William Powell
Handmade Upper Closing
Shoe Making
Apprentice at John Lobb Ltd.
Spring | 2014

William moved from North Yorkshire to London during Spring 2013 looking to pursue a career in traditional handmade shoemaking.

After completing a degree in animation and coming from a strong background in art and craft he knew he wanted to work with his hands away from computers. Before gaining his apprenticeship William found work at Crockett & Jones, a reputable ready-to-wear shoe shop in the West End. This gave him the perfect opportunity to surround himself with shoes and situated him close enough to John Lobbs on St.James’s Street to make a weekly visit asking if there were any vacancies. Eventually this persistence caught their attention!

The QEST apprenticeship gives John Lobb Ltd. the financial and structural support to fund his three year training. It also offers a network and community of other talented crafts people who in-time will utilize these contacts to support other individuals and the British Crafts sector as a whole. Without QEST it would have been extremely difficult for William to continue his pursuit of this beautiful and rare craft. QEST helps secure the future of these historical craft traditions unique to this country through supporting education.

Since being awarded his apprenticeship William has been working full-time in the workshop on St. James’s street. There are many varied skills required for the production of handmade uppers, each requiring constant practice and the perfected use of specialist tools. Once a week a master closer works in the shop, he spends half the day working next to her, observing every process and intricacy. William is now creating customer patterns under supervision and will eventually be closing the uppers too.

He has recently returned from 5 days intensive training in Wales with a specialist boot closer. He spent every day studying under a craftsperson that is doing the job he is training for. This traditional method of teaching is invaluable but rare; he learnt a vast amount in a short space of time and has directly seen positive results in his work. Not only has it improved his techniques but also his understanding of professional work-flow. William hopes to complete his apprenticeship and move back to North Yorkshire as a traditional ‘piece worker’ where the company will send him work and it is returned once completed. He aspires to create the best possible quality and fitting uppers without compromise, eventually passing his knowledge down to his own apprentice.


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