MarchMeetTheMaker is a yearly challenge on Instagram, whereby makers must post every day, following a list of given prompts.
It is conceived and organized by a bright young designer Joanne Hawker.
This year I decided to take the challenge too, so here follow my posts. If you are interested to read on you may find interesting bits about Wooppers and myself.
Here I start with the #marchmeetthemaker challenge and today’s theme is 🔸️Story 🔸️
So many stories to tell but I will pick four of my past creations that represent significant chapters of my life.
1991 – Back in South Africa where I worked as an apprentice to the studio of Bryan Haden. We did lovely reduction pottery and these are some of my plates that I still use today.
1998 – U.K. I studied again. And Ceramics led to Glass. I was working with lead crystal and I was committed to bring a new modern dimension to cut glass.
2002 – Greece. I worked for the #viokef glass and lighting company for many years and this was one of my best selling designs.
2013 – I did mark this pair of wool slippers with the number 1 and I knew that this was going to be a new business for me. The first presentable pair of wooppers
I am excited to share more about them throughout March following this daily challenge.
Enjoy this new month!
Day 2 of the #marchmeetthemaker challenge and today’s theme is 🔸️Hands at work 🔸️
My well and nicely worn hands on this picture but I want to pay tribute to the other hands that help me those of Ari, Dimitri and Angeliki! Thank you my dear friends!
🔸️Time 🔸️is today’s theme on the #marchmeetthemaker2020challenge.
So time…or is it perhaps time-less?
When I look at the wooppers shape I do think, this is a timeless style for a slipper. I leave it to you to tell me your opinion on this and in the meantime I will answer one of your FAQs: “How long it takes you to make a pair of wooppers?”
Depending on the finish from the moment we will start making the slippers to the point one can wear them it will take an average of five days. This includes their drying time.
Depending on the size, decoration and soles each pair will have 5 to 6 or more working hours on it. It is obviously a time consuming process so to be productive we try to organize the different work stages by working on a few pairs at the same time.
Making slippers by hand is a long, slow process that includes many meditative moments along the way. And I have to say I still love this process as much as when I first started.
🔸️Branding 🔸️is today’s #marchmeetthemaker2020 challenge and here I am choosing to speak about our logo.
Wooppers is an abbreviation of the phrase Woo(lenSli)ppers and is a beautiful word that catches the essence of the product, minimal and precise.
The logo on the other hand is one of the most non minimal works I’ve ever done!
Curvy, curly lines, hairy as the wool fibres and yet I do not find this a good enough explanation why I decided on this logo.
Truth is that this logo was in my imagination as the end product of an animation whereby, the last three letters of the word “woolen” unfold into a line that gets attached to the right tip of the starting letter W and the first three letters of the word “slippers” unfold likewise creating a squiggle, that gets connected to the front tip of the W.
I never managed to produce the animation otherwise you would have seen it too…😊 So what do you think? Are you ok with this logo or do you like to see it fresh in the new decade?
For today’s🔸️Close up 🔸️ #marchmeetthemaker2020 challenge
I am going to show you, what else but a felted shoe.
Solid colours is something you cannot easily find on Wooppers. Because felt is just that: fibers intermingled.
The shoe you are looking at, is burgundy red and yellow. Look closer and you will see that red is not just red and yellow not a pure yellow. On the red surface, many little yellow fibers appear scattered here and there and the same happens on the yellow surface.
Indeed this mix of fibers is the reason why our colour hues are reach with depth and texture and why felted items are so soft and eye-pleasing.
🔸️Reducing Waste🔸️day 6 #marchmeetthemaker2020 challenge
I consider this is one of the most important issues of our times so it is important to feel one is at least on the right direction.
We try to be mindful in many little ways such as buying in bulk, reusing the soapy water as much as possible, finding alternative uses for our cut-outs, having environment friendly packaging. However, what makes the difference in our small business is just this: the raw materials we use.
Wool, latex or leather are all natural. Our hands transform them into wooppers shoes to soothe your feet.
If you look after them, they will serve you for a long time. When you see signs of wearing do repair them on time; it will ensure a prolonged life for them. In the end, when they are well worn and done (as the ones of my nephew’s above) you can try your hand at mending and playing until time comes to throw them in the compost bin or on your compost pile.
This will complete the life circle of a wooppers pair well lived! 😊
Have you tried your hand at mending your wooppers? Do send us your pictures if you have any!
🔸️You🔸️day 7 #marchmeetthemaker2020 challenge
Today I chose this picture showing myself on the background, and hands working on some slippers at the front. Good hands in this job are so important!
