A shoemaker in the Cévennes
This summer I met Alain Perez, a shoemaker in the Cévennes. Alain has his workshop / store in Joyeuse, a small town in the Ardèche. Alain was born in Oran, he has practically always been a shoemaker, the profession was passed down to him by his father. From generation to generation this know-how is perfected and today in his workshop it is Elisa, her daughter-in-law that is at his side. During one afternoon in August I took a walk there and followed the process of making a leather belt and other quality products that he makes.
In the workshop, I observed every element of this workspace which has so much to tell. On the shelves, pieces of leather of various colors, ready to be transformed into shoes or belts. Thinking about it I told myself that thousands of sandals have come out of here and have gone all around the world…On his work surface, dozens of various tools which I wondered the usefulness of, but which I was soon going to discover the function. Also, an old Singer sewing machine, which has so many stories to tell, Alain had told me that it had crossed the Mediterranean sea in both directions …
I have observed his way of working and performing every action and gesture, which he has surely reproduced thousands of times. But yet each sandal, each belt, each piece is unique, with a perfect finish. He told me about his journey, anecdotes, his travels and hobby, but his skillful, unruffled hands executed each movement with absolute precision. Combining finesse and strength. Alain makes very good quality belts and shoes.
The word shoemaker in french comes from cordouinier, from the old French Cordoan, “Cordoba leather”, in reference to Cordoba, a Spanish city whose leather was once very famous. If you want to know more about the profession of shoemaker, it’s here
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