ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Shoemaker, Handyman and Inventor: The Story of Gilberto de Melo- a TRUE European Artisan

Updated on July 1, 2015

The Breathtaking "Nordeste" in São Miguel, Açores Where Both of My Parents Were Born

Source

Handmade Black Dress Shoe (Over 35 Years Old)

Detail of Black Dress Shoe

Leather Sole with Hidden Nails of Black Dress Shoe

Handmade Brown Boot

Detail of Fancy Stitch-Work on Brown Boot

High-Quality Leather Sole with Wooden Peg Nails (Matchsticks) and Brass Nails of Brown Boot

Hand-Carved Wooden Shoe Last

Hand-Carved Traditional Portuguese Clog

Foot-Powered Singer Sewing Machine (c. 100 Years Old)

Cute Recycled Birdhouse

What is an ARTISAN?

According to Webster's here is the definition: 1. A worker who practices a trade or handicraft. 2. One that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods.

Living and working in Europe has exposed me to countless talented artisans who still value originality and high quality craftsmanship. I have also had the pleasure of interviewing many of them and touring their workshops.

Unfortunately, today's wasteful and disposable society is causing the artisan to become virtually extinct. Whether it's shoes, clothing, jewelry or cell phones- nothing is made to last nowadays. Our economy relies on things breaking down or wearing out quickly in order for us to buy more and more. When you buy something high-quality that is made by an artisan, it can last a lifetime- and that would mean less money going to these big corporations!

Gilberto de Melo is a TRUE European Artisan. Born the youngest of ten children in the lush, beautiful island of São Miguel, Açores, he immigrated to Massachusetts in his late twenties. Having been a shoemaker most of his life, he quickly found a job in a shoe factory as a supervisor, where he created and implemented better ways of making shoes.

By the way, Gilberto also happens to be my father...

My father regularly brought home discontinued materials and overstock, so I grew up around a variety of leathers, suede and wooden shoe lasts (the forms used to make a shoe). It always amazed me that he could put together a shoe "from scratch." When I was in junior high, he made me a lovely pair of suede sneakers. Of course, back then I didn't appreciate the shoes as much as I would now. In case you didn't know, a pair of hand made, custom-fit shoes can cost thousands of dollars!

My father's attention to detail and the pride he took in his work served as an inspiration to me. If something was not right, he would take everything apart, start over and work at it until it was perfect.

I have taken photos of 2 shoes (from 2 pairs that he made in his workshop). The first is a black dress shoe that he handmade over 35 years ago. The outer edges of the leather sole were slit and pushed aside and after the nails were added the edges were pushed back in place to hide the nail heads. The result is a smooth leather sole, which is very elegant on a dress shoe.

The second is brown boot that flaunts fancy stitch work. No machine could replicate this stitch design at the time these boots were constructed in 1977 (almost 35 years ago). Notice the soles have wooden peg nails and brass nails, both of which never rust and therefore keep the inner sole always in excellent condition. By the way, since wooden peg nails were not available in the city we lived in, my father used matchsticks to achieve the same result.

To this day I am still impressed by my father's ingenuity. For example, on many occasions I have witnessed him actually INVENT and CREATE a tool for a certain job that needed to be done. This applied to shoe making as well as many "handyman" jobs at home and at work.

Being from a small village and a poor family, my father did not receive a formal education. I have always wondered what he could have aspired to if he had been given the opportunity to attend university. No doubt he would have become an engineer or an inventor. Sadly, the world will never know.

Surprisingly, my father and his siblings taught themselves to play guitar without knowing how to read music. They all play beautifully and claim that they simply picked up the guitar and replicated the tunes they heard on the radio. All of them "play by ear" so to speak. Baffled, I tried to do the same only to end up with sore fingertips...I guess I didn't get the cool music gene.

In 2011 my father celebrated his 70th birthday, but one would never guess his age by looking at him. His faithfulness to the traditional Mediterranean diet and his active lifestyle has kept him young. Today, he and my mother live in Florida and although he is retired, he continues to work because he simply cannot sit still. He is the official handyman for one of the biggest car dealerships in town and is happiest when he's busy.

Unfortunately, without easy access to materials or shoe lasts, he is no longer making shoes. Recently, however, he carved a single wooden shoe last by hand and made a traditional Portuguese clog just for fun. In his workshop sits a foot-powered Singer sewing machine that is about 100 years old. He just used it the other day to sew new leather cushions for the sofa in the study so it's still functioning quite well.

Lately, my father has taken to making birdhouses out of things my mother throws in the recycling bin. Laundry detergent bottles, plastic tubes, juice bottles- you name it. A true artisan is always inventing new things, always creating.

Although this article is dedicated to my father, I feel compelled to mention my mother, Filomena. In addition to being a talented artist and great cook, she is a third generation seamstress. For several years she worked out of our home on private commissions. I remember an incredible wedding gown she made for a client that was decorated with hundreds of carefully hand-sewn pearls. Since the standards of high quality work were deeply instilled in my mother, it inevitably trickled down to her three daughters.

Needless to say, my sisters and I are extremely picky and very quality conscious when it comes to shoes and clothing. We KNOW well-made items when we see them and we're never fooled by trendy labels or high end designers. We are also artistic and creative and take great pride in our own work. Thanks Mom and Dad!

I hope you've enjoyed this article. As always, thank you for reading!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist
www.cdemelo.com




Gilberto's (Gilly's) Workshop

Colorful & Quirky 100% Recycled Bird Houses (No 2 Are Alike)

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)