Italian handcrafts: Shoemaking in Macerata
- WTI Magazine #145 Nov 13, 2021
In the summer of 1325, the process for the canonisation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino took place in some towns in the Marche. 371 witnesses from various socila backgrounds were invited to testify in the presence of the papal legates, who were to receive news and testimonies on the life and miracles of the saint.Among the testimonies presented was one by Buzzarello di Giovanni, who, after swearing, referred to severe pain that had struck him in the right hand preventing him from working and that, through the intervention of the saint, the pain had disappeared altogether.
But it was not the only miracle that had happened to him.The year before the process, he had made a vow to St. Nicholas to go to his grave and offer him a foot of wax if it had been freed from the pain, “et facto vote predicto fuit liberatus”.
The importance of the deposition is obvious: it is the relationship “forerunner” of a work accident that happened to a leather tanner, who, while preparing and washing the hide, had inadvertently put his right foot into the quicklime that had eaten the flesh near the malleolus and consequently his leg and foot had swollen.
The reported incident testifies to a particular and complex work like tanning, which by the beginning of the fourteenth century had already spread and developed in the region. Ancona and its port became a major hub for hides and skins from the other side of the Adriatic, thus, in the sixteenth century, Braudel called it “the city of the leather”. Natural born so that in this region, the processing of the shoe.
Making the model is a crucial stage of the production process. The modeller transfers the design of the designer onto a plan, first manually and then through the use of CAD. This activity will serve to create the cardboard templates that are traced on the individual parts of the leather that make up the model.
The use of highest quality leathers and the expertise of professional craftsmen play a decisive role in achieving a high quality result. A good cutter must be familiar with the entire process of manufacturing shoes and with the characteristics of different qualities of leather. After checking and selecting the leather, the cutter positions the cardboard templates on the hide to achieve a perfect cut of the various parts of the model created.
Downstream of the cutting operations is the phase that leads to the creation of the complete uppere, the first important half-finished product from which the shoe is made. The stage of production that includes assembly and stitching of the upper and lining, inserting the reinforcements and applying accessories and eyelets, is mainly entrusted to the master hemmers who even today perform their work mainly by hand.
Once the assembly stage is complete, the upper is placed on a plastic shaper that simulates the foot. The final finishing are applied during the finishing stage and the shoe finally reaches the end of the production process after ironing, brushing and cleaning of leather.
In the years after the Second World War, the central and the north-eastern regions of Italy underwent a particular process of industrialization. In the specific case of the areas of Macerata and Fermo, artisans, merchants, entrepreneurs, home workers, vendors and hawkers are the players in a centuries old story. The actual development of the district was due to the national and international growth in the demand for footwear that began in the 1960s.
The Macerata area is characterized by a high degree of manufacturing specialization, by local networks of companies based on low transaction costs and by a highly fragmented production structure that gives rise to a high vertical disintegration of the production process.
The footwear district of Macerata and Fermano, in addition to the four oldest processing centres of Montegranaro, Monte Urano, Monte San Giusto, Sant'Elpidio a Mare, includes the province of Macerata, Civitanova Marche, Montecosaro, Morrovalle, Monte San Giusto, Mogliano and Corridonia. The district specializes in the production of leather, hides and footwear.
By Camera di Commercio di Macerata with Unioncamere