Park Royal has long been a home for industries associated with the motor car. In the past, these industries made components, batteries, lights, tyres and buses and cars themselves. Today, the industry is based around servicing, preening and pimping the cars people already own.
The result of this industry is that Park Royal is littered with fly-tipped, used tyres (at least one per street).
We heard about people across the Global South – in Kenya and Ethiopia, India and Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam, and all across South America – using this resource to make tyre sandals, and decided to try it here too.
However, whereas in these places people just cut through the tyres with a sharp knife, European tyres are reinforced with steel belts. We tried various methods to overcome this (including hacksaws), but in the end settled on slicing the outside layer off each tyre with a Stanley knife. This took A Long Time.
The other material we used was leather, generously provided by Bill Amberg Studio, a leather-workers based in Park Royal. Every piece we used was an off-cut from another of their projects.
(Is leather sustainable? It’s a by-product of the meat industry, and has been tanned with vegetables for over 300,000 years. So for as long as people eat cows and pigs, there’ll be leather to spare.)
The workshops were led by the talented Lauren MacDonald. Over four sessions, she helped the young people learn how to put these two things together.
Bill Amberg also provided us the space to meet in real life. After doing A4 Paper online, it felt so good and human just to be in the same space.
Lauren started by creating a prototype, and sharing some inspiration with the young people. She took them through the process of creating their own individual designs. Over four weekly sessions, they:
→ Learnt to skin the tyre (a health and safety nightmare)
→ Worked out and drew up their designs. (The young people had free rein to design their own sandal/shoe).
→ Cut their leather.
→ Positioned their straps, stuck them down, and ‘skived’ the edges
→ Cut the tyre and punched their holes
→ Sewed the pieces together with waxed linen thread (a low-tech solution which dispensed with the need for higher-tech synthetic glues).
→ Presented their sandals in a photoshoot, in the factory itself.
It’s important to say here that this was down to the wire. The young people were punching and sewing right up to the end of the last workshop, then hurriedly pulling the sandals on for the photoshoot. This was mostly because skinning the tyre took MUCH longer than we thought it would. It was also probably a little too ambitious for four weeks.
We wanted to spend some time talking about the wider issues of consumerism, and the impact it has, and how it felt to make these things. But we just had to concentrate on making.
(But that’s OK, right? This is the interesting thing about making things by hand/off-grid. It takes ages. If we’d have priced the sandals by the time spent making each one, they’d each have been hundreds of pounds).
This is what their sandals looked like:
We then brought the young people back together for three more production workshops, to actually make some A-B sandals to sell. We chose Maki’s design, as it was the simplest, the most unisex (for crossover appeal) and involved the least cuts.
Over three days of production the young people made 14 pairs of wildly beautiful, recycled and off-grid sandals – testament to how long it takes to skin a tyre.
ROYAL MAKI SANDALS are
→ 100% RECYCLED
→ 100% HANDMADE
→ 100% OFF-GRID
They were named by Sahara Fagan-Michaelson.
Thanks so much to everyone at Bill Amberg Studio.
Workshop Leader → Lauren MacDonald.
Absolute Beginners → Alice, Emma, Kaye, Josh, Maki, Rob and Sahara.
Youth Engagement → Cam Jarvis.
Date → May/June 2021.