Molly Grant, reconnected with the green leather and suede shoes from her childhood memory when she looked across the room at the League of New Hampshire Craftsman Show. Spotting the bright colors and creative styles of the Cordwainer Shoes, she stopped in her tracks. This master fine-craft leather artist reconnected with the timeless design of the Pathfinder shoe which she first spotted during a trip to that same show at ten years old.
Molly, now in her thirties, gathered the courage to enter into a conversation with her future mentor, teacher, and husband—Paul Mathews. During their meeting at the Craftsman Show, Paul invited Molly to apprentice and travel to gilded craft shows. Seizing the opportunity to learn the art of shoe-making, she closed her gallery, placing her handbags on the shelf. Molly and Paul soon married, became partners in the Cordwainer Shop, and worked alongside each other at their farm. Creating wearable art, taking care of the land, and “living the good life” as Paul would say.
Paul’s father Edward Mathews designed the Pathfinder shoe in the 1920’s during the Great Depression. A shoe created for accessibility, practicality, and biomechanical correctness. High heels and rigid steel shanks were the only footwear options for women during the high fashion “flapper” era. After extensive research at Antioch College, Edward designed and patented a pliable deerskin moccasin of the Native American, and heel-less sandal of the ancient Greeks; becoming the first “style shoe” designed without high heels, providing a wide toe box. After the stock market crash the shoe was sold as a kit to support the Mathews mission making ergonomically correct, aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable footwear accessible to everyone. Paul Mathews entered the business in 1933, developing the shoe construction process, renaming the former schoolhouse “The Cordwainer Shop”—in Deerfield NH.
Molly had always loved to sew as a youth; Her mother bought her a piece of leather from one of her yard sale junkets, she was hooked. Following her passions, Molly then became a leather artist in her 20’s, refining her craft during an apprenticeship at the Black Swan Leather shop. She opened Molly Craft Designs, a fine craft gallery in Portsmouth, selling her work along with local artisan jewelry, pottery, and glass. She transitioned full time to shoemaking after meeting Paul.
Today Molly teaches workshops for students at craft and folk schools across the country, and at her Cordwainer Shop. Molly is also creating new shoe and handbag designs. I so enjoyed my conversation with this dedicated and talented artist. We are thrilled to welcome Molly to this episode of Intrinsic Drive™.
Intrinsic Drive™ is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton. Special thanks to Andrew Hollingworth, our sound engineer and technical editor. For more information on this and other episodes visit us at www.whartonhealth.com/intrinsicdrive Follow us on socials (links below) including Instagram @intrinsicdrivelive