Close your eyes. How do you imagine the appearance of a stereotypical shoemaker? Probably male, over sixty, with ashy grey hair and a stubbly beard – in principal a man who fits the part of a shoemaker, plying away in a cellar that hardly sees the light of day with a fitter’s hammer and rasp. Yet those looking for someone to fit the cliché will have to look long and hard. This type of craftsman no longer exists, and yet the craft lives on with a different face. One such face is that of Ina Rüf.
Her shoemaking studio is located in Alberschwende and she is not easy to find. If you do want to seek her out, you must first manoeuvre upward along the street leading to Fischbach. Look for her signboard once you reach a residential area. The property is bright and located on the ground floor. From the moment you enter, you’ll notice a shelf rack full of shoe lasts. At present, it is but a modest collection emphasises Ina. In the background, there is a so-called finishing machine, which must be 100 years old, designed to polish and clean the shoes. It is easily the heaviest piece of equipment in the room. At the centre is a large workbench to sketch and cut models and patterns. Near the window, there is a pitch-black Adler sewing machine as well as a newer looking one, in addition to a work apron hanging from a wardrobe door in the corner.
Ina Rüf came to her profession by chance – not through ancestry that can be traced back generations. She learned her trade in Vienna, rather serendipitously. She actually went to the capital city to study but soon learned that it was not for her. So she took temporary office jobs until one day.