“Don’t Just Write Words. Write Music.” said Gary Provost

Wisdom from other disciplines and genres can shine a different light.

A shift in perspective can open doors. And create movement.

In Provost’s 1oo Ways to Improve Your Writing, he talks about the rhythm of writing. About the effect of long and short sentences. How they feel. The balance between the two allows the reader to rest. Space. To breathe. And how, in the right moment, you can carry them on a curious journey with detail and texture that raises the temperature, speeds up the heart rate, driving blood through their veins with enough anticipation that they can taste passion on the buds of  their tongue. 

Before delivering the essence of the message, with a line that illustrates the importance of balance, and rhythm.

A pearl of wisdom with a wider relevance than the written word.

Don’t just design stuff.  Design Harmony.

Image originally found via Swissmiss


A walk in the park is easy.
And a walk in nature is good for your health, in a myriad of ways.
Good for problem solving apparently.

Movement helps generate thoughts and ideas.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” advised Nietzsche.

If you take it a few steps further, literally and metaphorically, and add curiosity to the experience, then a whole world of inspirations opens up too.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than trees.”- Henry David Thoreau

Inspirations are all around us, it’s just that we often aren’t curious enough to notice.
And nature has inspiration in abundance.

Have you seen the underside of a fern leaf ?
Or looked in to the intimate structure of a dandelion ?
I’d never heard of an Allium until a week ago.

Looking at the leaves on a branch from a different perspective and seeing how they glow in the sunshine with an unexpected vibrancy… fascinating.


Designing provides an opportunity to satisfy a need, or a desire, or both – sometimes the desire is the need.

It can also be an opportunity to educate and inspire.
It’s all there if we choose to see.

Being curious, about nature, people or life in general, provokes a sense of understanding, possibly a feeling of appreciation, maybe even a sense of respect.

I recently learned of Terrariums and found the work of Paula Hayes pretty fascinating.
Plants growing in the eco-system of a closed glass container seem to look after themselves?
What? Really?
You might have guessed by now that my fingers aren’t green!

This revelation caused me to wonder …

A terrarium for a heel ?

Cherish the Haworthia Fasciata.


There’s so much that happens in our lives that we often overlook moments and unique inspirations that surround us.

Enjoying the moment, being fully present in the moment, creates a stronger resonance and can inspire ideas that have a greater depth. You come away with a feeling that you’ll remember for years to come.

A few years ago, my friend Mush (not his real name) invited me to a talk being given by one of his friends, Mark (his real name). 

Held in Angelina’s in Dalston Junction, Mark shared the story behind the unique inspiration for the Golden Gai*  – a bar he’d designed towards the back of the restaurant. 

An intimate space immersed in the influences absorbed during his many trips to Japan.  In particular, the essence of a provocative and surreal Shinjuku, in the heart of Tokyo. 

Casually, deftly, helping to unveil Mark’s stories was a friend of his; Graham.

The chat was interesting – the food was delicious – and I kept in contact, loosely, via instagram.

A few days ago, on his instagram feed, Graham posted a picture of a package he’d received from Cate Le Bon.
A t-shirt, a pin badge and an album. 

Curious, I continued to Cate’s page, and tasted a few music clips before being distracted by another train of thought.


Synchronicity strikes a few days later (or is it serendipity?) when Austin Kleon mentions the very same Cate in his newsletter, and linking to this interview with Emma Madden.

From having never heard of Cate Le Bon just a few days ago, and feeling like I probably should have long before now, to twice in three days.
It would have been rude, and maybe even a little ignorant, to experience these moments and not indulge in more of her work.

Yes, there’s a new album, so the wheels turn.
And I realise it’s not impossible for potential influences in my ‘world’ to refer to similar, and in this case the same, inspiration.
People like us, like things like this. 
I guess that’s what’s interesting about the organic side of social media, what’s left of it.

When the wheels turn through such completely different sources – sources that come about through living life, and meeting people – rather than hits from a sidebar, or a pop-up CTA – it has it’s own story to tell. In and of itself. 

The story of how it came to be in your life.
Not via an algorithm, but from a section of the very thread of your life.


I delved deeper in to Cate’s world and found a couple of beautiful songs … with a mesmerising melancholic flow to them.
Like many singer songwriters, and creativity in any other medium, Le Bon delves into her own life for unique inspiration. The very essence of life that swirls around her and within her.

