Spotswood shoemaker Betty Ennis creates beautiful bespoke shoes and boots that are stylishly androgynous, equal parts classic and flamboyant that echo 1960’s aesthetics.
Betty’s eye for colour and pattern, her use of interesting leathers and fabrics all align to create gorgeous footwear.
Each pair is lovingly hand-made from her studio tucked in a corner of the garden at the back of her Spotswood home.
It’s an intimate workspace that contains her beloved sewing machines, shelves stacked with lasts (the foot-shaped forms used to create shoes and boots) and rolls of leathers, curled and waiting to be transformed into her latest creation.
What drew you to shoemaking?
Shoemaking has always been on my `I’d like to be list', and second to that, never being able to find what I wanted to wear. I used to paint and decorate my op shop shoes in the 70’s and 80’s.
A striking pair of boots or shoes is the ultimate statement for me. It has been a lifetime of learning in art, craft, sewing, film, music and building that has finally fallen into one body of work.
I love to make stuff and shoemaking is craftsmanship, form and function, fashion, design, technical pattern making and construction, all rolled into one. Each pair is different.
What are the joys and the challenges of designing and making shoes?
Slipping them off the last for the first time is a delicious moment, then seeing a pair of my shoes on somebody else is very exciting.
However finding the interesting leathers is a challenge, I am always on the lookout for small runs.
If you could say one thing about shoe design/making, what would it be?
Patience. Precision. Practice.
Who/ what has been your biggest creative inspiration?
I can’t say I have a single person or business - I like to think my shoes are a little outside of the fashion industry.
I guess there is a definite nod to the 60’s era in my work. It is also inspiring and motivating to create with a couple of my special clients and some work-shoppers.
Mostly I draw on what I can find and what I would like to wear.
Describe your perfect creative day.
A perfect day is an uninterrupted day that goes long into the night. When all of a sudden I realise I need to eat, when I can let my mind go and the ideas for colour and texture just flow. When I turn around and I am in the middle of a huge mess and I don’t care!
What inspires you about Melbourne's west?
My husband and I moved from Fitzroy to St Kilda and then on to Spotswood 18 years ago.
I have always been a bit of an ‘outside the circle’ sort of person. I believe we are all a product of our environment.
I find the west is pretty much on the forefront of art and creativity.
It's much like Fitzroy and St Kilda used to be, a bit of a breeding ground for stronger, more creative, down to earth people, certainly not haute couture.
A good street culture is the basis for all fashion trends.
pictures = jessica dean (except second image, courtesy of Modesty Ennis).