The morning sun poured in though the window, bathing the entire studio in light.
The back wall, lined with shoe lasts of varying shapes and sizes. Hides of leather in countless colours and textures, lay stacked under a well-worn bench. Inspiration and warmth, exuding out of every nook.
This is where the shoes are made.
A space to create.
To be the artist and the artisan.
To get lost in the process.
When I grow up, I want to be a…..
For Betty Ennis, there were only ever two ways to end that sentence, “I’ve always been interested in shoes – I wanted to be a shoemaker or a drummer, but I couldn’t drum to save my self!”
After a lifetime of ‘playing around a lot,’ Betty’s experiences in art, craft, textiles, fashion, film, the music industry, renovating and building have aided in finding her feet in the world of shoemaking.
With limited formal training, Betty is relatively self-taught. After completing a short course at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and multiple advanced workshops in Tasmania, with bespoke shoemaker Luna Newby, Betty took what she learned and started making herself shoes that fit.
“I have a bit of a big foot – it’s one of the reasons I started (making shoes) – it’s always been harder to find something different if you have a larger foot, or a wider ankle – or even if you are small – tiny feet. You can’t get stuff that you want.”
Shoemaking for herself and her family, slowly resulted in interest from others – bettybossyboots was born. “It’s taken a long time – about 10 years at least. I’ve been very lucky with it, but I have grabbed every opportunity as it’s come along and just built it up and built it up.”
Working away in her sun-drenched studio, sometimes long after the sun has set, Betty finds the joy in getting lost in her work. “I don’t do high fashion – I don’t do high heels – I like the idea of making something that’s a little bit unusual and striking and different – that can express people’s personalities.” Making ‘handsome shoes for interesting people.’
“It is sculptural and fashion and functional and creative – you have to brew up something in your head.” With her signature series, comes a familiarity and routine-like process, yet no two shoes are alike, thanks to Betty’s hands on approach to her work – “Every single thing is done by hand.”
Not wanting to purchase all the equipment she was exposed to through her time at RMIT, Betty relies solely on her vintage Singer Sewing machine (over 100 years old), her skiving knife, hammer, tacks and glues. A standard bench sander from Bunnings helps clean up those stacked heels. Sourcing unusual leather, upcycled materials and a penchant for avoiding the waste so often associated with the fashion industry, Betty ensures a truly individual style – “Each pair is quite different.”
Originally content to simply fill customer orders, one handsome pair of shoes at a time, Betty’s involvement with the Art & Industry Festival changed all that. When Festival Director, Donna Jackson first approached her, she was immediately overwhelmed with ideas. Based in Spotswood – a suburb where art and industry seem destined to intersect, Betty knew she had to be involved, “The challenge of that – OH MY GOD, I LOVED IT! Just coming up with Industry themed ideas – that was really interesting. Incorporating more art into it – discovering that I could do that! The ideas were there and I was really excited by that.”
Betty’s exhibition at Two Birds Brewing – also in Spotswood – was a festival highlight, as was her involvement in the Industry Fashion Show. It has Betty looking forward to more artistic collaborations in the future. She also wouldn’t mind designing some handsome shoes for an interesting rock star – Tim Rogers springs to mind.
Irrespective of whatever successes lay ahead for bettybossyboots, Betty is certain of one thing, “I don’t want to go into production – I don’t want to lose the element of making them myself – the satisfaction. I’m a maker – I just like making stuff.”
*bettybossyboots is based in Spotswood. In her workshop, she brings to life a uniqueness of shape, style and quality, hand crafted into the perfect size for any commission. Betty also runs small beginner workshops for those who are interested in trialing the craft while making their own handmade shoe.