Woven high heels - a gaze at traditions to resignify the ritual and beauty of craftsmanship.
The concept of the project was inspired by traditional craftsmanship and how it embodies the hand and the mind of the people who create it. The collection amalgamates 3d printing, woven patterns, traditional craft manufacturing and new element by experimental process and techniques. The aesthetic enhances a weightlessness body, creating the illusion of hanging from a net, tying the feet down and bearing the netting into a three dimensionality. While the body’s expression appears to be restricted, seemingly fragile.
In the next steps I demonstrate how the shoes can be developed, from idea and inspiration, through experimentation, and then finally 3D printing and adding soles, weaving and finishing by hand.
The required materials are: sheepskin leather (to make the uppers), 'vegetable' tanned leather (to make the soles) and leather strips (for weaving).
The tools needed are: leather stitching machine, sanding machines, pendant drill, tooth bits, riveting machine, leather hole punch pliers, sewing awl, and a leather-cutting knife.
And of course, a 3D printer is required for printing heels - some models were printed by my sponsor at the time, Eichenberger AG. However, the ones I will be focusing on in later steps - models 1 and 7 - were printed by Shapeways. The primary materials used were plastic (for early prototypes) and steel (for final models).
Step 1: Influences
The main theme of the collection is weaving, where fabric manufacturing has been re-thought as semi translucent volumes that shape or build the high heels and uppers. The concept of the collection was influenced by architecture and the first inspiration came from Buckminster Fuller and his principle of tension and compression of the structures. However, the main influence was Gaudi's experimental method in designing the surfaces of La Sagrada Familia. That was used to develop the experimental 3D graphics patterns and conceptual pieces.
The aesthetic was influenced by extreme high heels and their relationship with power throughout history. In particular, I researched and experimented with the concept of Shibari – Japanese bondage.
Step 2: Experimentation
I was inspired by Gaudi´s design method which consisted of hanging models and designing the structure through several ropes and weight. The ropes were interlocked together and the weights were displayed along the ropes. Once the model was finished, it was turned on, working as a compressed structure.
Following on from the above idea, I developed the experimental mock-ups and a 3D model to visualise the object and create some graphics. The experimentation consisted of several ropes that were hanged from a frame and some weight was added to find a pattern through the movement of the weights and interlocking of the ropes. Once the modelling was finished, it was painted with polyester resin to set everything in place. The weights were replaced by the last, which was hanging on middle of a frame by a mesh made of cotton ropes and resin.
More pieces were made in order to develop each element. The idea was to utilise as little joining as possible to obtain the final shape. The final mock up was made by layers, which enabled me to have a better control of the tension of the elements and understanding of the process.
The manufacturing choice was the longest process of the project. Extensive material experimentation and research was required to balance aesthetics, design concept and functionality. The goal was to build the thinner structure possible that was capable to support the weigh of the body. I tried laser cutter, carbon fibre and stainless steal to build the frame, before finally settling on stainless steel.
Step 3: 3D Printing
3D printing seems to be the most suitable manufacturing process to create my conceptual high heels. Originally the collection was meant to have 8 styles created but only 6 pieces have been printed so far.
The main concept of the collection was the fusion of 3D printing and craftsmanship fusion. In order to achieve this purpose and create the collection's aesthetic several models were developed and printed.
The printing of original prototypes was done in plastic, which is much cheaper than printing in metal, so allows for more experimentation while still giving a good template for the intended metal shapes.
3D printing allowed me to create 3 different ways to join the hand crafted pieces and the 3D printed heels; eyelets, stitches and rivets, as can be seen above.
Step 4: Prototyping - Style 1
The Style 1 heels are made in a stainless steel 3d printed infused with bronze. The details are attached by hand as they could only be printed in selective laser melting machine.
The insole is reshaped and drilled to attach the heel and straps. Once all the pieces could be put together, the shoe can be lasted. Then the toe cap is added to the leather upper and the heel can be attached with washers and seger rings. Afterwards, the counter, lining and sock lining, are all glued together and the top lifts are riveted to the heel. The weaving is the final process before polishing.
Step 5: Prototyping - Style 7
The Style 7 heels are made in a stainless steel 3d printed infused with bronze. Similarly, the details are attached by hand as they could only be printed in selective laser melting machine. However, the heels were too big to be printed by the machine. Therefore before printing the model was split into several pieces which were printed separately. Then the pieces were laser-welded to create the final heels.
Afterwards, what is required is polishing, to even out welded surfaces and to make colour uniform (this is because machine prints a mix of steel and bronze, which results in uneven colouring).
With this model, weaving is done after polishing. Holes need to be drilled in the metal heel to enable weaving. Then the sole is stitched and and attached to the heel.
Step 6: The Final Models
Finally, the shoes - Style 7 to the left and Style 1 to the right - are finished and ready to go into their (not-so) sturdy box.