Wooppers has to do a lot with me but it is what has become because of us.
There is no way I could do the job by myself alone. We are working on the slippers with our hands and this requires skill, strength and consistency. The hands of Ari, Dimitri or Angeliki who are helping me mostly with production are precious and I am forever grateful. I am also grateful for their company, understanding and great spirits that help me through, when the workload is demanding.
I wish I could present these friends to you here but unfortunately they all have one thing in common. They all hate selfies! 🙄
🔸️Love to Make🔸️day 8 #marchmeetthemaker2020 challenge
I love making! I love exploring, experimenting with new materials. And also love finding solutions within a frame of boundaries. It challenges me and I like to take challenges.
One such challenge with wooppers is making shoes for “difficult” feet. Feet on the wide side, a bit asymmetric, a bit deformed. If I get all the information I need, then I adjust my lasts to get the right result.
This pair on the picture was a “difficult” one. I made it, I post it and then I waited for the reaction.
The reaction to this green pair was this one:
“The slippers are wonderful. They are snug, as I expected, but not tight. I think they look very good. I am very pleased. Thank you!”
This kind of message makes my making experience complete and satisfying.
🔸️Rough / Mock up🔸️day 9 of the
All my life I used to sketch as a means of shaping ideas. It is not the same with my making of new felted objects though.. In felt making I work directly with my templates. These are pieces of sheet that I use to wrap layers of wool around them.
To end up with the pictured series of templates, (which work perfectly for my shape of slippers) it took me a lot of experimenting and refining. Each size needs its own template.
And a different shape of slippers such as the booties will need a different shape of a template. We also have templates for cat houses and felt planters. All need to be made in series of different sizes as well.
To decide on the size and shape of each template requires experience, since they need to be made much bigger than the final item. How much bigger depends on factors such as the kind of wool one uses and the degree of shrinking it.
Tomorrow I am going to show you a bit more of my working space.
🔸️Authentic space🔸️day 10
Two images today that I think speak for themselves.
My time and my space are split in half the making and the managing.
Sometimes one takes more time than the other and when I feel the imbalance I sense irritation creeping inside me.
Then I learn to stop and reset. At times of pressure this is not always possible but I do get better with time. 😊
I always thought that the ideal shape for wooppers is the original one; a clog shaped form which keeps feet snugly and warm. Almost all our range is the clog type in different colours and types of wool.
There are some exceptions though!
People are different and so are their tastes and needs. Many asked for an easy wearing shoe, one with open back.
I thought well, why not, wool is good for the feet and does not make them sweat. A low back slipper will be cool so why not make it even “cooler”? And sure enough, I added a hole at the front!
The result was OMICRON collection which is an all year round slipper for both women and men.
People sometimes say…”what a weird slipper, do you sell this?” and the answer is yes, it is part of the wooppers collection since 2016.
There is more into the story of open back slipper but I will speak on this again in a few days time.
🔸️Learning curve🔸️day 12
The two pictures here are 6 years apart.
The multi coloured one is from when I started making slippers in my kitchen, selling them to friends, numbering them and most importantly making each one differently.
That in itself was a steady learning curve.
The minute I showed my work to the general public this curve darted upwards.
Now I had to learn how to make a business and that was a whole new chapter that still expands. Refining the making technique, tiny innovations, productivity, costings, decision taking, discipline, learning a whole new range of digital tools, saying yes, saying no, working with others in the studio and working with clients on special projects.
The list is big and ever expanding in many levels and layers. Many times “must” takes over “fun” and I try to learn manage that equilibrium too.
This capacity of an ever extending learning curve is what I so love in this Wooppers story!
🔸️USP – Unique Selling Point🔸️day 13
So what do you mean by showing yourself under the USP theme? …you may ask.
Well if I was not posting a picture of myself representing a really responsive, helpful and considerate customer service (yes, I do stay by all that 😊) I would have posted a really dull picture showing how thick the sole part of a wooppers slipper is.
Indeed, our slippers are unique not because of the long list of the wooly goodness but mainly for their cushy feel, which is the result of especially thick layer of wool at the sole part, combined with manual labour. To this I will add their minimal form and also the possibility for the customer to choose their colour. These are the main reasons why wooppers slippers are unique.
🔸️Current project🔸️day 14
A few days back I was telling you about the Omicron collection. After Omicron the theme of the open back (mules) slippers got extended in the SOLO collection with no hole at the front.
I was under the impression that mostly men are the ones who like this type of shoe. Last year after some trials I realised that women too may choose the open back to the clog type woopper.
So pictured here is a preview of the SOLO for women, in yummy new colors soon to be available on the wooppers site.
