Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 14 News List

A step into the past

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Shoemakers Hsing-ju Lin, left, and Lu Kuang-mao.

Photo: Catherine Shu, Taipei Times

When Lu Kuang-mao began an apprenticeship with a shoemaker more than three decades ago, it wasn’t because he was passionate about footwear. “I had to make money and eat,” says Lu, who grew up on a farm.

Since then, Lu has cultivated a reputation as one of Taiwan’s top traditional shoemakers. He estimates he has made tens of thousands of shoes over the course of his career and teaches at the Footwear and Recreation Technology Research Institute.

Hsing-ju Lin makes frequent trips to Lu’s workshop in Greater Taichung, and the two collaborate closely on each of Liebe Hsing’s designs. A new set of plastic lasts (forms in the shape of the foot) is made for each style. Lin carefully checks each new shipment from her leather suppliers, making sure that the animal skins used in her shoes are free from defects or flaws in the dye (sometimes as much as one-third of a hide is unusable). Many Liebe Hsing designs are made with delicate lambskin, which Lu stabilizes with an all-natural adhesive and stitches with thin nylon thread. The body of each shoe is carefully hammered to its sole; some are baked at low heat in an oven to mold the leather.

Lu estimates that half of his students at the Footwear and Recreation Technology Research Institute hope to become shoe designers, while the other half plan to develop new shoe manufacturing technologies. Though traditional shoemaking skills are still being passed on to the next generation, Lu says small workshops like his are gradually disappearing as their owners retire.

“The construction of shoes is complicated and there are so many steps,” Lu says. “It sometimes takes the same amount of time to make 10 pairs of shoes by hand as it takes a factory to produce 100 pairs.”

For more information and a list of retailers, visit shoesologie.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Liebe-Hsing. Liebe Hsing shoes are sold online at www.pinkoi.com/store/liebehsing

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