Celebs like Jessica Chastain love wearing Sidney Molepo sandals. Sidney Molepo loves his ShopBot.

Designer/Manufacturer Sidney Molepo

Designer/Manufacturer Sidney Molepo

 

Film actresses Jessica Chastain (“The Help,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), Cody Horn (“Magic Mike”), and internationally renowned singer Celine Dion have something in common: their love of Sidney Molepo’s unique shoes and fashion accessories.

Mr. Molepo, who was educated as an architect and furniture designer, in recent years has turned his attention to the smaller, personal items that people can use and interact with every day.

Sidney says, “I create unique handmade fashion accessories. I recognize your individuality and am committed to designing and making products that meet your values and unique personal style. Now you can be red carpet ready with your very own piece of handmade luxury!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actress Cody Horn with Sidney Molepo clutch

He’s not kidding about the red carpet. Here, actress Cody Horn clutches a Sidney Molepo clutch.

It begins with a pencil sketch

It begins with a pencil sketch

Each clutch features vegetable-tanned leather, hand-died with eco-friendly pigment, and natural or black-stained walnut accents. Each clutch is completed with metal hardware details and magnetic clasp closure. Sidney adds, “With the ShopBot Desktop, I cut the wood pieces and also use a v-grooving bit to engrave my logo on the sides of the clutches.”

Clutch from various angles

Clutch from various angles…

clutch front two clutchesSidney works out of the studio that he has built in his home in Montreal, and shares his story: “I was born in Ramotswa, Botswana, and raised in Ottawa, Canada. I am the son of a political refugee, and due to Apartheid in my parents’ native South Africa, my family and I immigrated to Canada. As a child, I spent my time drawing, and making toys from found materials.”

“This creativity led me to pursue a degree in architecture,” Sidney continues, “and to discover an interest and talent in designing and making solid wood furniture. This passion led me to New York City where I was fortunate to work with notable furniture and product designers. Among them was designer Dakota Jackson, and it was while interning there that I first became exposed to CNC— a large Thermwood tool. This was an eye-opener for me and I started to dream about being able to own my own digital fabrication equipment to add to my collection of traditional tools.”

While living in Brooklyn, and inspired by the creative culture around him, Sidney became intrigued with the possibilities of how his background as a furniture maker could translate into making unique fashion accessories using wood and leather.

Bag made of leather and ash veneer wood. Sidney had been invited by celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart to contribute an original handbag to be auctioned at The Bag Lunch charity event of PS Arts.org, a non-profit dedicated to improving children's lives through arts education.

Bag made of leather and ash veneer wood. Sidney had been invited by celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart to contribute an original handbag to be auctioned at The Bag Lunch charity event of PS Arts.org, a non-profit dedicated to improving children’s lives through arts education.

Wood detail

Detail of wood, cut and engraved with the ShopBot Desktop

The sketch

One of the first sketches for the bag

“I first became familiar with ShopBot Tools while living in Brooklyn,” Sidney explains. “I saw an ad in MAKE magazine for the Desktop tool and was intrigued to see the power of CNC being offered in a small package — potentially just right for the work I envisioned. I looked at some competitor tools, but what led me to decide on the ShopBot Desktop aside from its affordable price point, was that I saw that it is a heavier, more robust tool than others, and I like that it functions at 110 volts so it truly can be a small studio-based / home-based tool. I can easily say that I wouldn’t be able to bring my products to life without the ShopBot!”

Using the ShopBot Desktop in shoe design and fabrication.

Sidney explains, “I use the ShopBot in various ways to make my sandals. For instance, one necessary element in making a shoe or sandal is the shoe last. The last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot —  you use the last as a mold around which to create the leather upper portion of the shoe.”

“Shoe lasts are expensive, and so thanks to CAD and digital fabrication with a ShopBot, I can now make my own lasts for use in shaping the leather straps for my sandals” says Sidney.

Creating a digital probe of a shoe last on the ShopBot Desktop

Creating a digital probe of a shoe last on the ShopBot Desktop

He continues, “I use the digitizing probe to scan the bottom of my existing shoe lasts. I then bring the information into Rhino 3D and I’m then able to design the outsole for my sandal wedges around the exact geometry of the bottom of the last. Once I finalize the design, I then use Cut3D to generate the toolpaths and then I machine the walnut blanks into finished outsoles on the Shopbot. And thanks to the accuracy of the initial probing, the machined walnut outsoles fit perfectly to the bottoms of the existing lasts.”

“In Rhino, I also use the digital info that the Shopbot made of my existing lasts to design the bottom and top halves of the mold for the bent veneer laminations that form the outsoles of my Dumela and Phepa sandals.”

Machining a mold segment for sandal

Machining a mold segment for sandal

A completed outsole laminating mold

A completed outsole laminating mold

Carving a footbed prototype

Carving a footbed prototype

Machining the walnut outsole for the Tlou sandal

Machining the walnut outsole for the Tlou sandal

 

Take a look at some of the finished work. This is the “Tlou” sandal.

Two views of the Tlou sandal.

Two views of the Tlou sandal.

Tlou 2

This is “Phepa”

Phepa sandal, two views.

Phepa sandal, two views.

Phepa 2

Sidney explains that all of the leathers used in his designs are vegetable-tanned, with no chemicals such as chromium sulfate.  He continues, “I design templates for the leather patterns in Rhino and then I create the 2d toolpaths in VCarve Pro, which I then run on the Shopbot. I cut the templates out of 1/4″ birch plywood with an end mill bit. I then manually cut the leather patterns using the templates. I had planned on buying the Donek drag knife, so that I could cut leather directly with the Shopbot…..but I never got around to making that purchase… maybe in the future!”

In addition to using his Desktop to engrave his logo on clutches and show outsoles, Sidney will engrave the lid of the shoe boxes. Here’s the one he made for Jessica Chastain.

Shoe box for Jessica Chastain's sandals

Shoe box for Jessica Chastain’s sandals

 

Molepo has also created Mopedi Body Balm, a hand cream made from beeswax and food safe mineral oil. “I use the ShopBot to machine the birch lid for the bottles. Also, the logo on the lid was printed with a rubber stamp I made on the Desktop, using a v-grooving bit.”

body balm 1 Looking ahead, Molepo is hoping to have his work discovered by more high-end clients, and is working to pitch his unique creations to small retailers.

“That ShopBot has created these tools that are so precise and powerful, and made them affordable to a small business like my own just starting up, is a blessing!” To learn more about Sidney’s work, visit www.sidneymolepo.com. Learn more about the ShopBot Desktop here.

Make sure to check out Sidney’s FaceBook page to see the latest on his products.

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