First up I must apologise for the overload of pictures I’m about to share – these handmade shoes are just too too glorious and I couldn’t decide which ones I should show you first. Anyway, here goes.
Inspired by myriad things including mythology, medieval and historical literature, Jackie Orme Ward and Adrian Lockwood create their extraordinary footwear in their tiny 6m x 6m workshop, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It’s a fascinating place with old casement windows and recycled timber floors, and it’s jam-packed with tools, fabulous old wooden filing cabinets stuffed full of everything that goes into their shoes – a variety of dyed and digitally printed leathers, fabrics, braids, buckles, tacks, boot hooks, and more. Although they have some machines (sewing machines, grinders and sanders and a click press), the actual building of the shoe is by hand.
It all started way back in 1987, when Jackie and Adrian decided to make their own boots to wear to a medieval fair in Brisbane. “The rest is history – we got hooked. We are self taught as there were no courses available in Queensland. The name Pendragon fitted our business perfectly as we made historically inspired footwear.” Now, all these years later, they’ve built themselves a thriving business; their work has been featured around the world, including Milan Fashion week and Design Festa Tokyo. But Jackie says that even more exciting and amazing than those was “Being asked to make boots for Italian Vogue in 2009. Our shoes were photographed with Vivienne Westwood, Prada and John Galliano clothes, styled by Karl Templer and shot by photographer Steven Meisel.”
And that’s not their only proud moment. One of Jackie’s favourite pairs of boots is from their Leaf collection. “The first pair we made were called The Prince of Autumn Leaves; they were part of an exhibition called Metamorphosis back in 1994. It was our first exhibition of art shoes exploring themes of nature using natural leathers, dyes, embossing and moulding. That pair of shoes is now in the Power House Museum in Sydney.”
What I love about Pendragon’s shoes is not only their incredible inventiveness and humour, but also their absolute emphasis on attention to detail. As a maker, I am in awe of their beautifully hand-tooled leathers and their mastery of stitching, not to mention all the little things like rare buttons, antique buckles, and the inclusion of miscellaneous fragments from other items totally unrelated to shoes (did I spy drawer handles?), that all combine to totally knock my socks off.
Jackie and Adrian are absolutely hands-on and work together every day. “It’s just great to be able to work at something we love every day. It’s hard work and doesn’t pay that well but we are still going 27 years on.”
Their best piece of advice?
“Just do it!”
Besides making exquisite footwear, Pendragon Shoes also offer both beginners and advanced shoe making courses in their workshop on the Sunshine Coast (oh how I wish!). You can find them on Facebook, and on their own website, www.pendragonshoes.com.