The new SOLO for men is already.
Help is precious and appreciated.
Most fields of my work are technical and in order to get help, I need to train someone first.
It takes time to ensure that the level of craftsmanship, commitment and chemistry between everyone is fine.
So help does not come easy and yet it is absolutely necessary!
🔸️Self care🔸️day 16
I care for myself when I take time to switch off. Clear the mind, relax my body even if I do something physical.
Although slippers invite cosiness and I find cuddling up with a book a yum idea, I feel my best when outside.
Immersed in nature. Just being there, sensing the smell, the colours, the breeze. Just looking at the beauty into a tiny little flower. Thinking of nothing but that. I get so much energy out of this environment. And so I am happy to walk, to cycle, to kayak, to swim…whatever!
Since I live in a big city, at times it gets difficult to have immediate access to this nurturing effect of nature. Those times a pet comes to the rescue. I could have never imagined the therapeutic effect of playing with my son’s dog before. It is a time when the mind completely empties and I am engaged solely to that activity; my access to magical moments!
🔸️Proud of🔸️day 17
If you had asked me some years back what am I proud of I would have spoken about a prestigious award or a degree or about traveling on my own…
But now I can say that I am very proud each time I perform that perfect finishing cut on a wooppers slipper or when I manage to make a sourdough bread that “smiles” back to me.
🔸️Technique / Skills🔸️day 18
Are you keeping safe? Are you staying at home?
So maybe you have time today to learn what skill gets into felt making by hand.
The most important thing, the one that determines how perfect the slipper will be is layering the wool.
We lay it down in multiple layers, each layer perpendicular to the previous one. The wool we use comes in fleece and it is not always even, so it takes great skill to fill the gaps and finish with an even layer.
Layering is something one learns by experience so to master it, requires a lot of time.
People who learn with me try their hand straight away but it may take a really long time to complete the task totally unaided or unchecked.
You will learn more about our technique on our post on March 25th.
Are you keeping safe? Are you staying at home? Here we work half force so things are slower than usual. Our work space is not very big so only one of us works here at the moment.
Some packaging for today then..
When I am sending out wooppers slippers I am using a simple craft box as in the picture. You can throw that in the recycling bin if you like and use the included cotton pouch for storage.
Alternatively you can use the box for storing and use the pouch for your bulk groceries.. In the box you will find your washing instructions, our card and my personal message to you.
When shipping DHL I may be using DHL’s boxes if this is more practical and cost effective regarding volume and destination.
I am doing my best to keep shipping prices as low as possible. Hellenic Post was until now so very reasonable.. Unfortunately there was a huge increase from March this year, which I still haven’t adapted to my prices. 🙄
When I started this business I had no idea about SM. I got into social media just because of wooppers – everyone advised me to do so.
I tried them hesitantly at first but you know what? I liked it! I liked to learn new skills, I liked the sense of community and gradual growth.
I turned my account on social media into a business one and then everything was so different. Things became serious. Since I am getting a constant urge to advertise or my posts remain unseen, much fun was lost. You see, I cannot advertise. It is just beyond my psychological or financial capacity. So I decided to carry on, hold on to the enjoyable side even if my posts stay mostly unseen. At least they are there for anyone who wants to check upon wooppers.
Talking about my product does not come naturally so even my newsletters are kept to minimum: perhaps three or four in a year.
I think the marketing I do not do, the product itself does it for me. Since I cannot produce big quantities and do not even plan doing so in the future my modest marketing serves just right for me. 😊
How nice! Today’s theme comes with the change of Equinox! We will lift our spirits even if we stay at home!
At wooppers change is a gradual progress. A constant refinement.
We do not change collections in an obvious dramatic way. Our models stay for a long long time and throughout the year. In my way of thinking, if there will be a shoe that will sell the same even after 10 years that is an achievement! I always aspire into designing products which stand the test of time and wooppers was another challenge for me as a product designer. As things are there are a couple of models that sell the same since day one but I will start speaking about birthdays in a view years time..
Now starting this business I inevitably came in contact with the fashion world. It is not my natural space but I watch the colour trends so my customers find something suitable even if they are into fashion! Hope you agree..
🔸️Tools & Materials🔸️day 22
I make slippers using different colours of wool and here are all the tools I am using.
I will be happy to answer if you need to ask something.
(I have not prepared these posts in advance so as the pandemic progresses I wonder myself if I will have the discipline to complete this challenge. I try to remind myself that a repeated task usually has a therapeutic effect.)
Take care everyone!
I am shooting photos all the time! And I like it!
No way I am an artist photographer, only competent enough to cover the photography needs of our product.
