Rose Choules – Moccasin Atelier
Rose has worked within the footwear industry for the last ten years. She has trained with the ‘lastmakers’ at the historic John Lobb of St James’ Street, established the design direction of cult shoe brand pointer, and Rose was enlisted to design a custom line for Karen Walker’s S/S 2010 runway show in New York.
Her debut as ‘Rose Choules Moccasin Atelier’ was at a pop-up shop in Selfridges in November 2011. She was the winner of the 2011 ‘Footwear Friends Designer Award’. Since then Rose has received much recognition for her work, using traditional techniques blended with modern. Rose’s moccasins are all constructed using the highest quality products she can get from Devon shearling, the finest leather and suede’s sourced in the UK, and exquisite vintage trims and beads collected on travels. Last spring Rose travelled to Sandy Bay and Pelican Narrows in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. There she spent time with the Cree artisans sharing stories and gaining a mutual understanding for one anothers respective culture. Moccasins are a thread that forms the fabric of community, with each person cherished and designed for. Moccasin is the Cree word for shoe.
We popped up to her Bude-based workshop to catch up with her, and have a little chat about what she hopes to achieve in the future and some of her experiences so far…
How did the decision to go down the footwear route come about, and when?
I was studying fashion and textiles at college and wanted to go into fashion, but the idea of specialising in a particular area of that was most intriguing. So when I came across footwear design as a degree course I signed up. It was a good balance of creativity and functionality. I started the degree course doing a 2 year HND in technology to understand the science of materials and industry practices before doing the more creative work. I like to know about how things work – the engineering and construction, and then creating a simple design to showcase that. I graduated in 2004 and have worked throughout the footwear and fashion industry since.
What inspired you to make moccasins in particular?
I love the simple construction that came about through necessity, paired with beautiful decoration that symbolises community and identity. This is a theme that threads all my work together. About 5 years ago a friend gave me a very basic moccasin making pattern kit, which I played around with. I made a pair for a friend who said he would buy some. He was really stoked on them and ordered some more for 2 friends of his as gifts, it kind of gathered momentum from there and 5 years on they’re still evolving! I am also fascinated by the history and culture they originate from, and have made it part of my work to research this and connect with people from the First Nation cultures in America and Canada. The hand work is astonishing, and when you smell home-smoked moose hide it’s unforgettable.
What goes into making the moccasins?
I create each pair from scratch depending on which individual or store i’m making them for, and this takes a lot of time as I create patterns based on the foot shape – this can take a day, and then it’s another day making the pair. There are quite a few parts, as the moccasins are also lined and there are hidden bits and bobs in there to support the structure that you can’t see. In fact sometimes the lining is the structure of the shoe, like a skeleton. It depends on the style too. I often make prototypes before completing a final designed pair which can take a few days until i’m happy. So lot’s of time goes in aside from the day actually making a finished pair.
What’s your favourite part of the making process?
Every aspect. From idea, to pattern cutting, to making to wearing. The best coffee in Bude from you in the morning helps no end!! Seriously…
We read about your recent travels to canada, how has that inspired your work?
Oh great! I’m glad – yeah that trip inspired my life, and therefore my approach to work. I learnt so much from the people I met on the reservation in Northern Saskatchewan – it’s one of those trips you have to just go with the flow – I could never have imagined how incredible it would be. Luckily I was taken by someone who had long standing relationships with the elders and community leaders in the areas we visited, so it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be included in gatherings. It was very special. The whole experience inspired me to be more part of the community I live in. Big up Bude! I’ve connected with amazing people back here since who are creating wonderful things for people locally and internationally. I feel more a part of that now, and It’s that sense of place and purpose that I live by every day that my work follows. I was inspired by the patience and time that goes in to each pair of moccasins or artwork created, and how good going slow is.
Do you have any new products in the works for this year?
Well yes I do. I’m making a collection of traditionally beaded baby moccasins which will come in lot’s of colours and bead combinations, as they were a hit for Christmas time and really sweet to make. Also a very special limited range in connection with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, who house an amazing collection of First Nations moccasins and clothing in their permanent exhibition. That will be later on in the year and i’m very excited about that project. Oh and i’m opening an online shop for these things at last.
What’s your vision for the future of the business?
I design my work schedule 3 months at a time and it’s very varied. I like it this way. I enjoy partnering with like minded people and brands so more of that I reckon. We have a good thing going at The Design Floor (the shared creative studio with Helen Murgatroyd and Hannah Wheeler), and we plan to grow this year in some new ways, independently and together.
What do you love about teaching in your workshops?
The workshops are great. The people that attend are naturally really creative and enthusiastic, and so happy to be making something new in a safe and supportive environment. It’s a real treat for people, so it keeps me focused and grateful that I have made that my everyday experience. I learn a lot from them too – they always put me on to other interesting people and places, and it’s amazing how 2 people never make the same moccasins. Everyone shows their personality and character through what they make – it’s great to see. Generally sharing the moccasin love is what it’s about.
And most importantly what bought you to our corner of the N.cornwall coast?
Something blowin’ in the wind.
“Rose designs as she makes, using what is learnt through personal experience to honour ancient cultural practices that celebrate individualism through the beauty of the hand made.”
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