And …

Both are on her ‘Reward’ album which was released a few years ago. The cover art of which inspired the boot at the top of the page.

After so much time in lockdown over the last couple of years, the sense of roaming over rocks in the outdoors rather appeals to me.

Textures of a rock face, against the haze of a winter sky, and a highlight of red.
A wise colour to be wearing if you ever get lost in the Cumbrian hills.

And the angle. 

The angle of the composition. 

I love it.

Whether it’s music produced
or art that’s created.
Whether it’s a story being written …
it’s when your heart becomes elated.

How to find unique inspiration ?
From inside your own life – and it’s all around you.

“You can find inspiration in everything.”
: Paul Smith.


There they were, lying in the middle of the pavement.
With a curious translucence, a glistening surface and a somewhat luminous underbelly; stark against their own shadows.
The angle of the suns rays enhanced this scene of sweet abandon.
A display of discarded jelly beans.
One that I probably wouldn’t have noticed had it not been for my train of thought beforehand. 

A few hours earlier, I’d been admiring the colour palette of the collection of wrappers inside the box of Green & Blacks Tasting Collection that I’d been given for Christmas. The butterscotch and the ginger in particular. 

When it came to my daily dose of fresh air, I walked around the park. And as I wandered, my mind wondered, back to the chocolates and the colours of their wrappers.

I wondered if the chocolates could be made in the same colour as the wrapper ? 
I wondered if then, they might end up looking like jelly sweets ?

This thought reminded me of one of my clients who gifts a pack of jelly sweets with every pair of shoes.
Could they be in the shape of one their shoes ?

Bottega Veneta’s Puddle boot came to mind.
They certainly look the part and would be a great shape for a sweet.
A Jelly Boot !  Or a Jelly Welly ?

Either way, they’d be beautifully packaged.


I walked two laps of the park, leaving via the gate on the opposite side of the park and up the hill. As I reached the top and turned left on to Sydenham Hill, there they were.
The Jelly Beans.
The scene of sweet abandon.
Like a synchronous acknowledgement of my wandering wonderings.

Nietzsche said that  “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

I’m not sure my train of thought was quite the level Nietzsche was referring to, but I do recommend  finding a sense of joy in the ordinary.

I guess it didn’t really matter who spilled the beans, but being present enough to notice the scene.
And being present enough to be inspired by what’s around you.

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.”
: Thich Nhat Hanh.


Simplifying the use of inspirations …
The curves along the side of a grand piano are blended into the shape of the platform.
Super smooth, and polished black, akin to the exquisite finish on the outer rim wall of a Fazioli Piano …
A woven textile upper, with additional stitching, for extra texture, and to catch the red ribbon into the upper.


Earlier today, I was reminded of seeing Ryuichi Sakamoto perform on the South Bank, so I thought I’d include one of the songs he performed that night; Energy Flow from the BTTB album – here.

Or this link, for a slower, much more recent recording …


The comfort is in the keys 😉
A sneaker idea to show how one source of inspiration can keep on giving.
Using the framework from under the lid of the piano, like on the platform wedge, as inspiration for the moulded frame to hold the foot in the shoe. The rest of the upper being an ultra flexible and comfortable woven or knitted textile.


Something a little lighter, more open tonight …
The heel design inspired by the structure under the lid of the Piano … some section open, some sections closed …
While the keys take centre stage on the front strap.

I like to play with words as well play with shoes… and when perusing on a title for this post, the word Symphony came to mind, closely followed by the incredible Verve song … and then with a sweet and satisfying note of synchronicity, I find this beautiful cover of the same song, recorded with a perspective overlooking the very details that inspired the design above.

Encore …


… inspirations continue to resonate from the beauty inside a Fazioli Piano
A platform wedge mule.
Holes on the frame – that I assume are an integral part of being able to create the depth of sounds – provide a lovely inspirations for the detail through the heel of the wedge.
The horizontal structure bars become a moulded section of the vamp, that provides a secure fit to the woven, textile upper – inspired by the pattern created by the strings and ribbons on the bridge…
And a raised footbed reflecting the levels in the frame.


Ever since my last post, I’ve been intrigued to see what might transpire by using the patterns and detail under the lid of a Fazioli Piano, as inspiration for a collection of shoes.
The lines that provide the structure of the plate.
The curves on the bridge, and shapes they create.

