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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Experiments In Patina - Trying Not To Desecrate The Noble Name In Shoes Of GJ Cleverley

Ebay is a wonderful place as I said the other day. Like a Great White Shark we lurk as Ebayers, stealth like, wanting to creep up on what we think are our seals and sea lions and then.... SNAP them up at the last moment.

I had been eyeing a pair of shoes for my next patina experiment for some time but without luck I lost at least 3 pairs of shoes to higher bidders. In one instance I waited until Friday night at 6pm just to try and snatch them down to the last second using my wifi and my mobile phone but on the other end of the internet someone trumped me and I hung my head on my hand and thought 'what a waste I just had of a Friday night!'.

Recently however I found a pair of GJ Cleverley shoes via the Ebay seller 'Shoes Of Distinction' . For one reason or another nobody seemed to want these penny loafers and they seemed to have a lovely look about them. Whilst they were not the light brown I prefer for patina, I thought I would give them a go to see what might come of it if we went from brown to black.

The shoes arrived and I must say that they were packed beautifully and the box has a certain charm about it although not as nice as the dusty green from Foster & Son. I then opened up the contents and noticed that my problem was going to be getting any colour into the deep brown they already were.

My first act was to wash the shoes with Hermes saddle soap in the hope of getting anything off that might be top level and to get the shoes ready for leather strippers. Once the shoes dried I got into the leather with acetone but acetone hardly picked up any colour at all which was very unusual. It was as though the leather had not been dyed and was it's natural colour or alternatively, that is had been dyed exceptionally well.

One thing I did note was that the soles had an exceptional organic leather finish to them which I have never seen before. They felt as though they were straight from mother nature. I therefore wondered whether they were indeed the traditional English Oak Bark soles that Tony Gaziano had told me about many weeks ago.

Having finished with the leather strippers and to not much avail, I arrived at the time I had to choose a colour for the first coat of dye. I decided I wished to do the following. Using a long thin brush I was going to coat the toe box to heel in purple, the bridge in oxblood and then highlights in the heel and toe box with black. If I pulled it off it would be graduated front to back in a deepish brown purple with black accents and then a subdued second tone in the bridge piece.

When I finished I was worried because it would be a kind of desecration to ruin a pair of GJ Cleverley shoes if you got it wrong but I am hoping that the morning light will be kind to my work tomorrow and that I won't die feeling like a wasted an evening of my life or that I did not adequately respect what are very very well made shoes.

I am going to show you each picture I took and I will briefly describe each process in the caption.

The original shoes as described on Ebay

The parcel arrives

A lovely original box from Cleverley

Some really luxurious looking soles. 

Very earthy and organic looking sole on these Cleverley shoes. 

The shoes out of the box and ready for a saddle soap wash

After the saddle soap wash, you can see the shoe on the right was drying with lighter intonations than before the wash

First brush strokes using a long thin brush. I am using a purple leather dye here

Across the bridge of the shoe (not sure if this is correct terminology) I pained the penny strap with oxblood instead of purple but then used cotton balls to move colour around so as to make it relatively subtle in colour change. 

Top shot I have used pomade on the front and back in black and centre in cognac. At this point, if I could have kept the shoe looking this way I would have. It had a certain Tom Ford appeal to it. 

Here you can see left the depth of purple and then right, an additional layer of cognac which then aged the purple

Ageing the purple with cognac pomade by Sapphir

Here you can see some of the changes in tonality although it was very difficult to truly show up the changes in tonality and the subtleties within the leather. 

And voila, hard to see but this is a two tone penny loafer which was originally a flat brown and now has deep purples, cognacs , black and oxblood mixed in. 

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