Jeremy Atkinson – The Last English Clog maker

There is a quite confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you are doing.

Jeremy Atkinson is a highly skilled and time-served craftsman who is also lamentably described as the last – no play on words here – maker of English traditional bespoke clogs, a craft going back to Roman times.

Based in the Hereford, Jeremy turns “green” unseasoned timber – sycamore, birch, cherry and alder into the soles of really very beautiful shoes with wooden soles – classically designed English clogs. Perhaps unsurprisingly Jeremy is also a skilled at cutting, dyeing and stitching leather uppers.

Having first split the timber with a froe, the half log is marked with the desired bespoke foot pattern and is then taken through a cutting process which sees Jeremy exert some force to manipulate a three foot long oversized cut-throat tool called a “blocker” or “stock knife” to slice the wooden blank to gradually take the shape of a sole.

The “blocker” is pivoted from the bench via a hook and eye arrangement so that Jeremy applies purchase with his right hand guiding the blade with pin-point accuracy where he want the cuts to be made.

Finer adjustments to the instep, cast and camber of the sole are achieved with two more swivel blade tools, the hollower for the footbed and the gripper for the welt ledge in which the upper is nailed.

The upper is shaped over a wooden last and then lightly tacked to the wooden sole prior to a final fitting with the client – if they are able to visit.

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The finished clog is completed with a brass toe piece and either clog irons – similar to horse shoes – or a rubber sole – clogs have a particularly good reputation wherever it’s wet underfoot.

Jeremy has been taught his craft, one that has experienced great longevity in the many regions of the United Kingdom and he travels extensively demonstrating his skills and picking up ideas for his continued work.

Given the physical nature of the work his wrists bear the brunt of the repetitive slicing of the “blocker” and he is worried that he may only have a few more years left in the craft.

Jeremy notes that a number of satisfied customers have used his clogs successfully to provide support for poor feet and in the management of painful foot conditions.

He’s not particularly sentimental about his unwilling role as the last in England to pursue this centuries old craft but he is realistic and in part doing his best to impart his skills having taught Geraint Parfitt (based in Wales).

The struggle to obtain recognition for the social and economic value of crafts and their exponents may well have a quiet champion in Jeremy who in the film below notes that in other parts of Europe people are given state funding to ensure that these crafts do not die out.

I for one would be willing to work much more closely with the Heritage Crafts Association – of which the Prince of Wales is the President – to see what can be done to harness both respect and funding for these legacy crafts.We are becoming increasingly involved in an effort to raise the profile of these crafts and through us I want to market and hopefully sell the work of craftsmen like Jeremy.

Please complete our Contact section so that we can introduce you to the more of the amazing products made with great affection and skill by Jeremy and his colleague.

Film used by kind permission of Artisan Media/Image courtesy of Jeremy Atkinson

RM Williams’ “Craftsman” Boot

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Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur.  His adventures in the outback created a recognisable and iconic Australian style of bush-wear.

RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded “RM Williams” and he began to sell saddles. In 1934, he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed at 5 Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

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RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides.  As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.

RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.

RM died in November 2003. In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.

These guys a wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he had owned for over fifteen years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.

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In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.

A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!

She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.

I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.

Stop Press: Since we became an Amazon Affiliate in December 2017 I have now discovered that I can get my favourite RM Williams chocolate brown suede Craftsman via this source – so the order is on its way! If you’d like to join me in this please click on the link below the following image 

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R.M. Williams Craftsman chocolate/suede, Größen:43

Images from RM Williams

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Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss