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.


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 …