The shoemaker – beautifully crafted shoes made by my late grandfather


My grandpa Joseph Scerri working in his roof garden…I love the 60s-style orange shoes which is lying on the floor..


One of my fondest memories from my childhood is the time I used to spend with my grandpa in his workshop. I couldn’t wait to leave my mum`s house to escape her obsession of playing Barbara Streisand’s songs all day long, and go to my grandparents, especially during the holidays. Between the smell of my grandma`s baking and the scent of wood, glue, leather and clay, this was a perfect playground, compared to my mum`s boring routine. I used to spend hours  trying to make small furniture for my doll house with the help of my grandpa, and sculpting small statues with his clay casts. I learned so much from him and I am sure that my love for practical work and maybe also drawing evolved from these playful experiences. He used to let me paint his workshop door in all sorts of colours; can you image leaving a paint job to a seven year old, given their colourful taste? Sometimes pink, sometimes orange and maybe with some flowers and suns on it as decoration :).  As long as I was enjoying myself and learning something he did not complain. I used to come up with something new every day; sometimes I wanted a bed for my doll, a handmade present for a friend or a wooden frame for one of my drawings. I used to drive him crazy, but he was so patient. He used to ask me “What`s new today Ruti? What are you going to come up with today?” all with a suspicious sweet smile.

Losing him when I was nine years old was one of the most painful experiences in my life, however all the experiences and discoveries continued to grow with me. He did not leave just beautiful memories behind him but he also left a lot of beautiful shoes 🙂

My grandfather was a shoemaker. He used to make and fix all kinds of shoes. He was one of the few shoemakers left in the Cottonera / The Three Cities. Actually there was a time when he was the only shoemaker in Birgu. Although he made some shoes for me as well, I was not lucky enough to have him alive when I was growing up, you can imagine how many shoes I would ask him to make for me. My mum on the other hand was an extremely lucky girl. He used to make her a pair of shoes for every new outfit, including that of her wedding. I am sure that this is a dream come true for most women. Now I am the new owner of all these shoes and I also wear them for special occasions. Apart from shoes, he used to make leather belts, jackets, bags and other accessories. It is a pity that trades like this are becoming very rare. I am very grateful that my grandpa had shared all this talent with us. He was a person who was gifted but  humble at the same time, given that his trade, although requiring skill, patience and creativity, was just a common job that was already dying at the time.





An interesting detail of one of the shoes…I still wear this is one of my favourites


Some of my grandpa`s Sketches and scribblings




My mum`s wedding shoes also made by my grandpa






last moodboard

Different photos of my mum during the 70s wearing my grandpa`s shoes..she looks so proud:)




A beautiful leather camera bag made by him in the early 70s


I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered these. One of my greatest first shoes made by my own grandpa. Super cute.



my grandpa when he was 20 years old


Life Size Crib at the Verdala Gardens


Taking measurements on site  (before designing the crib)

One of the many challenges that I have experienced as a lecturer at the art college where I work (MCAST Art & Design) was during last year’s Christmas. I was given the task to coordinate a project that was quite different from our usual artistic and academic activities, and instead revolved around our religious traditions. His Excellency the President of Malta, Dr George Abela, had entrusted us with the design and production of a life size crib. The President decided to greet visitors of the Istrina 2011 entering the Verdala premises with the truest symbol of Christmas – a life size crib representing the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus Christ. Personally it was an experience that took me back in time and I could experience some of that Christmas spirit which was always present in my childhood, especially through my grandparents.  It reminded me of a time when I used to help my grandpa in his workshop to prepare the plaster moulds to produce the nativity figures.

So the journey started in the beginning of October 2011 when we began to come up with the first ideas.  My colleague Sarah and I came up with some initial sketches and developed them by discussing and taking opinions from our workshop lecturers, who excel in various disciplines, including metalwork, ceramics and textiles. Our crib consisted of five pieces, including the St Joseph, the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, the donkey and ox, all of them showing various skills and a combination of rich materials such as silk with more modest materials such as the burlap. In my opinion this combination made our crib more special, and gave a unique aesthetic quality to our nativity scene.

The challenge was even tougher thanks to the awful weather in which the team of staff and students had to work to set up the finished crib at the Verdala gardens entrance, as torrential rain and wind threatened to jeopardise the whole endeavor.  This project could not have been possible without the main drivers of the production; my friends and colleagues Ms Anna Ancilleri, Mr Joseph Psaila, Mr Angelo Agius, Ms Sarah Mamo and some of our students.  Below I’ve posted some snaps that highlight the ‘behind the scenes’ of the crib, better yet, if you live in Malta, you can see the actual crib that is going to be exhibited again this year for the Istrina 2012 activities at the Verdala Palace, Buskett. May you enjoy the experience and your Christmas holidays.


Anglu working on the nativity figures



Joe producing a metal skeleton for our figures.




Finishing touches. Providing ears for our donkey.


Sarah making friends with our magical fav:)




George glazing the faces



samples of the selected fabrics


Anna working on her masterpiece:)



Yours truly, applying a special formula to protect Saint Joseph from the weather (and yes it stinks…)


transporting the figures..mission impossible:) but we made it possible…



No comments:) i just love this photo…It was a tough day but still worth it








The finished crib 🙂 especially mesmerising at night, and worth all the hard work.