Situated on the island of St Martin’s, one of five inhabited islands which forms the Isles of Scilly, is Little Arthur Green Shoes. A traditional workshop filled with the finest leathers, hardware, shoemaker and local artisan, Richard Morton.
The story begins in 1979 when Richard first began making shoes. Even then, Richard fundamentally believed people wanted something individual, something different and something handmade. Richard’s skilled craftsmanship and close eye to detail has attracted many tourists who visit the island to his workshop for locally produce bespoke sandals, shoes and boots.
In 2016, Richard encountered every shoemaker’s worst nightmare. A fire caught hold of his workshop and caused devastation. Not only did the fire destroy all of his stock, but Richard also lost his patterns and stitching machines. With support from his loyal customers and a donation made by HRM Prince Charles, Richard Morten has manged to rebuild his workshop so future tourists and loyal customers may continue to enjoy his craftsmanship.
We caught up with Richard to find out more.
What materials do you rely on for the making of your shoes?
We try to use natural materials wherever possible, like calf hides for the uppers and plantation crepe for the soles. For fastenings, we use solid brass buckles.
Do you have any assistance or are you a sole operator?
The business is a one man affair – I design the shoes, cut them out, stitch them, sell them and send them off – so I can never blame anyone else for my mistakes! (Not of course that there are any!)
So you're also the designer?
Yes, but the designs are all very traditional. Having been a boat builder in my former life, I am concerned with shoes that are fit-for-purpose. A leak in a boat can have dire consequences; with shoes the consequences may not be as life threatening but it’s important that footwear keeps your feet dry. As with boats, owner of shoes or boots want something that looks good, will last and be comfortable to use.
What inspires your designs?
Alongside of the practical considerations, living in a place as special as Scilly, I am endlessly inspired by the island environment and the colours that surround us. All the footwear is photographed on the island, set against granite boulders, in gig boats, amidst trhe amazing flora of the island.
How much times goes into making one pair of shoes?
A lot! Some of the simpler designs may only take four hours of hands-on time but the different stages cannot be hurried. All the shoes, sandals and boots are glued and stitched to make them both waterproof and durable. Additionally, I include extras which provide even greater strength, like cross-stitches on the straps which both ass decorative appeal and provide extra re-enforcement of a part under most stress.
What sets your shoes apart from other shoe makers?
I would like to think it’s a combination of comfort, durability and quality. My shoes are lined whereas many hand-made shoes are not, relying on the thickness of leather. I incorporate a layer of glue between the pigskin lining and the calf hide which acts as a waterproof membrane. All the shoes have leather subsoles to provide additional comfort. I use traditional, heavy duty brass buckles which add a sense of quality. Most importantly, the shoes and boots are all foot-shaped and do not pinch and squeeze the foot into unnatural contortions.
What type of customers do you attract?
My customers are people who appreciate a hand-crafted product, made in natural materials and which are produced especially for them. The kind of people who prefer to have one pair of comfortable lace-ups, sandals or boots to a row of high-fashion, high street concoctions.
Can you make adjustments to your shoes to accommodate customers who have podiatry issues?
I can make slight variations in my shoes to accommodate slight irregularities and certainly accommodate people who have different sized left and right feet. However, I do not undertake to make footwear needing a great deal of adjustment. Since most of my shoes are made-t-o-order and sent to addresses on the mainland and beyond, it makes fitting shoes more difficult so I tend to stick to making standard sized that people will usually have tried on in my workshop when visiting the island.
With your set of skills and 30 plus years of experience, are you ever asked to make other leather goods?
I used to make belts and bags but now restrict myself to footwear as I simply cannot keep up with demand.
What has been the most challenging aspect in running your business?
If you would like any further information, please visit www.littlearthurgreenshoes.org.
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Tags: shoe makingshoes made in the UKLittle Arthur Green ShoesIsles of ScillyAbbey Customer SpotlightRichard Morten
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