A plain bootie style helps to enhance this initial idea for a heel.


The search for inspirations that resonate can be a fascinating part of the process when designing shoes and developing ideas.
It’s an intriguing journey and results in more unique, distinctive ideas when the source of inspiration is a little more unusual.

I’m neither a pianist nor a connoisseur of Pianos, but since my last post, I’ve been intrigued by the various tenuous links I started to notice.

The immediate visual, scenic connection, of a piano being played on a beach reminded me of The Piano; the 1993 film written and directed by Jane Campion. It had been years since I’d seen the film and was curious about the detail, so I sat and rewatched it a few nights ago. Aspects of the opening scenes – the protagonist being rowed across a sea and landing at a dramatic beach – reminded me of Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, which I wrote about in  New Letters recently.

The night preceding The Piano, I’d watched The Power Of The Dog; a slow burning masterpiece also written and directed by Jane Campion. I’m not sure whether it’s a theme in her movies, but there was – playing a smaller but significant role – a piano!


Nick Cave’s tongue-in-cheek letter written in response to a fan also came to mind.
He’d been asked which Piano he’d played for his Idiot Prayer performance at the Alexandra Palace.
It was a Fazioli.

Handcrafted in the North East of Italy, in a small town called Sacile.
They are a beautiful instrument.
Herbie Hancock won’t play anything else, and has them written into his contracts.

The view inside a Fazioli is exquisite. An elegant colour palette and intricate pattern of strings; perfectly positioned and rich in vibrations.

All laid beautifully inside their polished majestic case.

“An instrument that reacts to your thoughts and leaves nothing else to desire! …
No other instrument inspires so much love, joy, freedom and brilliance as Fazioli!”
Inspiring words from Georgian pianist Ketevan Sepashvili.


Earlier today, I spent some time immersed in the music of Hania Rani.
Especially this video, shot in Iceland, directed by Neels Castillon, featuring dancers Mellina Boubetra, Janina Sarantsina and Fanny Sage.
A beautiful mix of being dramatic, while exuding calm; elegance and emotion.

This performance too.


Alex Kilbee, AKA The Photographic Eye, recently shared some fascinating insights in to the work of photographer William Klein.

In the last few days I listened to a wonderful conversation between Malcolm Gladwell and David Epstein at the 92Y – talking about his book RANGE – which is about how generalists succeed in a specialised world. And how, if we experiment in lots of things earlier in our lives, we have a greater breadth of experience to bring to our specialism later on.

So it was interesting to see the parallels across mediums of creativity – how Klein explored the breadth of his range – initially interested in abstract painting and sculpture, to a career behind the camera; from photojournalism to fashion photography, from documentary to feature film making.


The upholstery fabric BMW developed for their iNEXT concept car a few years ago has me wondering how fabric can play a part in storytelling.
They’re painting a beautiful picture in this concept video


A few posts ago – SHOESTORMING – I mentioned Drillog – a beautiful new dip-pen.
Something about the pattern of the engineering and the flow of the ink down the nib to the paper inspired this sketch … mainly of the outsole, but the ‘flow’ could incorporate an aspect of the upper too …

As I was sketching it out, I was thinking about the ‘flow’ aspect, and of all the different directions this idea could go in.
A way to channel liquids away from a shoe ?
Or to encourage blood flow while wearing the shoe ?
A digital download of prose being flowed around the shoe ?


Jenny Holzer‘s work came to mind … which I first came across at the Guggenheim in Bilbao over a decade ago, and then again at the Tate Modern in London just a few years ago …

A conceptual artist from New York, her work focuses on the delivery of words and ideas. Often in her signature medium of LED’s – the words and messages scroll down the length of the installation – and was one of the first artists to use information technology as a platform for political protest.

Finding unique sources of inspiration results in unique design, which helps your product stand out from the crowd.

Here’s a blend of all the above using some of my own poetic prose as the message.


I’ve just been completely absorbed in the unfolding of Dame Judi Dench’s family tree courtesy of a recent episode of  ‘Who Do You Think You Are’  an utterly fascinating journey leading all the way back to sixteenth century Denmark.

Another show exploring people’s lives – ‘This Is Your Life’ – ran in the UK for over fifty years. A show that saw people in the public eye being surprised by the host with a  walk-through of their life – with the help of a big red book.
Stories were shared – from when and where they were born to the present day – entertaining the audience with anecdotes, and reacquainting them with old friends and colleagues – some they’d not seen in decades.


