Self Taught Cordwainer & Shoe artist
Gaucho Ninja was created by Lisandro Serra Delmar in 2015 in Spain and moved to the UK in 2018 to re launch in 2019.
Born in Spain of Argentinian parents he moved to Argentina as a boy. In 2007, as a young man, Lisandro Serra Delmar started experimenting with making leather goods as a way to enjoy a craft whilst travelling all over the world. The desire to work with leather was in his blood…
His father, Oscar Serra, made leather bags when he was a young man.
His great grandfather was a ‘gaucho’ (Argentinean Cowboy) and a saddler, and his daughter (Lisandro’s great auntie) was a shoemaker.
Luis Pereyra, my great grandfather
Seated behind his sewing machine, he started as a saddler in the Argentinean 1920’s. Back then, riding horses was the main way of transportation, so saddlers and leatherworkers were in demand. He was a Gaucho living in the Argentinean countryside. Years later, the car revolution came in and the Saddleries shut, forcing the craft to fade and almost to vanish. Luis went to live in the city, in Buenos Aires, working as a Jack of all Trades
The leather work team
Nada Meredith works for team Gaucho Ninja in Herefordshire, UK. Daughter of an artist and a craftswoman she joined the team in 2018. She used to make yurts for a living and now dedicates most of her time to tending the community smallholding including home educating her three children.
Laurie Lewis works for team Gaucho Ninja in Herefordshire, UK. Expert Teepee maker, complete craft women working with her hands for more than 25 years. She is a recent addition to the team and she is now making many of the leather tabi and boots.
The support team
In 2017 Gaucho Ninja moved to Herefordshire UK. A green roof, oak workshop was constructed by Lisandro and Ben Salmon (Nada’s partner) as part of the growing community of artists and makers by the Slough Brook, at the foot of the Black Mountains.
Also resident on the same smallholding of animals, children, low impact dwellings and educational projects is Hattie Duke, Lisandro’s wife and creator of www.firelight.org.uk a local organization working to promote education in nature. The most recent addition to the support team are their twin sons, born in April 2019.
Hattie has also recently been published in a collaborative book brought together by Bernard Graves called ‘Crafting, Transforming Materials and the Maker’ www.handsonpress.org.uk
“I remember when I first discovered that I could walk around barefooted in the house, outside, on the beach. I was in my teens and I noticed that my parents never took off their shoes during the day. Only to go to bed at night. At first walking barefoot was a statement of subtle rebellion for me. Now it is just one of life’s many pleasures to walk barefoot some of the time.
It is also one of the greatest aids to expel the negative energetic charge of our extensive use of technology too.
A study published a couple of years ago in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health titled “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons” postulates that earthing could represent a potential treatment/solution to a variety of chronic degenerative diseases.
My observation is that we still have a certain amount of prejudice towards people wearing no shoes (except on a sandy beach where it is entirely acceptable). Perhaps for many people wearing shoes has become an unconscious representation of our intellectual development as human beings and a growing understanding of what is apparently required to keep feet healthy.
And yet, intelligent human beings walked the earth wearing no shoes for hundreds of thousands of years. Evidence from skeletons of the earliest humans suggests none of the damage to the bones that some modern people might attribute to be an inevitable consequence of walking and running barefoot.
So, why do we make shoes?
Of course, for thousands of years people have been wearing shoes without apparent harm. However, there are numerous people with painful foot problems that often affect the rest of the body.
At Gaucho Ninja we make shoes as a way of striving towards the perfect balance between walking, running or climbing barefoot and wearing restrictive shoes. Because many shoes are just that: restrictive and damaging. They prevent the appropriate development of muscles that make our feet strong and flexible which is what healthy feet need to be.
We are continuously integrating the feedback from our customers with the latest research to bring you what we believe to be the very best option for your hardworking feet.
Feet that can feel the ground and receive sensory feedback from the terrain they are moving on whilst being protected from sharp rocks, stones and thorns are happy, healthy feet. That is why we use barefoot style soles that offer protection combined with the ability to feel the touch of the earth. Our uppers are flexible, spacious and stylish. Giving room for your feet to move as they need to and make the most of the 28 bones, 30 joints and over 100 muscles to support you in all aspects of daily life.”
Gaucho Ninja and Make it Leather Team
*This article is inspired by the work of Harvard University Human Evolutionary Biology Professor Daniel Lieberman, in his book The Story of the Human Body, Allen Lane Press, 2013
Why Gaucho NINJA?
Lisandro has practised and taught the martial art of Bujinkan/Ninjutsu throughout his adult life. He has been inspired by footwear designs from Japan and especially the importance of healthy shoes for those who understand the importance of caring for our feet.
He also takes his inspiration from the 34th grandmaster of Bujinkan, Masaaki Hatsumi, who says that a true ninja lives his life in resonance with nature. A ninja lives to protect life and nature.
The Raw Materials
Leather is a by-product. Animals are not killed for their skins. By using leather products your ethical conscience can rest assured that you are making exceptionally good use of what would otherwise be waste.
