Pumped: The Art & Craft of Shoemaking

May 7 - August 28, 2016

Mint Museum Uptown


A vast array of diverse and unique shoes from the past to the present – all from the Mint’s permanent collection. The show explores both the cultural history and the meticulous craft of shoemaking.

Drawn entirely from Mint’s permanent collection of shoes, Pumped is the first exhibition to view this collection through the lens of craft. The ancient tradition of shoemaking has much in common with other crafts represented at the museum, such as ceramics, glass, and metalwork. Like them, shoemaking at the highest level of quality requires a thorough knowledge of one or more materials with unique characteristics—in this case mainly leather, but also fabric, plastics, and other substances. Such knowledge is obtained through many hours of practice, whether the techniques used are centuries old or twenty-first century.

As with other crafts, industrialization changed shoemaking, enabling mass production and introducing new materials. Yet the desire for bespoke (custom-made) footwear persisted, and so did traditional methods. Today, different shoemakers occupy different points on a continuum of approaches from the most hands-on to the most automated. Since the 1980s there has been a resurgence of interest in the craft from both hobbyists and entrepreneurs who work in a studio setting, using relatively few machines. In the twenty-first century, others have used innovative technologies such as CAD (computer-assisted design) and 3D printing to radically rethink the design process and end product. Pumped features footwear ranging in date from the early 1700s to 2015.

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This exhibition is organized by The Mint Museum and generously sponsored by The Founders’ Circle Ltd.

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