THE CLOGMAKER’S AP­PREN­TICE

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by alex reece pho­to­graphs by lisa lin­der

Wood­worker Jojo Wood is carv­ing a unique path for her­self with a mod­ern take on tra­di­tional footwear from a by­gone era

Wood­worker Jojo Wood is carv­ing a unique path for her­self with a mod­ern take on footwear from a by­gone era

IN A WOOD­LAND CLEAR­ING IN THE WYE VAL­LEY, Jojo Wood gath­ers up an arm­ful of birch logs she has felled and car­ries them back to her home – a yurt sur­rounded by broadleaf trees. As a pro­fes­sional wood­worker, liv­ing close to her raw ma­te­ri­als is a great source of in­spi­ra­tion, and the cop­pice set­ting is es­pe­cially beau­ti­ful in au­tumn, when the leaves fall onto her can­vas roof. Set­ting the tim­ber down, and sit­ting on her doorstep, she in­spects a piece of alder shaped like the sole of a shoe, and be­gins to carve at the edges with a knife. “It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing to be able to make some­thing with your hands from a re­new­able re­source,” she says.

Grow­ing up in Der­byshire, with a mas­ter wood­turner (Robin Wood MBE) for a fa­ther, Jojo was im­mersed in the craft from an early age and did her first piece of wood­work be­fore she can re­mem­ber. “My dad turns bowls on a pole lathe,” she ex­plains, “so I grew up around all of that. All the plates, bowls and spoons we had were wooden.” Al­though, dur­ing her teenage years, Jojo wasn’t sure that she wanted to fol­low in her fa­ther’s foot­steps (she chose to go to art col­lege for a year after leav­ing school), ul­ti­mately she de­cided to fo­cus on

craft. While help­ing with Spoon­fest, the an­nual spoon-carv­ing event run by her dad in Edale, she no­ticed that all the teach­ers were men. “I thought that wasn’t right and was de­ter­mined to be­come one of the in­struc­tors the fol­low­ing year.” She now sells her hand­made uten­sils on­line, and leads spoon-carv­ing cour­ses at Spoon­fest and all over the world.

By the time she was out of her teens, how­ever, Jojo was think­ing about her next chal­lenge. “I love spoons, but I’m pretty good at them and I’m only 22,” she says. For years she had worn a pair of clogs owned by her mother. A low-fit­ting ‘Welsh slip­per’ de­sign, they had been made by Jeremy Atkin­son, a clogmaker Jojo’s dad got to know through the show cir­cuit and whom her mum, Ni­cola, an aca­demic, met (along with an 11-year-old Jojo) while do­ing re­search into tra­di­tional skills. Jeremy, now in his six­ties, is the last craftsper­son in Eng­land to make whole clogs by hand (he also trained Geraint Parfitt, the only clog carver in Wales). It’s a dis­ci­pline dat­ing back gen­er­a­tions that takes years to mas­ter, in­volv­ing both wood- and leather­work skills. “It looked like some­thing re­ally com­pli­cated that would keep me in­ter­ested for a long time,” Jojo says. “And it’s a craft with­out many

prac­ti­tion­ers – it needs more peo­ple do­ing it if it’s to sur­vive.”

Jojo first asked Jeremy if he would teach her two years ago and, in or­der to pay for one-to-one tu­ition, set about ap­ply­ing for fund­ing. She suc­ceeded in gain­ing a schol­ar­ship from the pres­ti­gious Queen Eliz­a­beth Schol­ar­ship Trust – QEST (see above) – in spring 2015, and also re­ceived a grant from the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pole­lathe Turn­ers and Green­wood Work­ers. This fi­nan­cial sup­port en­abled her to start an ap­pren­tice­ship at Jeremy’s work­shop in the mar­ket town of King­ton, Here­ford­shire, learn­ing along­side him three days a week. On the re­main­ing days, she fo­cuses on her spoon-carv­ing and teach­ing.

