I went to a local Heimatmuseum (most districts and cities in Germany have some form of Heimatmuseum or association,which has permanent exhibits about the history of the specific area), the Pfinzgaumuseum to take a look at a private collection of summer shoes, called ‘Bambus, Binsen, Birkenrinde’ (Bamboo, Birchbark) .
The private collector, Hildegund Brandenburg, an architect made these shoes while away with her family on holiday. According to the exhibition information, it all started more than 20 years ago during a holiday in Norway. She described how her children were bored out of their skulls. So, the idea was to get the kids out to gather natural materials to make a house. She ran into some tree bark and decided to make sandals for the kids.
“I imagine myself to be a woman from prehistoric times, who has to make shoes for every family member every day.”
She often uses glue, needle and thread, but mostly restricts herself to using her swiss army knife. Her ideal shoe is one that is made of only one material, and quick to make.
She further describes how, compared to architecture, where the timeframes can be very long (from idea to completion), making a shoe is almost like instant gratification. After a while, it seems, she would make only one shoe ( I guess as a souvenir, once her kids were grown), as she wasn’t interested in repeating the process.
One shoe, highlights the real challenge for her: getting to know the materials intimately (characteristics, life period and stability, static and dynamic limits, and compatibility with other materials), and solving the thorny problem of how to connect the various parts. Each shoe tells the story of the holiday – from the Mediterranean palms, cork from Corsica, tree bark from Northern Europe.
I had expected twenty shoes, quaintly displayed, and was pleasantly surprised to see over a hundred sandals spread out on shelves. The museum did attempt to provide some extra information about the various regional plants used. This exhibition belongs in a museum of applied arts or the shoe museum in Hauenstein, with more space and resources to show the shoes and their materials properly. What would interest me, was how prehistoric people solved that summer shoe problem…