We want you to be excited – and prepared – for your shoemaking class. After you sign up, we’ll send a series of emails to prepare.
Hopefully this FAQ page can help with any upfront questions you might have prior to registering for a class. If you have any lingering questions, feel free to fill in the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Who is this class for?
This class is for people of all skill levels, from experienced leather workers or shoemakers, to those who have no experience working with leather or hand tools.
Who is the instructor?
Michael Ismerio is the primary instructor. He has over ten years of teaching experience and has coached over 200 students through their own shoemaking journey. Michael has traveled to teach many private group classes, hosted classes in his home workshops, and has been teaching at the famous John C. Campbell Folk School for 9 yrs and counting. He now runs the school from his workshop in Asheville, NC.
Where do classes take place?
All Asheville Shoemaking classes are taught at Michael’s workshop inside Haw Creek Commons (315 Old Haw Creek Road) in beautiful Asheville, NC.
What should students expect?
Classes are 4 eight or nine hour days with sewing homework on the 3rd evening. The classes are an intimate social experience with a maximum of 6 students per class.
During the four day class you will:
- cast your individual feet
- learn pattern making and make paper patterns that can be reused
- transfer all that information onto the leather
- prepare the leather for sewing
- hand stitch the uppers to the leather sole
- Add any functional tabs or laces
- Add any decorative elements
- Attach various optional forms of rubber to the bottom of your soles
- Leave with a finished custom pair of shoes…and some new friends!
What style of shoes can I make?
All the classes I teach have a wide range of creative options that can be chosen within a certain set of limitations. You can peruse my shoe class gallery to see photos of what past students have made. Expect to make a low top shoe. Boots are significantly harder and will be taught in future classes
The 10th century Scandinavian Turnshoe class teaches an old style of shoemaking where one piece of leather wraps around the upper part of your foot while a second thicker piece of leather rests beneath your foot and wraps up your heel. Even within this structure there is ample room for creativity. To finish the shoes you can either apply multiple coatings of recycled rubber powder and glue for a street ready shoe. Or, you can add a second layer of leather in order to make leather bottom dance shoes.
The Internal Stitchdown shoe is a more modern style of shoe. You will learn how to construct an upper from multiple pieces of overlapping leather and attach those to a thick leather sole. The shoes are then finished with Vibram brand commercial flat rubber soles.
When are classes available?
I teach roughly 8 classes a year in my workshop. Check the classes page for exact dates.
Can I make 2 pairs of shoes in one class?
Most people have no context for how hard it is to make a pair of custom high quality shoes. Between the mental focus of learning a new skill, and using hand muscles that most people are unaccustomed to using, you will need every hour of the four day class in order to complete one pair of shoes.
What if I use orthotics in my shoes?
If you use orthotics you will want to bring them with you and be wearing them during the casting process so we can account for the space they take up in the finished shoe.
Can I make shoes for somebody who is not present?
The first step in the class is learning how to make a duct tape casting on your foot. Whoever the shoes are for would need to be present at that moment. Once you have learned the process you can go on to cast other peoples feet and continue your shoe making passion.
Can kids take the class?
There are a few reasons that I discourage kids from taking my classes. First, the class requires a level of hand strength and control that most kids do not have. Second, it is heartbreaking to spend four days making a pair of shoes that could last for decades and then outgrow them in six months. If you feel strongly about your child making shoes, reach out to me and we can have a conversation about it.
Michael is also a Co-Director at Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, which offers an evolving variety of crafting and nature-connection programs for kids.
How much hand strength is necessary to take the class?
This class takes moderate hand strength and uses muscles that many people are unaccustomed to using.
Is every hour of every day necessary to show up? Can I miss a day?
All four days will be necessary to show up, and instructions are frequently progressing and demonstrations will be interspersed throughout the days, so missing hours would be detrimental.
Do you have a payment plan?
We do not offer payment plans.
What tools will I need for the class?
I provide all the tools and materials you will need for my class. If you have tools or materials of your own you are welcome to bring them with you and we can talk about whether or not you can incorporate them into your shoe process.
Will I be able to make a pair of shoes on my own after taking this class?
Definitely! I will share with you all the knowledge you need as well as resources to continue your shoe making passion. The next step for you will be making decisions about tools and materials.
After the class, what tools will I need in order to make my own shoes?
This is a huge question. Technically you can make a pair of shoes with just a knife and an awl but I guarantee you it won’t be easy. Every additional tool will make some part of the process easier. A bare bones tool set will probably cost you around $100 and if you wanted to get every tool imaginable you will probably spend over $1000. If you are patient you can find many old tools at flea markets and thrift stores.
Can the shoes be resoled?
Definitely! The Internal Stitch Down shoes with commercial rubber soles can be taken to any shoe repair person in the world for re-soling. Re-soling the turn shoes, however, is a job that likely you will have to do at home on your own, luckily, it’s quite easy.
Where can I buy recycled rubber for soles?
- You can purchase some from me (but be patient).
- You can order some online from Jason Hovatter at Laughing Crowe in Portland, Oregon. He is the person who taught me to make shoes.
- You can find a tire re-treader that re-treads semi truck tires. Most legit places do not do this anymore so you have to find a smaller tire shop, maybe in a poorer neighborhood, and ask them if you can have a little bit of their rubber castoffs. If they do this work they will have a semi-truck trailer full of rubber powder that they send off to get recycled somewhere. If you are nice to them they may let you have some. If you are talking about a bucket of rubber out of their entire trailer they probably won’t be worried about it. I usually get a 5 gallon bucket at a time and that literally lasts me for years worth of classes.
Do you sell finished shoes?
Teaching is my real passion. With my busy teaching schedule I no longer have time to make custom shoes. And I find that the people that make their own shoes love and appreciate the finished product way more.
Can I buy the parts to construct shoes from home?
I do not sell kits, materials, or tools. Jason at Laughingcrowe.com sells tool kits and rubber powder. And there are many, many leather suppliers around the country.