My story. How I became a shoemaker
My name is Inga. I am crazy about shoes. Every pair I own must have an enduring value, an exclusive design, or a specific innovation that makes those items unique. I also felt shoes.
After more than 15 years of practicing this craft, shoemaking is still the most fascinating job for me. Most probably, it will remain so until the end of my life.
Grey Shoes Like Soviet Soldiers
I grew up in Lithuania that was occupied by the Soviet Union. If you can't imagine what this means, think about life in its current analog – North Korea.
In Soviet Union people built buildings that all looked exactly the same. Passersby wore clothes and hairstyles, which never went out of fashion. Everybody would buy boring grey shoes because this was the only model produced in state factories.
I can't get rid of those memories of identical shoes that stood on the shelves in dark and dusty shoe shops. They looked just like soviet soldiers - sad and grey.
The Soviet Union was a country where creativity and individuality were sacrificed for the sake of a predictable society. Mass production of lifeless, boring items was a must.
We couldn't buy anything from western countries because it was forbidden for "virtuous" soviet citizens who lived on the other side of the "iron curtain".
When I was a child, my feet kept growing constantly. Instead of feeling great about that, I felt ashamed.
I would burst into tears each time when we needed to buy me new shoes. I would scream and refuse to put on any of those until my mom would surrender and promise me to find something else.
My dad was a sailor, so sometimes I was lucky enough to get secret gifts from the outside world. Still, ofttimes my mom used to get a perfect pair of shoes from somewhere else.
Imagine all of this and you will understand how heroic our parents were when they sought something beautiful and suitable for their little children to wear.
How to Draw Princess Legs
I loved drawing when I was a child. I could do this from the early morning till the late evening.
I used to depict girls in beautiful dresses. The only problem was that they all had two dreadfully horrible legs.
Every time I would finish an elegant evening gown and move my pencil down to the place where the legs needed to appear, I would get stressed. How should those legs look like? What to do with the feet? All the effort I put into drawing would become a somewhat big disappointment when I needed to finish the legs.
One day my grandad looked into my work. After a brief investigation, he whispered that I drew legs the wrong way.
At first, I couldn't understand how my old mustached grandad could know anything about the princess's legs. But then he erased my work and drew two perfect legs with absolutely fantastic shoes! I decided to take his further advice into consideration very seriously.
Since that day, everyone was fascinated by my beautifully drawn legs and shoes.
Why I Dropped Architecture
The Soviet-era ended. I finished school, and started studying architecture.
The first couple of years in university were productive. I loved thinking spatially and making models. However, when we started modeling big structures – actual buildings – I understood that I couldn't make them look beautiful.
The best form I could model was not bigger than the size of a human foot.
This is the reason I dropped out of the studies.
Waking Up at 5 a.m.
I was 29 when my life turned upside down because of the perfect material I discovered. It was natural, seamless, fitting… it was fascinating. I could make everything from it. This material was called handmade felt and the first thing I felted was a couple of comfortable slippers.
When my mum saw them, she called me a third-generation shoemaker. She reminded me that my grandad and gran-grandad were shoemakers.
Although I didn't understand this as a child, I spent the entire childhood playing in shoemaker's studio, surrounded by sewing machines and shoe lasts.
And then felting overpowered me.
I used to wake up at 5 a. m. 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 the BureBure designs: slippers, ankle boots, sneakers, layered shoes.
I started to decorate items with leather strips as my grandad used to do. I also got rid of any unnecessary stitches and clipping, learned to felt seamless shoes so that skin would only touch wool.
Just as a peculiar 3d printer, I used to take wool curls and mold shoes from it.
Growing Sheep & Making Shoes
The time to develop my own brand has come.
Our family moved out of town to live in Lithuanian woods. We established an organic farm "Forestsheep" and founded BureBure studio to sell my handmade slippers.
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. It was unimportant for the farming industry, so it remained chemical-free, suitable for sensitive Skudden sheep breed.
Being a mother of four, I understand perfectly how important it is to ensure a healthy environment for the new generation.
Therefore my business will never grow too big. It's not my aim. Environmental responsibility and product quality are much more important than quantity at BureBure.