Sunday 19th April 2020.
Good morning, now I feel more than ever is the time to look at how and where we produce the things that we need in our lives.
The Covid19 Pandemic has brought us all up short we cannot work and live as we have been doing now surely we can take this opportunity to change, think again about global mass production. Where has it got us? I do understand that many peoples livelihoods depend on it but shifts can be made that can have positive ripples of change through supply chains and across continents.
I have been handmaking shoes at Green Shoes for nearly 40 years and I believe we have something to offer however small, in the way that we work and the ethics and ideas that that underpin our business since its beginings in 1981.
In those days we wanted to change the world and were primarily inspired by E. F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful", knowing that the economic system that governed our society was fundamentally unfair socially and was damaging to the environment.
Totnes was a ferment of 'alternative' ideas, from Dartington and "The Briar Patch" in California, the atmosphere was brave and supportive, rents were low and there was no student debt.....
We wanted to build a strong LOCAL economy, keep it local, support other local businesses this creates local jobs for local people and a stronger economy which is better for everyone. There are countless positive outcomes to this basic idea, including stronger community and greater knowledge and appreciation of where and how we live.
Now more than ever we are having to look at how our communities work, where we get our food from and who is looking after whom.
Shoemaking is only a small part of this but our business model is a useful example of how a small, local business can help to sustain a varied local economy.
We make our shoes in small batches in a workshop that employees 5 full and part time people, skilled and largely enjoyable jobs!
We work as a team we are proud of what we make and the service that we give to our customers many of whom we have known for years.
Our shoes are made from the best quality leathers and Vegan materials and are fully repairable so they last for years, reducing landfill.
Our dream would be a tannery on Dartmoor that could supply us with local leather, but this is not available at the moment so because we are so small we buy the end of line leathers from tanneries in Europe via our leather factors.
Because we are thinking hard about how we will be able to start up our full production I am reflecting on the beginings of Green Shoes.
We, myself Alison Hastie and Sarah Almy started Green Shoes in 1981 in Totnes Devon. We had met at Exeter university and after I graduated I went off in search of a way of learning to make shoes. I had had enough of academic work and wanted to earn my living using my hands, I was young idealistic and had no debts. In the 1970's you could get a full grant for a university education. So I was free to imagine the simple life I wanted and I found Andy Langford and Graham Kitchener who had just started making shoes in Totnes and calling themselves 'The Conker Shoe Co'.