Moving and Shoemaking with Biomechanist Katy Bowman
January 2019 UPDATE - If this retreat sounds like fun to you, then you're in luck because we're doing it again in April 2019! Click here for more information:
We just finished our much-anticipated movement retreat with Katy Bowman, and it was a blast!
The biomechanist, author and founder of Nutritious Movement came to our workshop on Saturday with 30 participants from across the country. The class consisted of people from all walks of life, including physical therapists, librarians, entrepreneurs and full-time parents (also two expectant mothers) with ages ranging from teens to seniors. Despite their different backgrounds, they all had this in common: everyone was eager to learn healthy movement techniques and to make their own shoes!
The day included almost 3 hours of movement classes, split into morning and afternoon sessions. Katy broke out the yoga mats and props and led the group through a series of stretches and poses that brought awareness to the way all of their muscles, tendons, bones and fascia were connected. The class learned firsthand how to develop healthy movement habits, deal with pain, release tension, learn to recognize signals from their bodies and—our favorite—strengthen their feet as a foundation for whole body wellness.
By the way, thanks to Correct Toes for donating a free pair of their toe spacers to each of the participants!
After everyone was all loosey-goosey, we sent them into our workshop for a tour and started them on their shoemaking journey. Under the supervision of our talented elves, every participant made his and her own moccasins start-to-finish... with our seamstresses jumping in to complete some of the more skilled tasks. We love the relationships we develop with our customers by handcrafting their shoes, but it's rare for our fans to get such a personal and hands-on experience by actually creating the shoes themselves. It was a fun process for our team, but I don't think any of us realized just how exciting it would be for the class members. It made our day to see their faces light up when they put the finishing touches on their own moccasins!
After cutting out parts for their shoes, class participants begin assembling all the pieces together.
Elf Ken gives tips on turning and shaping moccasins.
After finishing their shoes, people were allowed to wander through our workshop where several fun and educational stations had been set up. In one corner, our artistic Elf Molly sketched two large murals and taught folks how to cut up leather scraps and glue them in place to create mosaics for our front window. Elf Hava led a materials talk to show people all the different kinds of leather, sheepskin and soles we use to make our shoes. She answered questions and explained the different uses for various grades of leather, the sustainable standards we use to select our materials and the challenges we face in our shoemaking process. Next to our showroom, our favorite videos played on a loop, including our literal roof-raising work party, some of our favorite April Fool's Day "products," and the backstory of our workshop and shoe designs. And in another corner, we set up bins of leather scraps and encouraged people to glue their own cat toys, which we would later stuff with catnip, sew together and sell for charity. 100% of the proceeds for these toys, which we call Playful Pancakes, are donated to Kids for Kids, an organization that provides support for impoverished families in Darfur, Sudan. We always thought we were very imaginative with our cat toy designs, but nothing prepared us for the creativity of this group!
Building a leather mosaic mural for our shop windows.
Elf Hava shows samples of our different grades of leather during a materials talk.
Some of the imaginative cat toy designs the class members created from our leather scraps.
For lunch, we all took a mile-long walk to neighboring Gathering Together Farm, where we had a delicious and organic farm-to-table feast. The farm also provided tapas treats for the end of the day, when Katy answered questions and signed books while our customer service elves helped the group try on any shoe styles that interested them.
It was a full day that left us fulfilled and exhausted, but that wasn't the end of the retreat. The next morning, we all met at 7:00am at a trailhead leading into the beautiful 11,000 acre MacDonald Forest. A member of our local chapter of the Oregon Sierra Club then guided us on a 16 mile hike! Even though we're still in Oregon's rainy season, the weather couldn't have been better as the clouds cleared early and gave us a sunny 60 degree afternoon. We took our time to enjoy the scenery and eat lunch at the peak of Dimple Hill (1495' elevation). Throughout the hike, the class had the opportunity to put into practice the tips they learned from Katy about alignment, releasing tension, recognizing imbalances and moving in a way that prevented pain and strengthened our bodies. And Katy made herself available every step of the way for anyone who wanted feedback on their posture and gait.
Hiking up one of the wider sections of MacDonald Forest.
Eating lunch and enjoying the view from Dimple Hill.
It was a sad farewell when we returned to the trailhead late in the afternoon, as most of the participants grew to know each other very well over the course of the weekend. Several new friendships were formed and we look forward to keeping in touch with many of them.
This was the first time we hosted a class of this magnitude at our new workshop, and we loved it! It was not only a fun way to reach out to people who share Softstar's values and want to improve their way of life, but also very educational for our team, too. We hope to do it again someday, and we're always looking forward to Katy's next adventure. True to her teachings, she is always moving and already preparing for her upcoming retreats in other parts of the country, as well as a European book tour!
For more information about Katy Bowman and her work, including her books, podcast and future workshops, check out the Nutritious Movement website.