I met Sarah almost 2 years ago.
Just like every other aspect of learning to make shoes, I found out about her in a roundabout, convoluted way… when I was actually looking for something else entirely.
One Sunday afternoon sometime around July or August I took a trip to Tandy Leather Factory, a leather store in Atlanta, to pick up some lining leather for a pair of shoes that I’d decided to take a stab at making. As I was walking around I overheard one of the employees going on and on about some local guy named Michael and how phenomenal he was at leather tooling. I was the only customer in the store at the time and I guess that the employees didn’t have much to do because, when I glanced over to see who was talking, I saw that pretty much all of them (maybe 4) were hanging around the front counter nodding their heads in agreement about how great this Michael guy was.
I wandered over in their direction and, not really caring much about leather tooling or whoever Michael was, I said something like “do y’all get any shoe makers coming through here?” They all stopped and looked at me for a second… then at each other. One of them said “No… I don’t think so.” Then, just when another of them had started to speculate about whether or not this one customer made shoes or moccasins, Michael walked through the door.
So Michael and I wound up talking for a while and he said that he remembered meeting someone a few months ago, some girl, who made shoes. “I heard her say that she made shoes and, for whatever reason, I didn’t expect them to be very good. You meet a lot of people who say they make things, you know, and most of them aren’t very good. But then she reached in her backpack and pulled out a shoe that she’d made and I was like ‘damn!’ Turns out she does really great work.” Michael couldn’t remember the girl’s name but he gave me his number and told me that he could probably find out her name and, if I called him in a couple of weeks, he’d let me know. Before we parted ways, Michael also told me about some guy in South Atlanta who restored and sold old leather & shoemaking machinery in case I was in the market. I think his name was Doug? So… I got Doug’s number too.
(Michael never could remember that girl’s name, by the way. I called him a few weeks later and he said that he couldn’t dig up anything about her)
Anyways, that’s how I met Doug. I called Doug the next weekend and asked if I could come down to see what he had. “Sure” he said “as long as you don’t mind the mess.” Having no idea what he meant, I drove down to South Atlanta.
Turns out that Doug works out of his house… and his back yard… and a shed in his back yard… and part of a drained pool. Machines and parts of machines were strewn absolutely everywhere. But Doug was an extremely nice guy and we talked for a while about how he got started repairing these particular sorts of machines and his involvement in shoe manufacturing back when it actually existed in the US. At one point he said “Actually, I’ve gotta go fix a McKay Stitcher for a girl down the road coming up in the next couple of days. You should talk to her, she makes shoes. Her name’s Sarah something… Hold on, I’ve got her phone number.”
And that’s how I met Sarah Green.
So Sarah and I got together a little while later. I drove down to her house in Atlanta where she works out of a shop in the basement. We talked for a while (turns out the my wife’s friend’s sister went to school with her… or something like that) and she showed me around her shop. Sarah learned shoemaking from Perry Ercolino, who she worked with for about a year; and it really shows. Having just come back from visiting George (see this post) who didn’t really care so much about making fine shoes as much as he did sturdy, workman’s shoes, I was blown away by the quality of Sarah’s work. “Perry” as she kept calling him, makes high-end dress shoes and it’s extremely evident that Sarah is influenced by his quality standards.