My name is Inga. I am crazy about shoes. Every pair I own must have an enduring value, exclusive design or specific innovation, which make those items unique. I also felt shoes. After more than 10 years of this craft, I can boldly admit that felting shoes is still the most interesting job to me. Most probably, it will remain so until the end of life. BURE BURE handmade slippers shop emerged from strong passion for the shoes, which started in my early childhood. I was born in Lithuania, occupied by Soviet Union (If you don’t know what this means, just think about the life in an analogue for it, current North Korea). I grew up in a country where people built buildings which looked exactly the same, worn clothes and hairstyles, which never went out of fashion, and bought boring grey shoes, because this was the only model produced in state factories. Soviet union was a country where creativity and individuality were sacrificed for the sake of predictable society. Therefore, mass production of lifeless, boring items was a must. Back then we were unable to buy anything from the western countries since these items were forbidden for a “virtuous”soviet citizen, living on the otherside of ‘iron curtain’. Imagine this and you will understand how heroic our parents were when they seeked for something beautiful and suitable for their little children to wear. My feet kept growing constantly and instead of feeling great about that, I felt ashamed. I still can’t get rid of those memories of identical shoes, standing on the shelves in dark and dusty shop. Looking just like soviet soldiers - sad, boring, grey. I really hated that shop. Thus I would have a hysteria when we needed to buy me new shoes. I screamed, cried and refused to put on any of those until my mom surrendered and promised me to find something else.
My dad was a sailor. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get secret gifts from the outside world. Still, most of the times my mum used to get a perfect pair of shoes from somewhere else.
As a child, I loved drawing. I could draw from the early morning till the late evening. Most of the times I depicted girls in different beautiful dresses, with two dreadfully horrible legs… So every time I finished an elegant evening gown and moved my pencil down to the place where the legs needed to appear, I got stressed. How should those legs look like? What to do with feet? All the effort I put became one big disappointment in the end. And then one day my grandpa looked into my work. After an intent observation, he whispered that I drew legs the wrong way. At first I couldn’t understand how my old moustached grandad could know anything about princesses’ legs. But then, when he erased my effort and drew two perfect legs with the most wonderful shoes, I decided to take his advice into consideration very seriously. Since then, every time I shown my princess drawings, everyone was fascinated by their beautiful legs and shoes.
Soviet era ended. I grew up and enrolled into architecture studies. First couple of years were productive since I loved thinking spatially and making models. However, little by little things have changed. When we needed to start modelling big structures, actual buildings, I understood that I can’t make them look beautiful... Optimal form I could model was not bigger than a size of human foot.
This is the reason I dropped my studies.
I was 29 when my life turned upside down because of the perfect material I discovered. It was natural, sewless, fitting… it was fascinating. I could make everything from it. This material was called felt and the first thing I created were a couple of comfortable slippers.
When my mum saw them, she called me a third generation shoemaker, because my grandad and gran grandad were shoemakers... I did not understand that as I child, but I actually spent my first years of life playing in their workplace, surrounded by sewing machines and shoe lasts.
Felt overpowered me.
I used to wake up at 5 a. m. in order to felt before work. While packing for a weekend trip with friends I would take all the equipment for shoemaking. At that time, I have created half of BURE BURE designs: slippers, ankle boots, sneakers, two-in-one, three-in-one. I started to decorate items with leather strips as my grandad used to do, got rid of any unnecessary stitches and clipping, learnt to felt shoes so that skin would only touch wool. As a peculiar 3d printer, I used to take wool curls and mold shoes from it.
Little by little, the time to start BURE BURE has come. Our family moved out of town, established an organic farm “Forestsheep”, avoided chemical fertilizers, actively engaged into recycling, saving “product miles” and founded BURE BURE shop where now I sell our handmade slippers.
Being a mother of three, I understand perfectly how important it is to ensure a healthy environment for the new generation. Therefore, I could not let myself use wool from unknown manufacturers. I wanted to know all the details how it was made, so it became evident that it’d be proper to grow sheep on our own. Everything seemed so simple: I wanted to felt from high quality wool, so we needed sheep. And since we had to choose a breed, it felt right to pick a rare one, which genetic resources should be preserved. Infertile land we lived in became an advantage in this situation: being unimportant for farming industry, it remained natural so suitable for sensitive Skudden sheep breed. Now my husband Kestas takes care of an organic farm “Forestsheep” while I felt BURE BURE slippers.
Environmental responsibility and product quality are much more important than quantity for us. We work by hands, slowly. We put care and attention to every item we make. Our businesses will never grow too big. This is not our aim.
I think we just chose to work so that we could live, not to live so that we could work.