Gaucho Ninja sources the leather from 6 artisan tanneries of Spain. This leather is tanned in the traditional way in Spain by master tanners using traditional tools and methods tried and tested over many generations. These craftsmen are elders, in the true sense of the word, whose knowledge and skills come from their forefathers. The result is a material that industrial methods cannot accomplish.
Each piece of leather is unique, your eyes will delight in the different tones and depth of colour. The differences in shade and shadow reminding you of the grace of a moving animal.
Gaucho Ninja value connection and strive to build a personal relationship with all of their suppliers.
The thread used to stitch each item is polyester thread from Germany (Gutermann). A&E Gutermann are using the latest technologies to increase their range of thread recycled from plastic bottles.
The shoe soles are Vibram (Italian brand), flexible and moulded by hand for a close comfortable fit. They are made principally of natural rubber. Leather soles can also be selected for a more grounded feeling.
The soles are stuck and then sewn to the shoe with heavy duty thread in a process known as welting. The uppers of the shoe are pulled and nailed to the insole. Then a leather sole or a Vibram sole is glued (depending on the design) and manually stitched. This process is done manually with a basic home-made sole stitching lever designed by a shoemaker in Spain for this purpose. It takes from 1 to 1½ hours to stitch the soles onto a pair of shoes.
The majority of tools used in the workshop are traditional leather making hand tools. A few of them are invented by Lisandro Serra Delmar. The process of using these from beginning to end contributes to creating a product which contains within it the care and attention to detail that only the human hand and eye can achieve. Each shoe, wallet, belt or bag is brought to life by the skill of its maker.
In a world dominated by machine made products it is easy to lose sight of how much we are nourished by products that are made by hand.
One of the key tools is a razor sharp Modern Damascus steel round knife with which to cut the leather.
Another is a flat knife given to Lisandro by master leatherworker Hajime Niwa, from Japan (http://niwaleathers.com/). Lisandro is always on the lookout for tools made the traditional way, tools that endure and knives that keep their edge.
‘My experience as a martial artist made me realise the importance of feeling with my feet. Standard shoes are made for exactly the opposite purpose: not to feel anything. Instead of having the feet trapped in rigid unforgiving boxes, the shoes are made with the understanding that feet need to be treated with the same care with which we treat our hands. My aim is to make gloves for feet. The tabi, split toe Japanese traditional shoe for indoors, is an excellent example of this, as the big toe separated from the rest allows the tendons to do their work, the toes will spread in a natural way preventing bunions and also the tabi provides an excellent sense of balance. My passion for Ninja, Samurai and Japanese culture made me go deeper and deeper in exploring tabi designs. Now I blend that with the barefoot feeling.
In the words of a group of Osteopaths and Physiotherapists
In an ideal world a shoe should:
- Be flexible and not rigid, to enable the foot to move as it has evolved to do.
- It should have a wide toe box (the width of the front of the shoe) so as to not squash the toes together, again to enable them to move and adjust to the ground.
- It should not have (or have minimal) difference between the height of the heel and the front of the shoe – the heel to toe drop. Most shoes have a higher heel than toe when looked at from the side. The higher the heel, the more posturally compromising the shoe.
It is worth bearing in mind that your foot has more nerve endings than your hand. It has evolved to be incredibly sensitive to inform your body of what you are walking on, enabling you to balance. Each step you take initiates a cascade of muscular contractions that start at your foot, works up and across your body and ends in your opposite arm. You need your foot to be able to be receptive and to move naturally to enable this to occur.
Just like any part of the body, the foot muscles and nervous system will get deconditioned if not allowed to function properly.
Irene Davis, Ph.D.: Evolution of the foot, running injuries, and minimalist shoes
Irene Davis is the founding Director of the Spaulding National Running Center at the Harvard Medical School. Irene describes how her research of biomechanics and clinical work with running injuries, as well as research by others, has shaped her views on maintaining body alignment and foot health. Irene discusses her argument for the role of modern footwear in running-related injuries and how minimalist footwear helps resolve the subsequent biomechanical issues.
Listen to the 1 hour 45 min interview
::Tailor made shoes:: Traditional skills and modern technology working together
Using Rhino 6 and LutraCAD software I can print bespoke shoe lasts.
We are in a world where our feet are forced to fit into a ‘standard’ shoe last designed in Italy or China according to the year’s fashion aesthetics. Not only that, they only design one size that later is scaled to all the sizes. This causes lots of health issues such as bunions.
If we think about how much we depend on our feet we would spend more time looking for footwear that cares for them. Through our feet (and our shoes) we feel the earth, we move around, we stand, we walk… All of this for at least 16 hours a day. My recent research made me realise the importance of healthy shoes that connect to the ground, that are breathable and flexible. All traditional cultures used barefoot style shoes, mostly made with leather and bespoke to size.
- To promote the use of natural footwear to support health and wellbeing
- To continue to expand the use of barefoot shoes and boots to maintain or rediscover our connection with the natural world
- To keep alive true craftsmanship and produce leather goods made to last
- To create products which are beautiful as well as practical
- To use traditional methods and support them with benefits of modern technology
- To provide teaching and learning opportunities for children and adults
- To reduce waste by using all cardboard, paper packaging with no plastic, and to reuse leather offcuts in local educational projects