I enjoy it a lot but since I do every shot professionally, the amount of work can at times be overwhelming.
On the other hand, thank Goodness for the smartphone cameras! 😉
🔸️Personal Touch🔸️day 24
A hand stitched tag when a pair of wooppers is finished. A carefully packed product as my personal present to you. A hand written note from me to you…
These are my ways to personally reach out through my product.
This, and the response from you are the greatest pleasures I get from the whole Wooppers experience.
🔸️How it’s made🔸️day 25
Today is a Bank holiday here in Greece celebrating the 1821 Revolution which marked the establishment of the new Greek state. A day normally celebrated with parades and family gatherings over the traditional dish: Bacalao (cod) with garlic puree.
Being under lockdown the day was different this year. Many phone calls and texts and time on SM and the day is almost gone…
For today’s theme I’ve made a collage showing steps in the making of the red and white pair in the middle. The process starts on the upper left image with the weighing out of the wool, and continues clockwise to the point where I start rubbing and rubbing until the wool becomes firm almost to the point of a thick wet fabric.
What you see here is the part that requires the most skill. Laying the wool evenly around a plastic template, wetting it out, turning it over and layering again until the design is constructed in the form of a wool “pie”.
For the next phase which is rubbing and rolling, stamina and strength is required. The pressure and the movement, the heat and lubrication from the warm soapy water is all that is needed for the fibres to interlock and become felt.
There will be a point when the plastic inside each wool “pie” needs to be removed. So we cut a slit, remove the template and continue shrinking the pre-shoe.
The method we use now is rolling. We wrap our “pies” around a pin and roll them on the table changing directions all the time.
The shrinkage continues to the point that the pre-shoe can be fitted inside the lasts (shoe moulds). And then more rubbing, beating and refining the shape.
After many hours of work the shoes are rinsed and are ready for the final cutting out of the rim. Finally they are placed on the drying rack.
After a couple of days, the new wooppers will be ready for the soles and the last touch, which is always the sewing of the Wooppers tag.
🔸️This or that🔸️day 26
This was one of the times I asked for your opinion and what you said, I listened.
The result was the BOOTIES our low boots series.
I value your opinion and thank you!
🔸️Future Goals🔸️day 27
Must admit, I was never fan of big goals. My career evolved while I was only doing my thing the best way I could.
Now it will be even more so in the future. Current times are showing us that good health is the most important thing there is. So this is my goal: to keep healthy in heart body and soul. If I succeed in it the rest of my output will only be good. 😊
If you read my previous post you should know by now that I do not have big targets for the future. I have however many many little plans: they come in the form of lists or charts. These are my assistants in accomplishing little daily tasks.
Although I used lists for as long as I remember, I now feel so much multi tasking that my lists grew in variety and shape.
I jot down lists in my diary and have self made grids to plan posts on social media and listings for my Etsy shop. My e-shop is a more demanding job: I write down my targets on my weekly list, add smaller items in my daily list. I also create grids for when I upload series of items.
Of course there are days with no list to adhere to. Weekends are such and now our coronavirus days! Space outside lists and grids is so valuable too. Is a breathing refreshing space, a place of calm and recollection before the action comes again.
Wish I knew about your lists… are you using any?
🔸️Self Promotion🔸️day 29
The image shows how I feel about self promotion. Ideally I am leaving it to others to do it for me, these others being many a happy customers!
🔸️Work / Life balance🔸️day 30
Work never stops and it can get so much, it can actually consume one. I try to always remind myself that.
There are three months towards and around Christmas that it gets really difficult for me here at Wooppers. Too much work in all aspects. I am happy when that season is over and we have been through it healthy and well. Towards the end of January balance returns in my life. I am consciously trying to keep work into my working hours and alocate time for all good things in life, relationships, exercise, recreation and relaxation.
Finding the right balance always has my attention and I try to find wisdom to navigate these waters effortlessly.
On this image you can see a view of Athens as seen from Ymittos mountain. It is so refreshing to cycle outside the city, even if for me, it is only possible during the weekends!
🔸️FAQ -frequently asked questions🔸️day 31
This is the last day of this year’s #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge and I want to finish it with a nice optimistic image.
This picture was taken three weeks ago when the first tough measures against the spread of coronavirus found us by the sea… I will always remember the brightness of the day and a deep wish to live through this new reality with health and wisdom. The situation is still hard but let the sunshine guide us through!
By the way, all your frequently asked questions are answered on our special site page a link of which is now HERE.
Also, if there is something you would like to ask I’ll be happy to answer here on comments.
Keep safe and well!