the next generation of jewelers or even shoe repair people

My mother was into jewelry making.  She took some classes and most of the time found herself disappointed in the outcome of her projects.  I remember her making bead necklaces when I was much younger and at one point she painted too.  She might not have been great at the execution but she had a great eye.  She loved taking her jewelry to a jeweler and making changes with it by pulling out a stone and putting it in a pin or creating something else. 

I inherited a handful of gems from her.  I took them up to our jeweler and worked with her to create a ring I could wear every day with all the gems so I could have a little piece of my Mom with me daily.  I went up there this week to see the setting before everything was set in stone.  While I was there, I went down to the "hole" of the guy who actually made the ring and had him clean some jewelry for me.

What I was interested in when I got there was about the next generation of jewelers.  When I asked the jeweler if his family was going into the business he just laughed.  NO way, they want to be in finance or something like that.  So where is the next generation of jewelers?  Interesting enough the jeweler did say there are a few younger people getting into the business.  In many ways, I wasn't surprised based on what seems to be happening with the next generation. 

I think about the same thing when I get my shoes repaired as there are only a few left in the city.  To me, they are artists.  Someone told me that at the turn of the 20th Century there were thousands of tailors in Brooklyn who made handmade suits, now there are less than a handful but it is changing.

The good news is that there appears to be a resurgence of people who are interested in being tailors, fixing shoes, making jewelry, crafting furniture, etc.  Perhaps it is the 24/7 world that we all seem to live in has spurred the beauty of returning to the simple way to life because it is gratifying in a completely different way.  It isn't simple using your hands every day to create products but it is a completely different work life.  Making a home cooked dinner, canning peaches or whatever it is.  The next DIY generation includes farmers too.  Perhaps this generation will find the beauty in the old traditions that need to be embraced before they fall into an abyss. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rebecca Healy

    I live in DC now, but used to live in the Midwest and there were no cobblers anywhere. It’s one of the industries that somehow got left behind in the consumption is king era. But now we’re seeing a shift of people who desire quality over quantity (Gen Y is especially a proponent of this, particularly in the real estate market where they’re willing to forgo space in exchange for high-end finishes), given the move toward an experience economy and this means less products will be designed with planned obsolescence, and more with an eye towards lasting and sharing. With that, we’ll see a resurgence of these craftspeople as you mention. Denim Therapy is a good example (, and I think there’s a huge opportunity for shoe repair to come online as well. There are some online options, but they don’t have the intimacy you’d expect if you’re going to be handing over your favorite pair of shoes.

    1. Gotham Gal

      NYC is definitely a rare place where you can basically find anything youneed. We have an amazing cobbler in the neighborhood who transforms a pairof shoes. That magic allows me and others to keep shoes in perfectcondition for many years to come.I agree that in the land of consumption the consumer is king and many ofthese types of professions got left in the dust.

  2. ems b. jewelry

    My respect, appreciation and love for the art/fashion/architecture/design from generations past has definitely molded my aesthetics. In October of 2010 I launched my jewelry line, ems b. jewelry, which combines vintage and new materials. I take apart vintage brooches, clip-on earrings, chain, etc. and rework them with new chain, beads, etc. All of my pieces have a vintage vibe with a modern twist. They are also all one-of-a-kind, which is a special treat in our present culture where shoddy made “fast fashion” reigns supreme.As my business grows I plan to expand my jewelry making process to include my own silver and gold castings and uniquely fabricated chain, but budget wise that is far in the future. Being (dare I say it) almost thirty, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of ems b. customers that are my age and younger, although my customer base is very diverse age and style wise which I love. So have faith that my generation will keep old world craft alive!Coincidentally, I am desperately searching for a good cobbler. Among my endless collection of shoes there are about eight pair that currently need to be repaired. Living in Sarasota, a wealthy town on the east coast of Florida, “new” tends to win out over restoring “old” in regards to almost everything so I’m not shocked by my predicament. I’ve gone to two different worthless luggage and shoe repair shops, alas my vintage boots and faaabulous wish-I-could-wear-now vintage stiletto clogs are collecting dust in my closet. Oh well, maybe I should be proactive and learn how to be a cobbler too!*My website is under construction, but feel free to check out my line

    1. Gotham Gal

      too bad that place in nyc doesn’t ship. btw, they are cash only!i will check out your jewelry too. sounds like a very cool biz.

      1. leeschneider

        You need to hook them up with a Square! We have a bunch to give out, so if you’d like me to send you/them one, just shout!

