With her unique ability to captivate others through story and her talent in her craft of sandal making, connecting with Madelyn is truly an experience. She has this way about her that has a magical depth and the aura of a welcomed, familiar, old soul. This month, I had the opportunity to interview her and pick her brain about her passionate connection to all that she does.
In celebration, I’ve partnered with her to showcase her latest creation, the Origin Sandals – A limited edition Summer 2017 run (only 30 available).
Shop the limited run here.
Follow her on Instagram here.
Madelyn – your energy is truly magical, and I love the concept of your work. Ritual sandal making sounds like a truly wonderful trade. Can you tell me more about how and why you chose to pursue this passion and what it means for you?
The details of the story about how I connected the two is a bit long, but I will say that I am someone who is fascinated by the origin and source of all things. When I get curious about something I delve all in and specifically, I go back in time researching, learning and engaging to understand the “essence” of what I am interested in, and to find the essence you have to go to the source.
I found sandal making when I was in college at a point in my life when I was incredibly disconnected, disembodied and ungrounded. I managed to get myself into a personal crisis that thankful woke my soul up from a deep slumber and the question that came forth was “What does it mean to be human?” So I embarked on that path and took a Survival skills course to begin my research. I will never forget learning to walk in the woods and becoming a part of it, not just a visitor or intruder. Our instructor spoke about how the less we wear the more we can feel and respond to what is around us. I realized that physical vulnerability is the same as emotional vulnerability.
The more we protect ourselves from pain and discomfort the less we can feel, the less we feel the more isolated we become. I became obsessed with experiencing this deep level of connection with the woods near my college. I spent my free time practicing physical vulnerability by going barefoot running in my sandals and learning to be in conversation with the landscape, I was finally beginning to feel at home in myself and the world.
The minute I walked onto campus with the sandals I had made someone commented on them and I sad, “Thank you! I made them,” and without hesitating I said, “and I’ll teach you!” It’s always been second nature for me to give away the experiences that have significant meaning for me. Life is more interesting and fun when it’s shared. I also want to honor the tradition my sandals come from which are the Huaraches from the Tarahumara natives of the Copper Canyons of Mexico, they are amazing runners. I’m excited to be planning a trip down there this coming spring to begin a conversation with them.
The ritual and symbolism didn’t pop up until later when I was getting back into myth and story. One of my main influences Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about the folktale “The Red Shoes,” in her book “Women Who Run With The Wolves” and she awakened in me a curiosity for the deeper meaning of the work I do. l also learned that there are Cinderella stories from around the world that have been developed completely seperately from each other. I found this fascinating and that the power of a shoe could be that deeply inherent in cultures across the world.
The ritual work came about as a way to bridge the symbolic meaning I was reading about and thinking about with the actual creative act of sandal making. I wanted the symbolism to come alive and enter into my heart/body and the hearts/boy of those I was teaching. What I am realizing now is that I was responding to a deep lack of presence and meaning that is so insidiously pervasive in our world right now. We are constantly being told we aren’t good enough and convinced to buy things instead of making them. I believe that all humans are creators–we are all innately creative–but we’ve been taught to abandon ourselves so that a few elite can feel powerful and rich.
Ritual is a tool to help our ego’s reconnect to our souls (and in our case soles). Ritual creates a bridge from the world of myth and symbol to our personal lives so that we begin to see the beauty of our own gifts, and our own wounds. Through story and ritual it becomes apparent that these two aspects of ourselves are so beautifully woven together. We all come here wounded and we all come here bearing a gift that usually comes out of that wound. The trick is to learn how to trust your inner gifts while also learning to heal the wound. We can’t let one over ride the other, otherwise we never do anything meaningful wallowing in the wound, or we become self important about our gifts and blind to our wounds. We are both.
