There is a drive to always further oneself and try to reach for that next level in search for the “more”. In the order of priority for shoe making, once the basics of fittings and styling are covered, one moves to develop the aesthetics of the shoe even further than just creating a sleek silhouette. The shoe patina is one such technique with can further the look of the shoe, giving it more depth and added aesthetics. Think of it simply as shoe make-up. Of course the natural process of creating a patina is done with different shades of waxes and is developed over time with the continued maintenance of the shoe owner but that doesn’t mean we can utilize a faster method in applying a patina finish onto new shoes.
When we started learning about shoes, it was a constant challenge for us to deliver at least the basic look that is being sought after by our clients. It usually starts with the style, then a specific shape, then the actual fit, and finally the look of the pair. This is why we developed our skills in pattern making and shoe last sculpting while also studying each in general foot profiles of clients in order to provide for the basic “great fit” and techniques on how to adjust shoes in order to provide the fit that they are most comfortable in. We have been trying to up our game in the aesthetics department for the longest time since we have been limited by cost, time, and skill level. Recently, I have been trying to find a way to develop new services (although I’m not entirely sure how I can fit this into the schedule) in order to elevate our menu of services. I have been bitten by the patina bug last month and since then I have been studying up on how to breathe new life to old pairs and give our standard ones the look and vibe of luxury shoes only available from abroad.
At this moment, we have three different methods of creating a patina for our creations. The commonly used method is the airbrush method, then the hand painted, and finally the patina method.
1. Airbrush Method
This is where we take an airbrush and basically apply darker shades on edges and/or seams of the shoe to create an antiqued look. This is the easiest method yet requires a high level of skill in order to properly control the shading and intensity of the contrast applied. Layering is one of the keys to this method so as to create a graduating contrast which is the most desired look for a pair.
The airbrushed areas/lines also serve as a guide for those who might want to establish a natural patina over time by applying darker waxes onto the antiqued segments while applying regular/natural shoe cream/waxes on the base leather. Be aware that the process takes time and a lot of repetition before the natural patina develops and should not be forced onto the leather.
2. Hand Painted Method
As the name suggests, this method is used to apply custom colors and designs onto a pair of neutral colored shoes by hand. Different tools produce different effects and this is an entire study unto itself. But the basics is to use the neutral colored shoe (usually beige or white) as a canvas and slowly build colors and gradients on it using either water or lacquer based dyes. This method is best if you want to create texture with colors, producing a variety of patterns from swirls to streaks to hazy clouds which give the shoes an entirely new dimension.
This can also be mixed with the airbrush method to provide some edge contrasts which can enhance the effect of the coloring. The shoe is then sealed with neutral wax to preserve the colors after being left to dry. Water-based dyes are use for better texture and color gradation control. We also use this method to paint actual images onto a pair creating a watercolor/acrylic effect which cannot be achieved using standard lacquer based dyes.
3. Patina Method
The patina method is the traditional way of shoe coloring and antiquing using lacquer based leather dyes applied in layers to create the signature layered look. This is commonly seen on classic Italian fashion shoes with the “forced” patina creating a unique styling which greatly enhances the look of the shoes. This method is also best utilized in situations where lighter colored shoes are painted to create a controlled vintage look which is desired in luxury pairs and is a testament to the shoemaker’s passion to create great looking shoes.
This method can also be used to breathe new life into old pairs for restoration. A good color change can do wonders and with a patina finish, can greatly give the shoes more value for the wearer. This method is best suited for those wanting a high gloss finish for their shoes since the dye can withstand rubbing and polishing (with water) better than the water based dyes that we use for the hand painted method.
There you have it. As of now these are the three methods that we have used, although I am still practicing with the patina method, in order to give shoes that antiqued vintage styling. The method is usually determined by the situation and requirement of the client with the airbrush method being the standard for our regular custom shoes while the hand painted and patina finishes still being subject to assessment due to time and focus considerations.
Once antiqued or “burnished”, shoes should be considered as craft pairs and should be treated as such. Proper maintenance is vital in order to maintain the leather using only thin coats of shoe wax and leather conditioners alternatively. Remember, even with the lacquer based dyes, natural shoe creams and waxes take off bits of dye every time it is applied thus should be used sparingly.
Shoes are a representation of ones personality, outlook, and status. Different styles and looks for different occasions. You can tell a lot about a person with the shoes they wear and how they maintain it. They say a picture paints a thousand words; the beauty of a antiqued shoe is probably worth that as well.