Profile: Margaret Hubley
by Sean McQuaid
Margaret Hubley may not be familiar to you- but you might have seen her shoes. No, she's not a Sears catalogue footwear model; she's a custom shoemaker specializing in theatrical, dance and period footwear.
Now based in Morell, Margaret is an experienced shoemaker and leathersmith who has only recently extended her services to the general public. Prior to that, she worked almost exclusively in theatre.
Margaret got her start about ten years ago when she was working with costuming accessories at Neptune Theatre. She was 19 and enjoying what was her first "real job" when someone suggested she apply to the Stratford Festival for work in their boot department. She did, and was eventually accepted.
For years thereafter Margaret worked with Stratford, Neptune and various other theatre companies. Although she loves theatre, she grew tired of being an employee and decided to become an independent shoemaker. She still takes dance and theatre orders, but now also makes custom shoes for individual private customers.
Considering the many aspects of theatre and costuming she might have followed, one could ask why she devoted herself to shoes; however, Margaret is fervently devoted to this oft-overlooked aspect of show biz.
"[Shoemaking] sort of encompasses all the jobs you do in other areas [of theatre]," she says. "You have to cut patterns, do fittings, use a lot of tools." There's even an element of suspense to the job: "You don't know how it's going to work until you try it on. It takes a lot of planning."
Her favourite types of footwear are period deigns, like Victorian ladies' footwear (because of its graceful lines) and men's Restoration-era footwear (because of its showy style). She makes period shoes for the stage, but is also willing to do these as private orders. Even some of her modern shoe designs have a period "feel" to them, she says.
When asked what sets her apart from the average shoe merchant, Margaret says it's essentially quality: she does custom fitting (which usually fits better than a store-bought shoe) and tries to use better quality material, like leather linings.
Margaret has been pleasantly surprised by private response to her work. She expected a few private orders to supplement her theatre commissions, but finds herself almost constantly in demand. She doesn't expect to get rich off it anytime soon, but hopes to find her own unique market niche and eventually expand.
Ideally, she would like to hire an employee to handle things like the chemical work so that she can concentrate on design work and dealing with people. For now, Margaret works solo and is preparing for the upcoming Christmas Craft Fair at the Confederation Centre. So many feet, so little time. . .