Handsome American Leather

If leather is a byproduct of the meat packing industry, then what would you call these beautiful pieces?

We call them fantastic! 

Made from the same  Horween Chromexcel that we use for our shoe leather, the baseball and wallet above are fittingly handmade and stitched with care by Paul Cunningham in Glen Rock, New Jersey.  Paul has purchased leather scraps for use in some of his projects.  You can view more of Paul's work, including hand stitched footballs, rugby and medicine balls, on his Etsy site.  Etsy featured Paul and his shop in June including a video that is a cool blend of old football footage combined with Paul's workshop and process. 

We love Paul's work and think these pieces are perfect for those who appreciate sports, high quality handmades, and history (his baseball designs are based on 19th century lemon peel styles).   Just think, if you ordered one of Paul's artisinal footballs today, you could be tossing it around with a friend by next weekend!

Wondering what we do with the leather scraps that Paul doesn't use?  I'll tell you all about them and how you can get some for your own projects when I'm back here next week.  Until then, have a great fall weekend!


Oktoberfest 2011

For as many years as I can remember, we've been invited to celebrate the German heritage of our family friend at his annual Oktoberfest.  I think that in the 30 or so years that he's been hosting this party, I've probably only missed it twice (and one of those times we were at the mother of all Oktoberfests in Munich). 

At Hans' party, much like in Germany, it's all about the traditional food, the good beer and the polka.  It's also about getting together with neighbors for the annual review of life in this small place that we call home.  We are reminded of those who are no longer with us, but also of those little ones who are newly here or who have grown and changed beyond immediate recognition.  It's one of those events that is so predictable and constant that it can be used to measure time. The idea that friends and I attended this party every year as kids, and that we now come back with our own kids is sort of mind boggling but comforting too.

Thanks, Hans, for a festive fall tradition that we all look forward to and love. 


Upstate New York Flood Relief

While our friends along the East Coast were relieved to see that Hurricane Irene's force had softened, our friends in the Southern Tier of Upstate New York were hit with flooding that has devastated their region.  High flood waters are reaching historic levels and leaving many families homeless and desperate for assistance and actual physical help with the difficult work of salvaging and rebuilding.  What can you do to help? 

If you're local you can gather with our friends in Ithaca at the Ithaca Musicians for Southern Tier Flood Relief event at Castaway's on Sunday, October 2nd.  All proceeds will be donated to Food Bank of the Southern Tier.  We'll have a pair of shoes up for auction and would love to see you there. 

Too far away to join is in Ithaca?  In addition to the shoes we've donated to the October 2nd event, we've also put 5 pairs of shoes (any color, any style) up for auction* on Ebay.  You can bid on the shoes here and know that your money will not only be putting new handmade shoes on your feet.  It will also be on the ground, helping those who need it desperately and who also happen to be just an hour's drive away from us here in Aurora. 

Thank you for any help you can provide.  If you have any other worthy organizations in mind, or have other ideas about how we can all work together to help the flood victims in the Southern Tier, please share them in the comments box. 

*We're getting creative in our attempt to put all five pairs of shoes up under one Ebay auction.  We'll send shoes off to the top five bidders in this single auction.  Winners will choose their favorite style and color, and of course, we'll work with you to get the sizing just right


The Pitter Patter of Little Feet

No, we still don't produce shoes for kids (believe me, I'm pushing for them too).  But my little guy is managing to get around just fine without Aurora Shoes and I am loving watching his progress.  Here are a few from our "learning to walk" series for you baby lovers out there. 

All of that walking left us both needing a rest, so he played happily with sunglasses and I took a picture of my feet (totally normal). 

Thanks for indulging this proud mama - I just love hearing the pitter patter of those cute little baby feet!  My Auroras are spending a lot of time outside and at the local playground.  Where are your Aurora Shoes taking YOU?

p.s.  I just finished this entry to find a really lovely feature on our company here.  We love the support we get from our small and tightly knit community.  It's good to be in Aurora!


Showing Shoes in New Hampshire

After a long trip including one break down on the Mass Pike, David and family have safely returned home from their first trade show in New Hampshire.  Actually, only Dave went to New Hampshire.  Andrea and the girls, along with my mom, spent the long weekend at my sister's in Rhode Island.  While the girls were taking walks to the beach and making yummy food, David was setting up and running this booth:

The booth looked great and we now have a few new retail shops carrying our shoes.  Back to business as usual in Aurora...



Thanks to Labor Day, this week felt like it was over before it even started.  While Dave and his family travel to a shoe show in New Hampshire, we're looking forward to spending the weekend visiting our local farmers' market and celebrating Baby's first birthday.  It feels like he's been here forever, but at the same time I can't believe that a year has come and gone since he was born.  Ah, babies...

Anyway, I thought I'd share some photos from last weekend to give you an idea of what life is like in this little place that we call home.  Leif and I started with a nice mother/son date at the local church's monthly pancake breakfast.  They make the best blueberry sauce (we added our own local peaches because, well, why not?).

From there we walked to the King Ferry farmers' market where we bought carrots and jam (kiwi lime marmalade = yum!) and admired the fibers.

This lady right here is my favorite.  Her hair is made from merino wool.  Clever, huh?

I love to get my craft on but have never tried needle felting before.  The woman who made these said she'd put together a beginner's kit for me to start with.  I'm thinking I'll start by felting yarn onto wool - something similar to this.  If you have any suggestions for a beginning felter, I'd love to hear them. 

In the meantime, I'm going to try to wrap my head around how this

 turned into this

Have a great weekend!