Just like we have two feet and we have to trust them both, the right and the left. This dynamic of duality is actually hugely important to comprehend and integrate in our livves in a world that wants us to believe in right and wrong. To reach a sate of wholeness we have to come to terms with what it means to be human living in a world that wouldn’t exist without duality. Duality being black and white, good and bad, yes and no, light and dart etc. Its both beautiful and painful all at once.
Sandals are a symbol for how we want to walk our path in this world and we can change that at any time. The rituals I offer give people a chance to do just that. Reset, reconnect, re-engage. And the essence of the message is– just like Dorothy discovered at the end of her adventure in OZ that the answer was within her all along–it’s all inside of us, what we are searching for is right beneath our feet. Ritual helps us to delve deep to find the hidden resources that were already inside of us but hadn’t been recognized or made important and real yet. Ritual honors and witnesses those resources so that we can change and grown. Ultimately, how we walk through life is what we bring to life. We are our own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Your passion for making these sandals is so admirable – why do you think it’s important to share this with the world?
I think I just answered that above! But I will also say that I think its important to engage with the physical world at a time that there is so much waste and miss-use of natural resources. We cannot just give up in the face of the catastrophe we’ve created. We have to start engaging in the process and change how we think about making, buying selling etc. There’s never a moment that I am not struggling with the tension of creating waste and not having the perfect materials to work with. That being said, it makes me even more committed to creating a sandal that creates real change in the leather tanning industry. I’m excited to share more soon about a project that will really embody this from all levels of mind, body, spirit, soul. Stay tuned!
The quote on your website, “She knew that she was not the only one who longed for true connection to the ground beneath her feet.” I love that. How do you feel the practice of sandal making has grounded you – and do you see these same qualities when you watch your students making their sandals as well?
Grounding. What does that even mean? Let’s start there. To me being “grounded” has come to mean that having the ability to orient mind, body, heart, spirit and soul into the present moment. To be fully HERE, present. And there is a beautiful thing that happens when our whole being shifts to being present, suddenly the past is available and the future is available to work with. So many of us are living in the past or the future, disconnected from now and here.
The past and future are part of a whole different universe that lives beneath the ground in the unseen realm. So when we ground we are able to sink our roots into the this unseen world where our past and future, symbol, myth, and the collective unconscious live. These things become nourishment when we are grounded. When we are carrying our past around with us we become ungrounded. We’ve essentially uprooted it from where it’s supposed to be below us, so we become heavy! We are standing in a hole where our past should be instead, and are carrying it on our shoulders. Same thing with the future, if we get too worried about the future we’ve uprooted it and it’s flying high above our heads because it’s the future, it wants to be ahead! And we’re being pulled up and off the ground by this balloon we are hanging onto for dear life, which is what it’s like to have anxiety about the future. So true grounding is about orienting to the present moment so that all of our resources are available to us to be whole-ly ourselves in any given moment. Grounding grants us access to the freedom to respond appropriately to whatever is arising in the NOW.
Something I always wonder about people when I connect with them is this, “I wonder what it would be like to walk a day in their shoes.” Ironically, as a sandal maker, how would an ideal day be spent in your shoes?
Such a good saying and one of many many sandal/shoe puns that are such good medicine when you listen deeper. I love the idea that our shoes carry this imprint of our souls and that just by wearing someone else’ shoes you can experience who they are on a soul level. So beautiful.
A day in the life of my shoes: Well it would begin with a cup of warm water with citrus in it and I go outside and sit on the ground or a rock in nature as I wake up and ground from the dream world into the waking world. I have a morning centering/clearing ritual I do and then, on an ideal day I would head to the studio and begin making sandals and working on future projects. I’d have a beautiful home made lunch and midday break that is deeply nourishing. The afternoon would be spent writing, drawing, painting and dreaming. I’d go on a run or move my body in a way that makes me feel alive and grateful! Ending the day with friends for dinner and watching the sunset. If Im by the ocean there would be surfing in there too, preferably at sunset. I love the ritual of watching the sun go down in the ocean. The ocean is the primordial womb that all of life came from, so being in it creates deep connectivity. I love it.