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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Bill Bird Shoes has taken delivery of three machines that will help improve results, achieve greater precision and provide greater safety for our bespoke shoemakers.
The shoemakers in Gloucestershire solve fitting and walking difficulties for people across the UK by handcrafting made-to-measure footwear. The team was offered a state-of-the-art Italian skiving machine for upper leathers free of charge – the only problem was that it was at the German School of Orthopaedic Shoemaking in Dusseldorf!
This did not deter Bill Bird shoemaker Chris and his dad Mick, who drove the 22-hour round trip to pick up the machine and return it to our workshop in the Cotswolds. And very grateful we are too.
Extra safety, greater confidence
The second machine we bought from our dear friend and fellow shoemaker, David Xavier, who died in 2016. It is a German-made combination leather trimmer and skiver that allows us to trim heavy soles, among other things.
A drill press completes the list and this allows us to achieve really accurate drilling, which is especially useful when adding heels or making lasts, the wooden blocks around which shoes are made.
Previously we would have carried out the tasks by hand with hand drills and knives and there was the danger we would cut the leather uppers – or ourselves – if we slipped. These big, heavy, solid machines can be relied upon to steady the work and give even the least experienced of us the confidence to do an excellent job every time.
We are so proud to announce that Chris Thorne of Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire scooped the David Xavier Award at the 20th Independent Shoemakers Conference in Eastbourne recently – with his first ever pair of shoes.
The annual award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker and dear friend David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition.
Chris previously worked as an upholsterer in the vintage car industry for many years before joining Bill Bird Shoes. Although Chris has been making lasts here for a few years now, his winning entry, a pair of dark tan Derby brogues, the first pair of shoes he had ever made by himself.
Chris also produced an eye-catching portfolio describing the process he went through including his many mistakes and learnings along the way. He was presented with a silver trophy, £300 cash and £300 in leather vouchers.
Adele Williamson, an apprentice bespoke shoemaker at Tricker’s of Northampton, was named runner up. Adele’s entry was a pair of very elegant zip up the inside ankle boots to her own design.
Adele graduated with a BA from DMU in Footwear Design and Illustration in 2016 before being taken on by Tricker’s, which has been producing distinctive and carefully crafted shoes and boots since 1829. The contest attracted six entries and was a close run thing between the two of them.
Voting was made by the 80 delegates of the conference rather than by a panel. Each delegate had a little wooden last shape to tuck into a brown envelope next to the contestant’s entry.