Meet the Neighbors - Moop

We passionately support small business and handmade and local goods. As a visitor of our blog, we thought that you might feel the same way. In our Meet the Neighbors series we're featuring businesses and people who reflect our own values and whom we feel lucky to call neighbors and friends.


For our latest Meet the Neighbors installment we're stepping out of Cayuga County and introducing you to a great company that pushes the boundaries of the word neighbor.  While they're not exactly "just down the road" like some of our other friends, the folks at Moop certainly are very neighborly.  Being small as we are, we've reached out to a few other small handmade businesses and must say that Wendy at Moop was one of the most friendly and helpful business owners we've met.  She was happy to share her knowledge and ideas and for that we are very grateful.

Nice as they are, what we love most about Moop is their simple and stylish bags which are handmade at their studio in Pittsburgh.  Below is a conversation we had with Wendy last week.

How did you get into bag design/production?

Moop began in a converted mill building in Western Massachusetts.  I had been studying photography for many years and was always drawn to exploring textiles through photographs.  I was particularly interested in garment construction, textile labor practices and the representation of textiles/clothing/garments/women through images.  I had been sewing dresses out of non-traditional textile materials such as paper bags, handmade pom pons, tyvek and various other things to use as props in photographs.  Out of a purely utilitarian need I sewed a few pieces of fabric together to make a tote bag for school.  I received many compliments on it but never took it seriously as something that I would do for other people.  About a year later - after our relocation to Massachusetts from Ohio - I was completely unemployable with two degrees in photography and searching for ways to make my practice as an artist make sense with my need to support myself and my family.  It was out of this need that I began to reconsider what my studio practice was.  I set up shop online and started Moop.  At the time I was not even completely sure what Moop would be and my self taught sewing skills were rather rudimentary.  But, Moop grew…a lot!  So, I started investing in proper equipment, honed my skills and started learning how to really run a business and build a brand.

Your aesthetic is so simple and functional, but at the same time (and maybe because of this) quite beautiful.  Is there a design rule or principle that you live by?

I start with the tools and methods that I know how to do.  From there, I begin with the basic shape, then features I want to offer, then accessories.  The design tends to show itself through this process and is influenced by our production methods.  I try to avoid design features that will be difficult to work into our current processes.  We're a very small studio producing a large volume of bags for our size so everything must be efficient, always, otherwise we get behind and can't keep up with our order volume.  It may sound like a strange way to design, but it creates an important level of restraint and means our bags are a cohesive collection, one building upon another. 

What drives your commitment to keep bag production in house?

Labor.  My practice as an artist always dealt with issues of labor in textile production.  It was something that resonated with me from a very young age.  Learning more about how the things we buy are manufactured, the conditions of laborers worldwide, how that has affected job development and opportunity and how we are all plugged into supporting these practices weather we like it or not.  It's nice to think of an off the grid lifestyle, but it's not very realistic for most people.  I think all of us have to pick and choose where we feel we can make an impact on things we believe in - environmentally, socially, sustainably, educationally, gastronomically, etc. For me, Moop has been a way that I can implement many of my convictions while also growing a business and way of life.  What started as a practice of one (me), has grown into a practice of several.  It's immensely satisfying to be able to provide a job and income not just for myself, but for those that work with me as well.  And even more satisfying to know that our customers are supporting us for many of the above listed reasons.  Handmade manufacturing has put us in touch with so many exciting, interesting and empowered small business owners worldwide.  We're excited to be a part of such a healthy supportive community.

You can view all of the Moop collections by visiting their website.   For more behind the scenes photos, check out their Flickr page.  And of course, if you really want to know more about what Moop is up to, you can visit their blog and friend them on Facebook

I've been trying all weekend to decide which bag is my favorite and am still debating between the Carrier and the Letter Clutch  (or maybe the Small Messenger)... 
Which bags do you like best?



It just occured to me that I have been bringing you blog entries for about two years now and I haven't taken the time to properly introduce myself.   I may have been intentionally vague in the past, but it feels like a good time to come out of virtual hiding and tell you a little about myself.  And since family connections brought me here, that seems like a good place to start.

I grew up in the same small town where the Aurora Shoe Company has been located for the past 20 years and am lucky to have had a pretty idyllic childhood.  My father is a farmer and my mother is a graphic designer turned stay at home mom.  She left paid work when I was born and hasn't looked back since, providing me with a very specific idea of what it means to put children and family first.  In addition to my brother, Dave, whom you have already met, I have two younger sisters (hi Katie and Lauren!) and grew up in a big old farm house just down the road from the shop. 

Growing up as the oldest of four kids in our rural hometown was not always my favorite thing, but now that we're all grown up and starting families of our own, I cherish the closeness that I have with each of them.  David, Lauren and I have all chosen to stay nearby and we actually live on the same small country road, less than a mile from eachother.  This nearness is especially fun for our kids who get to grow up knowing that their cousins are only a quick drive or a warm weather walk away.  My oldest, who is four, likes to call Dave's girls his "sisters" and I don't discourage it.  I love knowing that if I never have a daughter of my own, I'll at least have a couple of sweet little nieces to do girly things with!

My youngest son is about to turn one (not sure where that year went!) and I feel very lucky to be able to raise my boys at home while maintaining a link to the professional world.  The fact that I'm working for my brother and a small local business that I've loved since I was a teenager make it all that much better.  As the weather cools I'll be spending more time here, bringing you features on local and not-so-local businesses that are in line with our values and aesthetic.  I'm also looking forward to sharing more of the everyday stuff that makes life meaningful and interesting in rural New York. 

I invite you to visit us more frequently here and to join the conversation at Twitter.  I'm @AuroraShoeAlys and would love to hear from you!
Until next time...

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