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“Without sounding too dramatic, Bill Bird has changed my life”

Carole Arnold has her shoes fitted at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds

At just 18 years old, Carole Arnold was involved in an horrific car accident where she was thrown through the windscreen. She had 300 stitches in her face, a fractured shoulder and her femur was destroyed. Carole spent nine months in hospital in traction and it was 18 months before she could go back to work. As a result of the accident and subsequent operations, Carole has a difference in the length of her legs.

Carole has recently had some shoes, boots and slippers adapted by the team at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds. Click here to read her story.

 

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Bespoke Bill Bird shoemakers keep their skills up to date

Bespoke shoemakers Chris and George from Bill Bird Shoes

 

Two of the bespoke shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds attended a personalised pattern cutting course recently to ensure their skills are kept up to date.

The course was run by Phil Stewart, the senior lecturer at De Montfort University’s Footwear Design Department. Chris and George learned the basics of making forms, half mean forms and patterns for Oxfords, Derbys anbd strap court shoes.

They spent a total of 13 hours in training and will hone their skills with fellow Bill Bird shoemaker Emily for a few weeks before attending a refresher course, where they will also learn how to stretch and design.

Patterns created by bespoke shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes

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Bill Bird Shoes to feature on Radio Gloucestershire tomorrow!

Radio Gloucestershire reporter Chris Mace visits the bespoke orthopaedic shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds

Radio Gloucestershire reporter Chris Mace visited Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds today to interview Bill and our team of bespoke orthopeadic shoemakers. We will feature on the mid morning show tomorrow – so tune in between 9am – 12pm to hear more!

Our very own bespoke orthopeadic shoemaker Bill Bird is interviewed by Chris Mace from Radio Gloucestershire
Our very own Bill Bird is interviewed by Chris Mace from Radio Gloucestershire

 

Bespoke orthopaedic shoemaker Becs from Bill Bird Shoes being interviewed by Chris Mace from Radio Gloucestershire
Bespoke orthopaedic shoemaker Becs from Bill Bird Shoes being interviewed by Chris Mace from Radio Gloucestershire
Bill Bird Shoes' award-winning shoemakers Chris and George talk to Chris Mace from Radio Gloucestershire
Bill Bird Shoes’ award-winning shoemakers Chris and George talk to Chris Mace for tomorrow’s radio broadcast

The team at Radio Gloucestershire were so impressed with the young team of made-to-measure shoemakers here and the way we work as a collective, that they decided to pop in to carry out a longer interview for tomorrow’s show.

It has been Bill’s dream to pass on his legacy to younger generations and this was the driving force behind his series of exceptional quality instructional videos on orthopaedic shoemaking that appear on the Bill Bird Shoes YouTube channel.

 

 

 

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Bill Bird interviewed about the Queen’s shoes

The Queen’s footwear – and the fact that she has someone to break in her new shoes for her – has been in the news recently and bespoke shoemaker Bill Bird was interviewed about this on Radio Gloucestershire this morning.

Radio Gloucestershire presenter Nicky Price chatted to Bill for about ten minutes about shoe comfort, the difficulties around 50% of the population has finding comfortable shoes and our young team of bespoke shoemakers.

We recorded his interview live in our Cotswold workshop and you can listen to it here.

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Computer gait analysis now offered by more members of the Bill Bird team

Computer gait analysis at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds and London

Our bespoke shoemakers have been taking part in training sessions on computer gait analysis to allow more members of our team to provide this vital service to clients to help improve their walking comfort.

Bill Bird is fully trained and highly experienced in computer gait analysis and he decided to run through a session once a week to improve our skills and give a greater feeling of confidence to our customers.

We invested more than £7,000 in the very sophisticated Medicapteurs Winpod Computer Gait Analysis system in 2005 and also have a dedicated computer for this device. Many more modern systems have since simplified their software programmes to reduce cost and user complexity.

“With many clients, we can see immediately the cause of their walking or fitting difficulty but with some people the issue is much more subtle. The client knows they are in pain but there is no obvious reason,” said Bill Bird.

“That is when computer gait analysis is most useful. It uses very sophisticated software and following an assessment and analysis, a lot of things become clear. The information is useful for anyone experiencing issues with their feet, which can be used to fine tune both orthotics and footwear to improve clients’ gait and walking comfort.”

