Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

On a snowy day roughly 12 years ago, shoemaker Anne Marika Verploegh Chass茅鈥檚 train pulled into a city she had never heard of 鈥 Providence, Rhode Island. 

Carrying a bag of shoe samples, Chass茅 walked up to the Rhode Island School of Design Industrial Design building on South Main Street for the first time. 

鈥淚 fell in love with the building right away,鈥 Chass茅 said, recalling the light snow falling as she entered. 鈥淚t was very romantic.鈥

Ever since that day, Chass茅, a senior critic in industrial design at RISD, has taken the train from her home in New York to Providence every Thursday night to teach students the art of shoemaking. And every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 鈥 and then again from 1:10 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. 鈥 she has transformed a small room on the sixth floor of the ID building into a shoemaking studio.


Chass茅 and her students shared with The Herald that this workshop isn鈥檛 just about producing footwear but also empowering a new generation of artisans and craftspeople. 

An unlikely fit

Chass茅 stumbled upon the craft of shoemaking when she moved from Switzerland to New York in 1999. Chass茅 was working as a painter and illustrator when she came across a flyer about a shoemaking 鈥渉obby class.鈥

鈥淚 always loved making things,鈥 Chass茅 said. But quickly she realized that shoemaking was something special. 鈥淚 immediately fell in love with the physicality of it.鈥 

After that class, Chass茅 embarked on a mission, traveling across Europe to study under shoemakers and bootmakers.  

In Europe, Chass茅 explained, each shoemaker specializes in a single part of the overall process. But she wanted to learn everything.

鈥淗onestly, my teachers in London were laughing a little bit 鈥 they were like, 鈥楾hat鈥檚 basically impossible,鈥欌 Chass茅 said. 鈥淏ut now they鈥檙e actually very supportive.鈥 

Chass茅 still cannot believe that shoemaking has become her career. 鈥淣ot in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would鈥 be doing this, she said. 鈥淚 can really pay my rent and all that (by) making shoes and boots for individual clients and also teaching.鈥 

Chass茅 has made shoes for two Broadway productions, including over 250 pointe shoes for 鈥淭he Phantom of the Opera.鈥 

And if imagining a career as a professional shoemaker was difficult for Chass茅, teaching others the craft seemed even more impossible. But during a meeting of 鈥溾 鈥 a nonprofit dedicated to the historic preservation and research of shoemaking 鈥 Chass茅 happened to sit next to two RISD professors. 


鈥淲e hit it off,鈥 she said. The professors asked her if she would be interested in coming to Providence to talk about handmade shoes.  

鈥淚 was like, 鈥極h my God, someone is interested in what I鈥檓 doing,鈥欌 Chass茅 said. 鈥淚 literally went with my bags of tools and some shoe samples 鈥 (and) the students were really into it.鈥

Not long after, RISD offered Chass茅 a teaching position. Now, she also holds part-time faculty positions at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design. 

鈥淚t鈥檚 a very challenging class because we don鈥檛 really have a metal shop or wood shop with all the equipment,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t鈥檚 literally one specialized sewing machine and hand tools.鈥

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

Though initially Chass茅 carried the contents of her workspace back and forth to every class 鈥 lugging a forty-pound bag on the train 鈥 she has now nearly moved all her supplies to a small studio in the ID building. 

A 鈥榟ands-on鈥 craft

Lola Simon 鈥24, one of the students in Chass茅鈥檚 class, held up her first shoe: a mule. To the slip-on shoe with a small heel, Simon has added a pink-ish star in the middle and a pink ribbon that gets crisscrossed up the wearer鈥檚 ankle. 

鈥淚t鈥檚 like Cinderella,鈥 she said, smiling.

Simon sought out Chass茅鈥檚 shoemaking class after studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan in the spring. During her time abroad, she came to appreciate the unique nature of crafts and artisans.

鈥淚 got to know a lot of artisans and started to see craft as art,鈥 Simon said. Currently pursuing a degree in visual arts at Brown, Simon鈥檚 work focuses on printmaking and installation. 鈥淐raft is not usually put in the same category as fine art. 鈥 It is often taken for granted.鈥 

But according to Chass茅, there has been a return to craftsmaking in recent years as part of a , 鈥減eople wanting to do something with their hands again, something tangible, not just drawing.鈥

鈥淚n the old times, we knew everything we had to do to make our own shoes, we had to make our own tools, our own furniture (and) our own clothes 鈥 and that kind of got lost,鈥 Chass茅 said. 鈥淣ow we鈥檙e rediscovering these crafts.鈥

For Chass茅, heritage crafts create a chance for people to do more with their hands. 鈥淧eople are disillusioned about not using their hands,鈥 she said. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e sitting there for a five-hour class at your table, and it鈥檚 all on your laptop.鈥 

But shoemaking is different. 

鈥淲hen students come in and they work for five hours and they鈥檙e hammering 鈥 you can tell by the minute they鈥檙e getting happier because they鈥檙e using their hands,鈥 Chass茅 said.

The opportunity to work with her hands was what brought Aishwarya Dayama, a RISD Master鈥檚 student studying adaptive reuse, to the class. 

鈥淚 wanted something hands-on,鈥 Dayama said. 鈥淚 wanted to do something radically different鈥 from studio-based classes. 

Dayama explained the complicated process of making a shoe 鈥 from fitting, designing, prototyping and then making a final product. She said the length of the process and the precision required surprised her. 

鈥淓ven your previous smallest mistakes can (impact) your final thing,鈥 Dayama said. 

Mia Prausnitz-Weinbaum 鈥24 was also surprised by the amount of detail required to make the shoes. 

鈥淎 lot of what I do on my own is very self-taught. I just kinda go for it and hope for the best,鈥 Prausnitz-Weinbaum said of her artistic practice. But shoemaking requires more careful planning. 鈥淏ecause the leather is so expensive and from an animal, you want to be more intentional.鈥

鈥淚n a world of mass-produced items, making stuff for yourself is really cool,鈥 she added.

Handcrafting products invites 鈥渁 completely different way of looking at objects and what you surround yourself with and what makes you happy rather than mass production,鈥 Chass茅 said. 鈥淚t鈥檚 something special. 鈥 You鈥檙e becoming part of the story.鈥

The students鈥 first project 鈥 making a single simple shoe 鈥 took several weeks as they learned the basic skills and techniques of shoemaking. For their final project, students are encouraged to apply what they have learned to make any pair of shoes 鈥 whether it be comfortable high heels and Mary Janes or knee-high boots.

Though the semester is not yet over, Chass茅鈥檚 students are already dreaming of how they will use their new skills after the class ends. 

鈥淚 can鈥檛 stop talking about shoemaking,鈥 Simon said. 鈥淚t changed my life.鈥

Powered by Solutions by The State 国产偷拍
All Content © 2023 国产偷拍, Inc.