By Bojan Knific, Suzana Kokalj | 15 October 2021
The project presents traditional shoemaking in Tržič, two different procedures that are still alive but are disappearing because of changes in shoemaking technology and the changes in fashion that these bring about. There is a workshop in Tržič where Roman Zaplotnik and his father work together and they are the only ones who know how to make footwear the way it was made at the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The project will describe in detail the technology of shoe production where the sole is either sewn or attached with pegs, and how boots with wrinkled leather on the shafts (known as meksikajnarji) are made. These old techniques make up the heritage that is of great importance for preserving the identity of the people of Tržič which is closely connected with shoemaking.
The main aims of the project are: to record how footwear is made according to these disappearing techniques; to give recognition to the last two shoemakers who use these techniques; to popularise their skills amongst the people of Tržič and further afield; to save the skills from being forgotten; to encourage young shoemakers in Tržič to continue this shoemaking tradition. Besides, the documentation and recordings that will proceed from this project will serve to develop new content for Tržič Museum – both in presenting shoemaking heritage and other purposes, e.g. preparing pedagogical and andragogical programs. The gathered material that will be presented to the Slovenian museum association will serve as an example of how to document skills that are on the decline or disappearing in Slovenia.
The fieldwork will be based on participant observation and interviews with people who remember how shoemakers used to work. Alongside two shoemakers who still know how to make footwear “the old way”, the interviews which will be audio recorded will include ten shoemakers who make footwear nowadays, five shoemakers who are already retired and twenty people who wore footwear made “the old way”. The semi-structured interviews will be of different lengths – depending on the interviewees capabilities, how well prepared they are and how well they know the subject matter but not shorter than 60 minutes. The work will be based on the synchronic and diachronic aspect of presenting shoemaking heritage which will be based on the ethnographical method of gathering information and participant observation. We will work according to the methodological principles of ethnology/cultural anthropology, which are determined by ethnographical fieldwork.
The two shoemakers who still make footwear “the old way” will be recorded on video both during their everyday work and especially while making a pair of sewn and a pair of pegged shoes and the meksikajnarji boots. The main aim is to document the whole shoemaking process. These records of the production process will be there for future generations – as a document of how footwear is made and a didactic aid for those who would like to make footwear this way in the present day. We will strive to make close recordings of the hands so as to see all the details of both the materials and how the shoemaker uses his tools. This will also be the aim of the photography – we will take close shots of all the tools and materials used by the shoemaker, and take special care to photograph all phases of the shoemaking process.
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