There’s the saying that everyone has a book in them.
I don’t believe it means that everyone should write their book, but that everyone has a story – by virtue of the lives they have lived, the experiences they have felt and the thoughts they have thunk.
It takes a talented writer to turn those elements in to a book worth reading.

I can’t help but think about shoes in a similar way.


From where and when, was the idea conceived,
How did it grow and what was the seed.
What inspired the designer, who sketched out the lines.
What were the ingredients, imbued in the design.

Who made the pattern, stitched the upper, attached the heel.
What were their passions and how did they feel.
Did they break for an espresso, or did they drink tea.
Miles inland or were they close to the sea.

From where the shoes travelled, and where did they land.
What was their journey, ’til they’re held in your hand.
Where will you wear them, and who will you meet.
What is the story, you want on your feet ?

Shoes are not just shoes,
they are stories to be worn,
and their stories
are worth knowing.

The deeper the story, the more we connect.

When we know better, we buy better.


Playing gracefully with the previous sketch. Padded ‘bubbles’ for luxurious comfort ? Moulded into the upper.
‘Bubbles’ of sectional, replaceable tread ?
Ideas beget ideas.


I often pull out a blank sheet of paper and start brainstorming with a mind map – sometimes thumbnail sketches, sometimes words – mostly both. Usually at the start of a new project, but I’d not done one for a few weeks. Yesterday, during a sketch break, I opened Austin Kleon‘s latest newsletter and he was sharing his love of mind maps.
As I was in the middle of sketching some ideas, I thought I’d turn one of my shoe sketches in to a mind map, or maybe it should be called a shoestorm.


I put on the Broken Record Podcast – Rick Rubin was chatting with songwriter Diane Warren – for a bit of background chatter to absorb as I sketch along.
The sketch started to remind me of some shoes I’d seen before – the moulded shoe brand Melissa had done something similar years ago – so I googled ‘bubble shoe’… but ended up following a different thread that caught my eye – landing on the Yanko design site reading about a shoe with outsoles to be made from recycled chewing gum.
Following my curiosity a bit further, I found a story about a new ‘dip-pen’ – called the Drillog – beautifully engineered, made in Japan, with a ‘drill-bit’ inspired design that allows the ink to gently flow towards the nib.
The flow of ideas. The flow of ink. Nice.


Wear with black socks for maximum effect !
For a bit of fun, and for Halloween, I drew up this Pumpkin inspired design – complete with the Stem as the heel.
There are materials suitable for uppers made from Cactus plants, Pineapple skin, and there are leathers that are dyed with Olive extract, and Rhubarb, but I couldn’t recall finding any upper materials made from Pumpkin skin available ?!
A quick google search later, and I was drawn into the world of fruit leathers – which are snacks – also known as fruit roll-ups ?!
Quite a different world to what I was looking for !


If there’s one person’s blog I consistently recommend to people, it’s Seth’s blog. Ever since it started arriving into my inbox (with my permission!) over ten years ago – I must have read almost every one – and he writes one every single day! As I’ve opened the aSTOKA studio a little wider (ie. this website) I thought I’d start a fun project – designing shoes inspired by books. Not just any books, but books that I’ve either been recommended or have recommended myself. Two days ago I had a trial run with a sketch of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. Today begins a daily Practice … which is what The Practice is about. Doing something daily, however sketchy or otherwise it might be, however imperfect it might be. The practice of shipping creative work. Thank you Seth, for everything you do!


I bought Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ a few years ago, and only got round to reading it in the last few weeks. It’s about the instinctive vs effortful decisions we make. Instinctive being Fast, effortful being Slow.
He begins chapter two : “In the unlikely event of this book being made into a film, System 2 would be a supporting character  who believes herself to be the hero…” – which left me wondering, what if it were made in to a shoe ?
I’ve only finished chapter two, so it’s probably the case that this sketch, relatively quick and an instinctive one, would be the System 1 thinking Kahneman writes about. Once I’ve finished the book, I’ll design a shoe that reflects more of the content of the book. Well, let’s see …


The stunning photography by Rafael Pavarotti – of Dries Van Noten’s SS22 womenswear collection.
Well worth checking out the whole series … here


Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino is always worth watching … this time opening up in to the streets of Marais.