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2015 Village Award Winner: Barbara Shaum

With our Annual Awards coming up on June 17th, over the next few weeks on our blog we will present a little more information about each of our 2015 Annual Village Award Winners. Visit here for more information on the 2015 Village Awards and Annual Meeting.

Barbara Shaum in her Shop

Today we will highlight 2015 Village Award Recipient Barbara Shaum, a long-time Village sandalmaker, who is an artist as much as an artisan. After apprenticing with a NYC sandal-maker in the ’50s, Shaum opened her first sandal shop in 1962 on East 7th Street next to McSorley’s.

Visiting Barbara Shaum’s sandal shop is like taking a journey back in time to the Sixties, when both the East Village and the West had countless leather shops where hand-crafted items were made. Barbara is now one of the last of these artisans left in the Village.

Step inside her small shop and you’ll find everything necessary to create handmade sandals: rows of tools, shelves of glass jars filled with dyes, and patterns of feet on every spare space. Very orderly, very aesthetic. “I am classical and simple when it comes to my sandals,” Barbara notes, “I don’t put a lot of do-dads on them.”

It takes two to three weeks for a pair of sandals to be made; this begins with the tracing of a person’s foot, from which a pattern is drawn, and includes a fitting part way through the process.

Her shop is located at 60 East 4th Street, in the middle of the Fourth Street Arts Block, where she is surrounded by theaters and dance companies in 19th century buildings that are newly restored or in the process of being restored.  It’s worth taking a walk on this street just to see its architecture.

Barbara spoke about the rapid changes that are taking place in the neighborhood. Nevertheless, she is hopeful because “the cultural history has not been lost.” She may tend to take the long view of life, since even the sandals she makes are intended to last twenty or thirty years!

Barbara was also the first woman admitted to McSorley’s when a 1970 ruling legally forced them to admit females. Prior to this, McSorley’s motto was Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies.

Barbara Shaum has contributed to the quality of life in the East Village through her creativity and her determination to keep her small business alive and thriving for more than half a century, and GVSHP is honored to present her with a Village Award.

Please join us at the New School, 66 West 12th Street, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:00 P.M. to honor the Award recipients. The ceremony is free but reservations are required. To register, please call (212) 475-9585 ext. 35 or email.

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