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Meet Sara McIntosh of Chicago School of Shoemaking & Leather Arts in Ravenswood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara McIntosh.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sara. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I began making shoes in the early ’70s as an exercise in sustainability and part of the “back to the land” movement. We were growing our own food, milking a cow, building our log home and generally exploring all the aspects of a self-sufficient lifestyle.

It was with that mindset I tackled the project of making shoes. I needed a pair myself and my baby daughter was getting to the walking stage. I wanted to offer an alternative to the stiff, hard-soled baby shoes of the time and was interested in what I could do to make my own footwear, as well.

I soon found myself making shoes for family and friends and quickly established myself as a shoemaker in our community. I opened a small shop in Bloomington, Indiana, in the spring of 1976.

Having a craft that is portable has allowed me to move around the country with relative ease. I moved to Chicago in June ’07 and count this as another adventure in the life of a cobbler: adapting to a big city environment and finding a customer base within this community. In 2011, I started the shoemaking and leather working school. Students from all over the country travel to take classes with us. Now we’re launching a Vocational certification training program to help people develop the skills and experience needed for jobs in numerous industries including fashion accessories, shoe making, shoe repair, upholstery, and more.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Finding accomplished leather workers has been challenging.

Adjusting our schedule and offerings to meet the needs of our customers/students is an ongoing task.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Chicago School of Shoemaking & Leather Arts – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are in a very unique position as one of the few leather working schools in the country. We specialize in honing our offerings to meet the needs and goals of our students. We also help people develop prototypes for ideas they’ve been working on and share our store of ideas and resources with our community. Our Open Studio policy allows students who have taken a few classes with us to come and use our space and tools at specified times to work independently on their projects for only $10 per hour.

We delight in sharing the joy of our students who are working with leather or tools for the very first time. Offering a hands-on creative experience in a unique industry makes us very proud.

– we offer unique experiences for building skills in products
– we guide entrepreneurs in product development
– we nurture creative community and provide space and resources

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
The Vocational Certification Training program is our big plan currently. Registration opens for our 12-week program in September of 2017.

A few details:

Chicago School of Shoemaking and Leather Arts Vocational Certification Program includes 240 hours of hands-on professional training. Students will achieve expertise in a range of leather product production and construction, including hand building/sewing, use of industrial sewing machines, pattern design, and CAD application. This program will allow the student to emerge ready to work in a variety of professional settings, including: shoemaking, shoe repair, upholstery, fashion accessories, entrepreneurial expertise and more.

Though our program is skills driven, we also offer ample design opportunities allowing students to personalize their projects.

The certificate program has been designed to support our desire bring back skilled laborers to American industry, to support high standards in leatherwork, and to work with individuals who will thrive in a vocational setting. We are decidedly mission driven, with a keen desire to help people achieve their dreams while giving them a marketable skillset. Our hands-on training provides career choices and allows for job satisfaction so evidently lacking in our culture at this time.

Sessions are comprehensive and build upon each other. An assessment is made at the mid-point to help students refocus, troubleshoot problem areas, and improve skills and techniques. At the heart of our program is the knowledge that practice is key to professional quality. We allow ample time and require students to practice a variety of skills until they become second nature.


  • Hobbyist classes start at under $100
  • 12 week Program Tuition starts at $7495

Contact Info:


Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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