A traditional handicraft is back – shoe making in Kleinarl

Bernadette Baldauf has made her passion into her profession: shoes. No, not just any old cheap shoes. She is fascinated by genuine handcrafted (leather) shoes. She loves all kinds – from pumps to walking boots. Since February 2021 she’s been sharing this passion with others in Kleinarl and gladly receives visitors in her small, yet beautiful workshop at the end of the Kleinarl valley. She handcrafts made-to-measure shoes and undertakes repairs too. As a shoemaker she enjoys working with leather in all its variations. On request, she even makes shoes from satin, for example. But first things first…

Cobbler, stick to your last!

Bernadette has lots of lasts. They’re made of wood, in the shape of a foot and she purchases them herself. I was quite surprised when she told me that every made-to-measure customer has their very own last – almost like a customer profile or, as many of you who’ve had braces fitted know – a dental impression at the dentists. Bernadette purchases the wooden lasts and works them to a shape that fits the customer’s foot perfectly.

If their foot is wider than the norm, the last is enlarged using cork or leather, if the foot is narrower, she sands the wood down to the exact shape required. Afterwards, the shoe is made to measure around the last. When the shoe is finished, this “customer profile” is carefully stored, so that Bernadette can get started right away with the next shoe.

Drama in Kleinarl

Bernadette is a qualified logistics manager, and at the age of 31, decided that it was time for her passion in life. She learned the art of shoemaking in the first district in Vienna – as in our region this trade has died out and is being rekindled by Bernadette herself. After her exam to become a master craftsperson, she worked in the theatre for a year. She handcrafted made-to-measure shoes for performers. Together with dressmakers and scenic artists she learned all about life on the stage.

Learning a traditional handicraft & appreciating quality

“The idea had been buzzing around in my head for a long time“, says the shoemaker, “but I didn’t dare do anything about it until Covid came along“. So, this difficult time had a positive effect on the young lady from Kleinarl - she founded her own company and opened a shoe shop in her home village. She’s happy to give visitors a guided tour of her domain. Bernadette is keen for her handicraft not to be forgotten and strives to make people aware how valuable shoes really are.Now, can you guess how long it takes Bernadette to make a pair of walking boots?40 hours of pure manual labour are required for making made-to-measure walking boots!

Do your shoes pinch or do you wish to discover a traditional, almost extinct, handicraft in our region? Then pay Bernadette a visit. She’s looking forward to it J. Please book an appointment in advance.And with the right walking boots you’re perfectly equipped for your next hiking holiday in Wagrain-Kleinarl. Numerous lovely hikes, peaks and mountain lakes are just waiting for you.

Tips & information: Bernadette Baldauf
Die Schusterei
Jägerseestraße 14
5603 Kleinarl
Tel.: +43 (0) 650 878 38 66

copyright: Belina Huttegger