Episode 2: Q & A with @Gaucho_Ninja
Updated: Jul 21
Lisandro Serra Delmar aka Gaucho Ninja Leather specialises in making entirely handmade barefoot leather shoes and boots, using high quality Veg tan leathers. He is based in the UK, and can be found on Instagram via @gaucho_ninja, Gauchoninja.com or contacted via Info@gauchoninja.com
G’day Lisandro, Thanks for being on board
G'day Alex, a pleasure to meet you
How’ve things been, and whats a normal day like for you?
Well, things at the moment are quite busy. I have 6 month old twin boys growing up a lot! Life is quite entertaining with them. We live in the English countryside, in a tiny house on wheels as our dormitory and we have a wooden round house were we have our living room, kitchen and bathroom. Our first view of the day when we open the door is a land with ancient trees and sheep by a stream. My day starts very early in the morning (if me and my wife manage to sleep lol) and while we drink mate (Argentinean tea drunk with a straw) and feed the babies we get organise for the day. I now work in the workshop from Monday to Thursday and on Fridays I'm with the boys in the morning. On Fridays evenings I teach Ninjutsu to children and adults in Hereford. I'm very passionate about Japanese culture. Some of my hobbies are playing music (I was a composer and bass player before leatherworker), carpentry, building, knives, swords, travelling, being in the woods and shamanism.
How did you get into your line of work?
I started travelling the world in 2007 till 2013 and my partner at that time introduced me to leatherwork. Soon I was carrying a small workshop in my backpack and in every country I travelled I would find a market to sell and share my work. I did three seasons in BC, Canada where I would make enough savings to travel the rest of the year selling my work. In 2014 I settled for some years in a medieval town in Catalonia, Spain and established my first workshop. Now I live in Herefordshire, UK and I had the opportunity to build my own home and workshop out of Oak and Green roof in a very inspiring location.
How did you get into making barefoot footwear?
About 11 years ago, while practicing Bujinkan (Ninjutsu) one friend ask me if I could make him a pair of leather tabi. I took the challenge and made him a pair using his old cotton tabi as the pattern. It was a lot of work hand stitching it and very tough! Then I did one pair for my teacher (he still wears them) Then more asked for a pair, and it came to a point that in 2014, I opened my first Etsy shop and fully committed to becoming a professional leather worker, and not just part time. The Barefoot shoes that I make were developed from a research I have done with a very special customer. He is a French doctor and inventor and has feet problems. He started ordering me pairs of tabi for indoors and outdoors, about 6 pairs for himself, then to relatives. One day he asked me to make a pair of chukka boots, so when he tried them he ordered 10 pairs. But the condition was to make them slightly different each time and to give him time to test them and give me his feeling. So at the end I end up with the design I have now in my shop. My martial arts training gave me the understanding of how the feet should move, my years of Leatherwork gave me the knowledge to choose the right leathers and this doctor gave me more a clinical and technical point of view.
What persuaded you to take it one step further and start selling footwear? A couple of things. One is the challenge involve making a shoe: It's not just one object, but a pair and mirrored. It's a 3D shape that has to fit exactly into someone's foot and feel good or it becomes a nightmare. Also it's a very useful thing, and very important. A basic need. When I was making hand stitched leather bags or jewellery, there was that aspect of 'not essential' but only that of wearing something beautiful that could be out of fashion, even if I was making them to last 150 years. Another thing that made me think the importance of footwear were my own feet. I have very wide feet, 28,5 cm long by 12cm wide. My little toe always struggled to find a pair of shoes that wouldn't be painful. And then I also have a very strong step. I can destroy a pair of shoes in less than three months. Before making shoes I didn't have the consciousness of the importance of wearing appropriate shoes. I used to wear second hand shoes or really cheap shoes. I had a couple of injuries in my lower back and now I can clearly see that it was related to bad posture. When I made a pair of the performance tabi for me to try them I wore them for a year and a half 15 hours a day. I corrected my foot shape, strengthen the tendon of the big toe. And they lasted me and loved the freedom of movement. Then I realised that they were like the barefoot shoes friends were telling me about. When I see someone trying my shoes and I see a glow in their eyes, it's very satisfying.
What advice can you give to other shoemakers?
Shoemaking is a dying art, like many crafts now a day. It is a beautiful thing to work with your hands and to use noble materials. Find something that you enjoy doing, that makes you feel that your purpose in life is fulfilling. Shoe making is a beautiful challenge and not every shoe should be the same, like every foot, different.
What shoes do you wear most often?
The one's I wear the most are the performance tabi. They corrected my foot shape, aids with balance, super comfy. A second layer to my skin.
What are your plans in the future?
With my wife we want to buy a land to plant trees so when our boys will be bigger they will have a woodland to play in. I'm also with the idea of creating learning and working opportunities for people that love the idea of working with leather and shoe making. Also when they are bigger, take them for a year World trip.
Thank you for stopping by Lisandro, and all the best in the future!
You're very welcome and thank you so must for all that you and your partner are doing by reviewing handmade barefoot shoes and encouraging people to pay attention of the importance of connecting with the ground and their feet.