Part Two in a series of interviews with people who have found hands-on, creative work through doing an apprenticeship.
Shoemaking, or cordwaining (the official term), is a craft that has been largely erased from mainstream shoe production over the past 30 years. Only 2% of the US shoe market is produced domestically, and as of 2011, there are only 1,460 shoe repairers and shoemakers practicing in Canada.
“My mother was the night baker before me,” she says. Kelly’s 27. She started baking donuts when she was seven. It was a punishment. “My mom was the night baker,” she says again. “If I was, you know, ‘naughty,’ she took me with her.” If Kelly was naughty, she went to work with her mom and made donuts. She did that for years. She quit. She came back. She’s been working here a year-and-a-half. Night baker, like her mom. She takes her smoke breaks out front, because there’s no camera out back. “We’ve been robbed before,” she says. Man walked in the back door. Emptied the safe. Kelly wasn’t working. “I’m just lucky,” she says. She’s quitting again in two weeks. She’s going to be a security guard. “Fifteen dollars an hour.” The sum makes her marvel. She won’t mind the hours. She doesn’t really like people who work days. “The night shift, I’m wired for it,” she says. She’s a natural. She’ll come back for coffee, but she doesn’t eat donuts anymore.
Other professions represented include Taco Bell manager, road-worker, CVS employee. As the author/artist says, “I saw these people, and I wanted you to see them, too.”
The idea of making a bunch of things that you can sell easily, that are cheaper to make… something about that is relaxing to me.
I think it’s good to be working in craft after going to art school, because it’s still creative and it’s still working with your hands. It doesn’t require you to be vulnerable like art, which I also found really exhausting. Not that you have to be, but that’s how I tend to do it, so it was great to do a lot of crafting and stuff that is more visual.
When I was first starting out and making very little money, I thought carefully about every single dollar and made sure I always got my exact change. I was also careful about never getting charged ATM fees, because when every dollar matters, paying to take out your own money hurts. It doesn’t hurt as much anymore, and perhaps that is a sign of success.
“I have decided that I am a person of means, a wealthy person,” I told Ester yesterday. “Because although my bank gave me my money back, I still have $10 in ATM fees from the fraudulent withdrawals, and don’t feel like calling them to have that $10 credited back to me.”