Computer gait analysis at Bill Bird Shoes in the Midlands

The Bill Bird shoemakers can carry out both a postural analysis, which measures standing over a duration of 30 seconds, and a dynamic analysis, which captures the pattern of walking. This gives us information about how the client lands on their heels, how they balance during swing phase and how they toe off. A full assessment takes about an hour and costs £125.

Our workshop in the Cotswolds is fully kitted out for making bespoke orthotics, designed and crafted to fit clients’ own shoes or we can modify off-the-shelf footwear.

Please call us on 01386 700855 for more information.

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Bill Bird Shoes’ award-winning apprentice shoemaker learns from one of the best!

Bespoke shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Midlands

West End shoemaker Mariano Crespo has recently been carrying out some one-to-one training course with our award-winning apprentice shoemaker George Paish in London.

So far, George (pictured left) has had two seven-hour days with Mariano back to back every two or three weeks. This is the sixth session and instead of George going down to London, Mariano came up to visit Bill Bird Shoes at our workshop in the Cotswolds.

Mariano first began learning the art of shoemaking as a teenager in Spain with his father, who worked as a cobbler. As a young adult, Mariano spent many years travelling and exploring the world, until deciding to return to his roots and focus on developing his skills as a bespoke shoemaker.

After training with a Spanish master in the art of making traditional Spanish hunting boots, Mariano went on to secure an apprenticeship with the world-renowned bootmaker, John Lobb in London’s West End. During his time there, Mariano provided his services to a wide range of clients, including members of the royal family, famous actors, artists and celebrities.

Mariano now continues the centuries-old tradition of creating exquisitely handcrafted bespoke shoes and boots from his London workshop and passing on his skills to the next generation of bespoke shoemakers.

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“45 hours of stunning craftmanship has truly changed my life”

Emma at Bill Bird Shoes in Moreton in Marsh w

The team at Bill Bird Shoes has just received the most beautiful thank you letter we’ve ever had – and we’ve had some good ones!

Here is Emma trying on her completed boots for the first time, with our bespoke shoemaker Rebecca holding the mirror outside our workshop in Moreton in Marsh.

Here is what she had to say:

“I wanted to take a few weeks to really ‘bed in’ my new boots before writing to you. They really are wonderful to wear, have caused no issues and are just beautiful! It isn’t an understatement to say that I feel so blooming proud and confident when I step out in them. I found myself beaming whilst walking around a supermarket last week and people, randomly, were smiling back at me. It’s been a long 3 years since I held my head high – so thank you so much. You and your wonderful team are the kindest, most professional, passionate and fun people. I genuinely miss driving up for fittings! I understand your jobs can be very emotional but also must be hugely rewarding. I just wanted to say thank you and thank you again. 45 hours of stunning craftmanship has truly changed my life – for that you will always have my gratitude and support.” Emma, Hampshire

Thank you Emma, we really are delighted you are so pleased!

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Master craftsman premiers legacy videos to inspire next generation of specialist shoemakers

Filming at Bill Bird’s workshop in Moreton in Marsh: (left to right) Lynwen and David Brown from Artisan Media with Bill Bird and Richard Paice, Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and member of the Pattenmakers Company Charitable Foundation.
Filming at Bill Bird’s workshop in Moreton in Marsh: (left to right) Lynwen and David Brown from Artisan Media with Bill Bird and Richard Paice, Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and member of the Pattenmakers Company Charitable Foundation.
Filming at Bill Bird’s workshop in Moreton in Marsh: (left to right) Lynwen and David Brown from Artisan Media with Bill Bird and Richard Paice, Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and member of the Pattenmakers Company Charitable Foundation.

At the age of fourteen Bill Bird had a foot problem that was making walking more and more difficult. The pain and discomfort of this condition not only led him to a career as a top bespoke orthopaedic shoemaker in the UK but to a starring role in a video teaching programme about his work, aimed at a worldwide audience.

Now aged 68 and a leading light in his profession, Bill recently attended the launch of the programme at a special showing to an invited audience of British and international footwear specialists at a gala dinner in London.

At the Pattenmakers’ Annual Footwear Dinner: (left to right) David Lockyer chairman and president of Footwear Friends, Lynwen and David Brown from Artisan Media, Master Pattenmaker Dr David Best, Kate and Bill Bird and Simon Goodman of Van Dal Shoes.
At the Pattenmakers’ Annual Footwear Dinner: (left to right) David Lockyer chairman and president of Footwear Friends, Lynwen and David Brown from Artisan Media, Master Pattenmaker Dr David Best, Kate and Bill Bird and Simon Goodman of Van Dal Shoes.

