Elizabeth Alice Shoes was the name of my Grandma’s shoe shop in Lorne, Victoria while I was growing up. Every holiday I remember until my grandparents moved to Torquay in 2010 was spent between the beach and their 3 shops on the foreshore. Elizabeth Alice used to be a butcher shop back in the day, and still has those distinctive white tiles on the outside. No one could ever remember the name, and when they sold up, the new owners changed the name to “That Shoe Shop in Lorne” which is apparently what everyone outside of my family had always called it.
Now, you might notice that my “Elizabeth” is actually “Elisabeth”. That’s my middle name. (Believe it or not, it’s not inspired by my grandma). That’s my way of making it my own.
A little (a lot) more about me:
My whole life I’ve been a maker. I’ve always wanted to know how things work. As a kid, I’d sneak into my mum’s study and pull apart her pens, to see if I could put them back together again (spoiler- I could not).
Eventually I moved on from destroying pens, broadening my horizons to making jewelry. I had books on beading, and was making macramé bracelets before I knew what macramé was. I was best friends with the young women who owned the corner shop called “Billions of Beads.”(They really did have billions!) Every night my mum would read to me, and I’d sit on the floor of my room and bead a necklace or a bracelet, or tiny 32 gauge wire/seed bead sea creatures I found instructions for in a book.
When I was 15, my school put on a ‘medieval feast’ where we all had to (got to) dress up and have a gigantic feast as part of our history module. I went to the local second-hand shop and got a gorgeous dress which I still have, but one of my friends didn’t have any disposable income, and was cast to play the queen, so naturally, me -with my 5 seconds of experience with making my Barbie dolls’ clothes as a kid, coupled with a 1 day course I’d done in fashion design the previous summer holidays- thought I was a fashion designer and offered to make one for her out of an old curtain. Soon realising I was out of my depth (even with three of us girls, none of us could work out how to sew the front to the back and we ended up with something that may have fit a life-size paper doll.)
Enlisting the help of my wonderful mum, between the two of us and many hours spent at the kitchen table (this is where I developed my lifelong love of unpicking – ha! not) – we managed to create something she could wear for the duration of the event. It was very stiff. Curtains are not really the same thing as dresses, material wise. (Who knew?)
After this calamitous foray into the world of clothing, I called my maternal grandmother, who is a star quilter (seriously, she’s done exhibitions all over the country, and, as of last year, the world) and organised for a whirlwind weekend of teaching me everything I needed to know. She sent me to Spotlight to pick out a pattern and some fabric. I picked a simple shift dress with a ruffle along the bottom, and an invisible zipper.
She taught me all about pressing and seam allowances and we ended up with a wearable dress. I discovered last year that there’s something called an invisible zipper foot, and it’s supposed to be used for installing invisible zippers. As I mentioned, my grandma’s a quilter, and the last time she made clothes was before invisible zippers were invented. That zipper is embarrassing for both of us. Don’t bring it up, please.
I lost touch with my creativity a little in the later years of high school, prioritising academia and especially science – things that had a right answer and wouldn’t drain my batteries too much.
After school though, after a yearlong creative/life crisis, I threw myself right back into dressmaking, joining a local group with a lovely lady who’d taught sewing for over 30 years. Met some cool people, made some cool dresses, and then started Uni at the beginning of 2016, intending to keep my dressmaking as a hobby. I soon tired of academia. What I’d thrown myself into in high school felt incredibly stale after a year of total freedom and a lot of creative potential. After one semester, I was done with the generalist arts degree, and looking toward something more practical and creative.
I came to the RMIT open day expecting to look around and see the fashion course, which I’d heard was one of the best. I’d also had a look around the site beforehand and found something I’d never considered before: Shoemaking. Wow. You can make shoes? That’s a thing? I mean, of course it is, everything is made by someone, I knew that intellectually, but honestly, my whole life, shoes had been something that were ostensibly practical, but in reality incredibly frustrating. Diagnosed with a genetic Achilles tendon disorder at a young age, since before I was really able to start developing my own sense of style, I had these huge custom made orthotics that I had to fit into every single pair of shoes I bought and wore. They were huge, they were green, and they were a chore. I experimented with high heels at parties as a teenager, always abandoning them in the living room before the party was half over, despite all my friend’s encouragements to ‘marry your shoes for the evening’. Shoes have been something I’ve fought against since I was a kid, always preferring to go barefoot (super helpful for the tendon disorder, obviously) and dealing with constant, low level pain.
Despite my lifelong love of making, my obsession with detail and how stuff worked, I’d literally never thought of applying that to shoes, but once I did, it was all I could think about doing.
So, here I am, embarking upon this journey. So far, I’m loving it.