Nature shoe

Carmel Walsh

This project is an exhibition of form and texture; investigating nature. Within this project it was my ambition to find a balance between nature and modern design; where the two concepts blend fluidly. I was inspired by the shapes of cliffs and terraced farming on mountains; by the rich world of textures in coral reefs; by the change of colour within the decay and erosion of the earth. The basic concept of life, the cycle of a seed growing into a plant whose fibers can be used to make natural fabrics, which in turn can be used to make sustainable footwear is beautiful and idealistic.

The final goal is the reduction of impact upon that which I find inspiration – nature. What is born from nature returns to it in the end. Hand crafted products grow old gracefully and take on a personality acquired by memories of its use. I wanted those products to be of a high quality, design and aesthetic value and to translate easily into the industry and a wide market.
In an effort to make a statement of how impressive and experimental sustainable footwear can be, I created the collection to express awareness and closeness between nature and time; a concept which strengthened my designs.
The realization that we as designers have responsibilities not only to the aesthetic world, but also to the ethical world is an essential foundation. With 2009 being the international year of natural fabrics, I found a perfect opportunity to attend debates and exhibitions concerning sustainable,renewable and recycled fabrics. I was introduced to fabrics of crab-shell, milk and other intriguing concepts. This experience made me to realize the unique beneficial characteristics of plant and animal fibers.
The idea of sustainability just made sense to me. In a world where 330 million pairs of shoes are thrown into land fills per year, I felt the need to make a product that would endure and to try to find a balance between fast and slow fashion. I embarked on a research which allowed me to explore many topics.

I was inspired by a piece by Heinrik Hakinssan in which he suspended trees by wire without root systems, to me displaying the power of nature. This impression began my adventure through 'Green Artists' and the intriguing concepts behind their work. Exploring further, I discovered Eco-Architects creating buildings which grew like living organisms. My curiosity led me to uncovered many exciting and innovative designers and researchers. From Bio Couture, to 3D printing, the idea that science and technology used to create a new world of intelligent fabrics was mesmerizing. Understanding the importance of collaborations with artisans, designers, scientists and technology opened up endless possibilities and opportunity.

Having started an apprenticeship with a shoemaker from June of 2008, this experience provided me with the insight, knowledge and understanding necessary to realize this project. It was a stimulating challenge sourcing and constructing a shoe with fabrics.
Living in San Frediano, an area of Florence rich with artisans, I seized the opportunity and asked a wood restorer to collaborate
with me on this experiment. I made the heels first in plasticine, then we sought a solution to carve to them light and strong woods. Local organic farmers and leather and textile manufacturers in Tuscany provided an interesting range of fabrics which complemented my designs.

My shoes are made with vegetable tanned leather, walnut wood heels, fabrics including caucciui covered organic cotton, linen, raffia, hemp, bamboo and cork to support the forms.

Fun ideas spring to mind with my collection, changing the seeds instead of shoes with the passing seasons. It is my hope that in their second life they will decay and grow as an art piece.

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