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April 23, 2020
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May 11, 2020

Colorado Shoe School - Alchemical Shoemaking in Bellvue

By: Natalie Scarlett, Huckleberry Literary

The sunny, airy workshop at The Colorado Shoe School is quiet. No sewing machines hum, no repurposed leather is transformed, and no learning shoemakers chat with one another or owners, Annabel Reader and Dan Huling. Yet there’s still some fluttering. Dan uses the quiet time to revamp (no pun intended) their sneaker design and build a backyard birdhouse village and Annabel uses her stitching talents to make masks for friends and neighbors. Though Annabel is a professional stiltwalker, costume designer, and shoemaker, when a neighbor in the healthcare field needed some masks, she turned her artistic talents to crafting necessities. “I mean, I hate that I have to do it, but I’m pleased that I can,” Annabel candidly says.

In everyday life Annabel and Dan make magic. There’s a mystical quality to shoemaking, Annabel notes. “We’re accustomed to seeing someone in a cool pair of shoes and asking, ‘Where can I buy those?’ so watching a pair of shoes come together is magical.” With their roots deep in circus performance and a well developed sense of whimsy, newlyweds Dan and Annabel have been teaching shoemaking at their workshop in Bellvue for years following their training in New Zealand. School cancelled is hard on more than just the students as shoemaking teachers Dan and Annabel say, “We miss the tactile act of being creative together and the growing community that attending a shoe workshop makes.” Without regular classes to teach, Dan and Annabel have kept themselves busy doing art swaps, most recently with local painter Diane Findley who traded them a beautiful painting in exchange for a colorful pair of custom shoes.

This article is part of a series of highlights about our Fort Collins artists and creatives making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Thank you for supporting local artists, musicians, creative small businesses and Downtown Fort Collins!

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