Bill’s wide-ranging skills and knowledge were amassed over more than 40 years as a shoemaker and last-maker in London’s West End and through his own thriving small business and workshop near Moreton in Marsh.

The filming was done at his workshop following an idea from Cotswold philanthropist Richard Paice and produced by Herefordshire based filmmakers, Artisan Media.

The series of 23 teaching videos – the result of 250 production hours – are now available worldwide on their own YouTube channel. As Bill’s legacy to all aspiring specialist shoemakers, they are also completely free of charge.

Continue reading Master craftsman premiers legacy videos to inspire next generation of specialist shoemakers

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Bill Bird Shoes scoops award for 2nd year running!

Apprenetice shoemaker George Paish from Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds scoops prestigious award
George being presented with his award by Conference organiser Tony Slinger and Bill Bird
George being presented with his award by Conference organiser Tony Slinger and Bill Bird

Apprentice shoemaker George Paish has walked away with a prestigious accolade just five months after joining Bill Bird Shoes in Blockley with no previous footwear experience.

The 26-year-old trainee from Moreton in Marsh was named the winner of the 2019 David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award at the Independent Shoemakers’ Conference in Harrogate at the weekend (Feb 22-24). This is the second year running that the award has been scooped by a budding shoemaker from Bill Bird Shoes!

Apprenetice shoemaker George Paish from Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds scoops prestigious award
Bill Bird Shoes apprentice George Paish from Moreton in Marsh was presented with a silver trophy, £200 cash and £200 in leather vouchers. He is pictured with his winning boots, handcrafted wooden lasts and portfolio, alongside a photo of the late David Xavier.

Not only were his leather Derby boots with suede and zip detailing the first pair he had ever made but this born and bred Moreton apprentice beat off stiff competition from two international graduates from the prestigious London College of Fashion and two entrants with Master’s Degrees in Footwear Design.

“I am delighted to have won as I really didn’t expect to. I chose the design as I wanted to create something different and eye catching that made people want to pick them up and look more closely,” said George.

“As the boots were made to my measurements I was able to experience the whole shoemaking process from both a client and maker’s perspective, which was a valuable learning experience and gave me an appreciation for the work we do.

“Having worked in a mixture of industries previously, from healthcare to a brief stint in joinery, it’s helped me realise I always wanted to work in an environment that allows me to be creative, practical and problem solving. Luckily I get to do all of these in the workshop every day!”

The David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award entrants with their shoes.
The David Xavier Student Bespoke Shoemaking Award entrants with their shoes.

The award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition. George’s boots accommodated high arches, rear foot equinus (where the upward bending motion of the ankle joint is limited), as well as a wide foot and high sitting toes.

Well done George, we are all really proud of you!

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Bill Bird shoemakers take a new approach to hand carving lasts

Bill Bird shoemakers outside our workshop in the Cotswolds

Bill Bird Shoes has taken delivery of 60 pairs of beech spokes from Italy for making our hand carved bespoke orthopaedic lasts. This is the first time we have done this – most of our lasts have been made from beech planks from Germany.

The reason we decided to change is because a spoke is a log split into four. This makes it a much more efficient use of the wood and they are also cut from much younger trees.

“The way the last is cut from the spoke, the bark is parallel to the bottom of the last,” explains Bill Bird.

“There is much less tangential shrinkage along the width of the last than radial shrinkage in the height of the last. This means that the lasts are much more stable in shape and size over long periods of time.

“The final reason we decide to change is that the lasts can be made from one piece of wood, whereas with the planked wood they need to be glued up from two pieces. Again, this makes for a stronger last.”

This is a sketch of a cross section of the log. It is split into four and I have shown how one of the four sections, which are called spokes, are approximately the same shape as the last that will be carved from them.
This is a sketch of a cross section of the log. It is split into four and I have shown how one of the four sections, which are called spokes, are approximately the same shape as the last that will be carved from them.
The back outline of my right last to show how the outline falls within the shape of the spoke.
The back outline of my right last to show how the outline falls within the shape of the spoke.
A cross section of a spoke with the back outline of a last drawn on. The axe is what Bill Bird used to carve lasts with in a previous life before 1850! (only joking Bill)
A cross section of a spoke with the back outline of a last drawn on. The axe is what Bill Bird used to carve lasts with in a previous life before 1850! (only joking Bill)