        1. Gotham Gal


  3. walshann

    Hope you will show us the finished product…

  4. artyowza

    I wish I could get my luggage repaired……

    1. Gotham Gal

      go to ebags and buy a new one. the prices are great and they last

  5. Hoongyee

    you want stature? lofty aspirations? towering achievements?make your own shoes. I did and I now walk the earth in a pair of shoes that transport me in handcrafted splendor.thank you, joanne, for writing about this simple and simply beautiful experience of making things with your’s a link to a peek at my shoemaking class! yee lee

    1. Tereza

      that is *really* cool!

  6. awaldstein

    This post touches on the changes that a socially empowered artisan movement is bringing about.My personal passion is artisanal and natural wines and the younger generation of wineries (some 15 generations old) are social savvy and bringing changes in the way these wines are brought to market.I work with them on the side to help them bridge the distribution gap.Some thoughts on this movement as it relates to wine here “Natural wines…a perfect storm of social change for the wine world” @

    1. Gotham Gal

      I like that. A socially empowered artisinal as well as generationalmovement. We are definitely moving thru the perfect storm

  7. FTJCo

    Your jeweler is fairly typical of the generation of jewelers that prospered up until the late 20th century. My family was in the business since the 1960s and did very well. But the people who experienced those glory days are more interested in ‘getting out’ themselves–having their kids join is inconceivable. The problem this industry faces is that the main part of the purchase, the diamond, has become commodified. Production has largely moved to India and China and the industry at large is selling on price rather than quality. It is a self-destructive race to the bottom.But there are a few of us swimming upstream. We signed a lease on our store in the Fall of 2008, just as the wheels were coming off of the economy. Today, we are North America’s first Fairtrade certified jeweler. We sell only superbly finished pieces using recycled or Fairtrade certified gold and platinum with Canadian diamonds. It’s the most ‘ethical’ jewelry purchase you can make and we’ve actually created a new market–we have many women who come to us who say that they never would have considered wearing a diamond ring before. But now they will.Sometimes an industry just needs to reinvent itself. My business partner and I have this weird hybrid knowledge between tech (I’m a developer) and jewelry. So when we looked at how a typical jeweller runs retail, alot of it just didn’t make sense to us. So we did our own thing. We have a tightly focussed business use ethical metals for bridal, engagement and custom pieces. No watches, no repairs (except to our products) and no ‘mall jewelry.’ Curated collections introduced several times a year from our designers. It’s a simple, profitable and highly scalable model.You are correct about the trend towards people making things. There’s a great short documentary about that here: that out. And check us out too.The Fair Trade Jewellery

    1. Gotham Gal

      Very interesting. Will watch and video and check out your site.I have a jeweler that has a multi-faceted business from finding diamonds,remaking jewelry and then their own pieces and representing people too. Theydo shows as well as people come to them. But they are on 47th street whichis a very unique situation and place

  8. Jim B

    Check out this blog for an English tailor doing things his own way. If you scroll down to the video you will see how he has outsourced made to measure to a young group of aspiring artisans in India.We need this here.

  9. ellen

    I would love to see the finished piece as well. Please show it to us. Here in Boston the jeweler’s building is dying a slow death. It was a cosmopolitan thriving place for so long and now it is so sloooow. The problem seems to be that the masses can’t distinguish between quality and mass produced commercial pieces. During the civil war in Lebanon many young men immigrated to America and brought their jewelry making skills to Boston and made fabulous pieces. Their children do not want to follow in their father’s footsteps. They go to American colleges and become professionals.As for cobblers there is only one I know about that does excellent work. WABAN SHOE REPAIR in Newton. He does wonderful repairs on anything leather. The former owner, Gene, was considered the shoe doctor and shoes were delivered to him from all over America to be fixed. Gene was the very best and when he sold his business the new owner does excellent work as well. The problem again is the Chinese and Brazilian mass produced imports. You don’t resole shoes that are NOT made in Italy or Switzerland. You throw them out..Bench made furniture was also a thriving business in America in the 1930’s. The mahogany pieces were and still are so beautiful. No one does that work any longer. My kitchen cabinetmaker worked for a furniture company, F and G, in Cambridge in the 1960’s when he immigrated from Italy. He can make three kitchens for the time it took him to make one chair in 1960. There is a lingering sign of the old furniture business near Central Square in Cambridge. It is the Kaplan furniture sign. You might remember it.Your Mom sounds a bit like me. I took a sterling silver making class was disappointed with the results too. I do continue to bead string because I have bought so many beads over the years, I want to make necklaces before my hands get too arthritic and my eyes become too blind

    1. Gotham Gal

      i do remember that sign in central square. you are so right, you onlyresole italian and swiss shoes. the rest are just made for the season,unfortunately.i will take a picture of the ring and post….promise.