This week, a little bit of fashion in Selective Focus. We hear from Candace Lacosse who operates Hemlocks Leatherworks.
C.L.: I am primarily a shoemaker (which is a cordwainer, not a cobbler), but I love designing and making just about anything out of leather and waxed canvas: bags, purses, wallets, leather-bound journals, really just about anything.
I also love woodworking and basket weaving, and making clothing and jewelry. I like to make.
I have always been creative and artistic. I majored in graphic design and journalism, and my first job where I was involved in real creative vision and process was as an editorial and fashion assistant for Mpls.St.Paul magazine in Minneapolis.
There I would curate product from local boutiques, style photo shoots and write about product, all skills that translate into my business and work today. I then moved to South Korea for two years and was hugely inspired by the minimalistic but incredibly beautiful fashion and design.
Eventually, I wanted to move back to Minnesota, so in the process of figuring out what I was going to do next, I thought I would take a class at North House Folk School in Grand Marais. While checking out the classes, I found information about their internship program, where they take three artists (now four) to live and work on campus for ten months. I applied and was accepted, and that internship is what set me on the course of being a professional craftsman. I tried my hand at everything from wood working to wood-fired baking, but it was when I made my first pair of shoes with Jason Hovatter, from Portland, Oregon, that I really fell in love with a craft. I was completely hooked. Following my internship at North House, I apprenticed with a master shoe maker in New Hampshire, Molly Grant of The Cordwainer Shop. I stayed with Grant for six months and together we did several high-end craft shows around the country, including the Smithsonian and American Craft Council and private trunk shows in Manhattan. Grant taught me not only how to make beautiful shoes, but how to successfully manage a business and market your products. When it was time to start my own business, I knew I wanted to return to Duluth. So I came back and got to work in my little Park Point apartment and a year later Hemlocks Leatherworks was launched. I also now teach shoemaking and leather working at North House Folk School and out of my shop in Duluth.
I’ve been doing this for about 5 years, and shoemaking is inherently challenging. Making something that is required to fit a specific size and shape will always be a challenge. But it is what makes it challenging that makes me really love it. It is so rewarding to have worked so hard on something and have it fit and have the customer really love it. It’s so fun to see people getting excited about handmade shoes and leather goods. I feel that there has been a shift in consumerism and that more people are now looking for something unique and high quality, not cheap and mass produced. Teaching is also a part of my work that I really love. Seeing people accomplish something that they weren’t sure they were capable of is the best feeling. I love giving that little nudge.
My work is in several boutiques around the country, but the easiest place for Duluthians to check it out will be my new brick and mortar space in the Lincoln Park Craft District. 1923 W. Superior St. There will be an informal open house on October 15th and a grand opening the last weekend of November. You can also go to my website, hemlocksleather.com, or find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Opening my shop has definitely been my biggest project as of late, but I’m also really excited to be rolling out some new designs and products for Fall and Winter. Also, many more classes throughout the Fall and Winter.
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