution here in the UK, small scale shoemakers have been replaced by large companies so it is important to provide a unique and personal service to my customers. Having a pair of fine made shoes made individually for you not only gives you the chance to choose from the broad range of high grade leather and suede’s but also it can provide the greatest comfort for our feet and alleviate all sorts of foot and mobility problems for some which I think is so important for our health and wellbeing she states. Ruth says the majority of people have two different foot sizes so she can make half and quarter sizes to compensate for this. She begins making each pair of handcrafted shoes by first of all taking measurements of the circumference of your feet and then tracing and making the patterns before building up the lasts and the cutting out the leather to make the final pair of shoes.
I have made all sorts of shoes over the years she says. Each pair is a unique piece handcrafted to each individual. Along with the traditional rich tan and brogue pairs I have made cream wedding shoes, patent leather toe caps and for the more eccentric customer, deep pinks and rich purples or in one particular instance a pair of lime green uppers with pink stitching. I am inspired by all sorts of exquisite fabrics as well as leather and have begun to incorporate a variety of fabrics into my shoes such as checks and tweeds, heritage tartans, embroidered silks and brocades.
When asked what the award means for the future of her shoemaking business she expressed an interest in taking on her very own apprentice, “I am beginning to expand my business as demand for my shoes is growing. The exposure and contacts’ leading from the award has now opened up new possibilities and ideas for the future and has of course raised awareness for all the other craftspeople struggling to keep their art alive”.
The Balvenie Masters of Craft judge, Kevin McCloud and the presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs said: “Despite Ruth’s young years, she really has achieved a huge amount. Not only does she make beautiful hand-made shoes but she has found a real market for her wares — something that has allowed her at the tender age of 24 to start the search for her very own apprentice.
“She really is an exemplary craftsperson — an expert in her field and an inspiration to the next generation of craftspeople. I wish her ever success for the future.”
Ruth provides a mail order service for customers that are unable to visit her workshop in Wales; she can be contacted at www. ruthemilydavey.co.uk.