About Shoe School

Shoemaker and teacher Louise Clifton wants to make shoemaking skills simple, accessible and fun. As a student, you'll be given the skills and creative control to create a pair of your very own shoes. And as a Shoe School alumni you will be equipped with the knowledge to carry on with shoemaking in your own home!

Louise studied her craft in Australia and recently returned from an internship in Japan. Louise believes accessible shoemaking workshops that combine innovation and hands-on practical skills are perfectly suited to the Kiwi DIY ethos. 

Shoe School is located in Dunedin, New Zealand. Dunedin is a compact university city with Scottish roots. It is renowned for fashion and design and a creative arts scene. For what to do while in Dunedin - please visit the FAQ section.

10 questions with bijoustudio.co.nz . . .

1. How did Shoe School start?

I was looking for a career where I would be able to combine my big-picture brain with my hands-on craft skills. I loved the idea of becoming a shoemaker (best job ever right?!) and travelled to Australia and Japan to learn. I launched my business full-time in November 2015, though I've been practicing my craft for about 6 years now, training and slowly collecting precious equipment and resources.


2. How did you find your niche as a shoemaker and an educator?

When I began it was very, very difficult to learn shoemaking in New Zealand. Tools, supplies and learning resources were inaccessible. I was inspired by my Australian and Japanese teachers, who were not only generous but also had the knack of making; simple techniques that I had struggled to understand in isolation. Part of my learning involved me inviting one of my Australian tutors to teach in Dunedin. I realised that there were a lot people in New Zealand eager to learn shoemaking and there was an opportunity to create a viable teaching business here.


3. Why do you choose to base yourself in Dunedin, New Zealand?

Dunedin is great mix of small town and big city. For creatives it's fantastic as it's cheap to live here and there are plenty studio spaces. It has a University so there's a reliable influx of new people and fresh ideas. I also really enjoy the sense of friendly camaraderie in my small community.


4. How do you operate Shoe School as a business?

I have a studio in central Dunedin that accessible by foot to everything I need – including coffee. I share the building with other artists, which my students find quite fascinating. My time is divided between studio time, prepping and teaching workshops and admin, which takes a lot longer than you'd think! Admin involves business planning, research and marketing. Because I'm involved in a lot of community-based projects I also spend a fair chunk of time researching and applying for grants. I have the help of the occasional volunteer, but mostly it's just me.


5. Tell us about the workshops you offer with Shoe School. How can people get involved?

I run four-day shoemaking workshops twice a month. I run pattern, sandal and pencilcase workshops too. I also run the occasional shoemaking related event! This year I co-ordinated 'Japanese Handmade Shoes' for iD Dunedin Fashion Week, inviting my Japanese Sensei to Dunedin and 'Frankenfoot' workshops for the Dunedin Fringe. Prospective students hear about Shoe School from my various marketing efforts – social media, e-newsletters, media features and word of mouth. I encourage would-be students to email me to start a conversation about their future shoes.

6. Do you address sustainability in your business and making? If so, how?

Yes, definitely. I'm giving students the tools to create a pair of shoes from raw materials. These are skills they can take with them. It raises the value of shoes which are otherwise a mass-produced commodity and gives students a greater appreciation and respect for the techniques and skill involved in making them. It's my hope my workshops will inspire a new generation of shoemakers that will go on to manufacture in New Zealand.


7. What other makers do you enjoy and align yourself with?

There are shoemaking workshops popping up all over the world, so I keep an eye on what they're doing. I really enjoy the schools that make learning shoemaking accessible and an enjoyable experience.


8. Why do you feel it is important to keep a traditional craft such as shoemaking alive through your workshops?

There's a whole lot of people like me out there that enjoy the making-through process – that think with their hands! Ideas in creative industries are sometimes held in greater esteem than the intelligence involved in producing the actual object. I like to think that shoemaking combines both those aspects and results in a more sophisticated product and a greater sense of satisfaction for the maker.

9. We follow your students’ work on Instagram. Do you feel the use of social media benefits your practice and your business?

Yes, hugely! It allows for direct communication: followers respond emotionally and feel a personal connection with the business. My teaching is one-on-one and I see social media as an extension of my practice.


10. What advice do you have for anyone interested in operating as a creative in New Zealand?

Rely on your instincts and seek advice and mentoring from those you trust. Also - consider moving to Dunedin! It's good here.