Accademia Riaci
Student Reports

Read all class reports from our students!

John Shepherd

Nationality: Canadian
Course: shoe design and making
Program: Summer Course
Period : May 9,2016-Jun. 3,2016, Jun. 6, 2016-Jun.17,2016

I was born in Vancouver, Canada. Leatherwork and shoemaking has been an interest of mine for a long time. Although I have been making shoes for a number of years, I came to Accademia Riaci to improve my skills in both shoemaking and design. My plan is to learn as much as I can here in Europe before returning to Vancouver to create a label, and start a business making shoes.

May. 27, 2016 | Posted in Shoemaking , | Tags:, Reporter: John Shepherd | Course: Shoemaking

Shoe Making 1-Summer Course 2016

My First Week

I arrived in Florence on Sunday evening. I was pleasantly greeted by a young Italian man. He drove me to the apartment where I will be staying for the duration of the course. The apartment is very comfortable and spacious.

Each student works independently, and starts the course at different times. My first project was to create a “form” from the shoe last. The form is the basis of all pattern making for shoes. With the form completed, I was given instruction on making the patterns for three different styles of pumps. In Italy, the pump is called a “décolleté”.

John SHEPHERD_2016513_01
Creating the two dimensional form from the last, using masking tape

John SHEPHERD_2016513_02
Making the pattern for the pump
Making the pattern for pumps on pattern paper

John SHEPHERD_2016513_03

On Tuesday, I tested my pattern by cutting a sample upper from a piece of felt. This felt has the same characteristics as leather, and it saves on the cost of materials. The felt upper was lasted to check the fit. If there are no further adjustments, a leather upper was made, complete with lining. I also learned how to make the pattern for the lining. There is a special procedure to ensure that the lining fits tightly with no wrinkles. Also on Tuesday, I ordered a set of shoemaking tools. The kit contains everything you need to get started.

The lasted upper, made from felt. The leather upper behind it, yet to be lined, is made from pink suede.

John SHEPHERD_2016513_04

On Wednesday, I started on the next style of pump. It is called “rovesciato”. The difference with this style is that the upper and lining are sewn inside-out. There is no stitching showing on the top line. In english, it is called a “bag seam”. It makes for a very clean looking upper.

The rovesciato upper in leather. No stitches are showing

On Thursday, our instructor, Angelo, took us to a factory that produces lasts. We each took a turn selecting styles to purchase. They will be delivered within one week. I chose two mens styles in my size, and one woman style. We then went to the leather store and we bought upper and lining leather.

John SHEPHERD_2016513_05

John SHEPHERD_2016513_06

The afternoons are free time in the workshop. I continued working on my shoe patterns. The last factory

John SHEPHERD_2016513_07

The sample room, where we choose the style of the lasts. There is an incredible selection of toe shapes and heel height.

Lots of beautiful Italian leather to choose from!

On Friday morning, a group of us went to a trade show featuring computerized machinery for making leather accessories and shoes. We got a glimpse of the “state of the art”, in terms of technology combined with high-quality craftsmanship. Along with individual exhibitors, there was a small production line in operation, demonstrating the processes in producing leather accessories. Watching the highly skilled people creating a leather bag from start to finish was very interesting. The convention centre is located inside a medieval fortress within easy walking distance of the school.

John SHEPHERD_2016513_08

John SHEPHERD_2016513_09

Samples of laser cut leather at the trade show

Friday is also the Art Walk. A tour guide takes us on a 90 minute tour of the old city, focussing on specific buildings and exhibits. Today we visited a small church originating in the 900s. It was “renovated” around 1300. Amazing! Inside the church, the guide pointed out the art and ornamentation that was originally in place when it was built. We also went to an art gallery to see an exhibition of modern art from 1900 to 1970.

Friday afternoon, I continued on the shoes and started the pattern for the final style of pump, the “Chanel”.

John SHEPHERD_2016513_10

Saturday morning, I took the optional school tour. We caught an early morning train to Pisa. We walked to the famous leaning tower and toured the adjoining cathedral and mausoleum.

The famous tower, doing what it does best.

On Sunday, I hiked the Cinque Terre along the coast. It is something you must do when in Tuscany! Take a short train trip from Florence to the first village, then hike from village to village. Its a great workout, too!

John SHEPHERD_2016513_11
Vernazza – one of the villages on the Cinque Terr

John SHEPHERD_2016513_12
Enjoying gelato on the Cinque Terre!
My daughter came to visit me in Florence for a few days.



Italian Home Cooking Course (#1) – Y.Y.

I am participating in a one-month Italian home cooki…
Language:   Reporter: Y.Y.
Course: Italian Home Cooking

Read more

Textile Design Short Course (#25) – Tomomi W

On the morning of April 14, I returned to Japan. …
Language:   Reporter: Tomomi W.
Course: Textile Design

Read more

Italian Chef training / Home Cooking Course (#2) – T

A cute little sandwich shop right near the school.…
Language:   Reporter: T
Course: Italian Culinary Arts

Read more



At Accademia Riaci, we are recruiting Course Reporters from our students. The students who are chosen to become Course Reporters are given 10 % of the tuition as their scholarship fee.
The Reporters who have submitted excellent reports will have his or her profile posted on our school website for the next 5 years as an alumnae and will be able to connect with their business chancesafter their graduation.

Read more

    © 2024 Accademia Riaci. All rights reserved, P.I. IT02344480484 | "Accademia Riaci - International School of Arts, Design, Cooking, and Italian Language in Florence, Italy" | GENERAL CONDITIONS