To keep costs down, Jojo lives a sim­ple life in her yurt deep in the coun­try­side. Peo­ple also ral­lied round to help her get started: she was given a set of leather­work tools by friend and fel­low

“They used to say you could tell the vil­lage a man came from by his clogs”

spoon-carver Jane Mick­el­bor­ough, who had made clog up­pers in the past. Mean­while, Jeremy found her the wood-carv­ing tools she needed, many of which date back to the turn of the 20th cen­tury. Th­ese are kept at Jeremy’s work­place – a for­mer tai­lor’s shop in the cen­tre of town. There is no sign out­side, but a glance through the win­dow re­veals his trade: the shelved space is stacked to the ceil­ing with wooden lasts, newly carved soles in alder, birch and sy­camore, and rolls of moc­casin leather, while an­tique clog irons hang in bunches from the ex­posed beams. There is a formidablelook­ing blocker in the cen­tre of the room, en­cir­cled by wood shav­ings. “Jojo picks things up re­ally fast and she’s got a very good eye,” he says of his stu­dent. “As soon as she’s ready to take some­thing on, I usu­ally only have to tell her once and it sticks.”

Jojo be­gan her ap­pren­tice­ship by mak­ing clogs for fam­ily and friends – eas­ier for both fit­tings and feed­back. Craft­ing be­spoke clogs takes time: while an ex­pe­ri­enced maker might be able to carve one or two pairs in a day, they then have to al­low the green-wood soles to dry out for a month, be­fore check­ing if they fit, usu­ally in per­son (Jeremy, clev­erly, man­ages to do this by post). Once any ad­just­ments have been made, the leather­work then has to be stitched and nailed – plus any fas­ten­ings, such as clasps or eye­lets, and steel or brass toe tins, added.

Jeremy’s hand­i­work has at­tracted cus­tomers from all walks of life (he has also done spe­cial com­mis­sions for film and the­atre pro­duc­tions, such as Co­ram Boy at The Na­tional The­atre). One of the ad­van­tages clogs have over con­ven­tional footwear is com­fort – es­pe­cially if you have arthritic toes, as th­ese don’t need to bend in the tra­di­tional, curved clog shape – and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als mean the feet don’t sweat. Though they cost more to buy than fac­tory-made shoes, clogs do not wear out any­where near as quickly. If cared for, they can last for up to 20 years.

With a keen de­sign sense, Jojo – who to­day is wear­ing a pair of clogs she has made her­self, with a duck toe and a mid-height heel – hopes to de­vise her own style of clog­mak­ing, some­thing Jeremy en­cour­ages: “They used to say you could tell the vil­lage a man came from by the cut of his clogs,” he says, “be­cause ev­ery maker was dif­fer­ent.” Jojo sees a lot of po­ten­tial for in­no­va­tion, and for build­ing on the tra­di­tion. “There are plenty of leather tech­niques that haven’t pre­vi­ously been used on clogs, such as brogu­ing. I’d like to make high-heeled ones and plat­forms, too.” She plans to be open for or­ders by Christ­mas.

When her ap­pren­tice­ship is com­plete, Jojo wants to es­tab­lish her own busi­ness, pro­vid­ing be­spoke fash­ion­able clogs. Pas­sion­ate about trees and the coun­try­side, she in­tends to main­tain a ru­ral base while trav­el­ling to ma­jor cities ev­ery few weeks for fit­tings. “What I love about clogs is that I can spend the rest of my life ex­per­i­ment­ing and ex­plor­ing,” she says. “There are end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties and places I could take this.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on Jojo’s prod­ucts and cour­ses, plus de­tails of Jeremy Atkin­son’s de­signs, visit jojo-wood.co.uk and clogmaker.co.uk.

94

THIS PAGE AND OP­PO­SITE Jojo is em­brac­ing her new craft cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful be­spoke clogs – the leather­work on this red pair was in­spired by an an­tique pat­tern

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.