Sawyer Klebs moves around

Remember to let your feet touch the earth.

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Sawyer Klebs, at the Castillo Sal Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. — Courtesy Sawyer Klebs

Members of the class of 2014 share their thoughts and experiences while navigating their first year out of high school. Sawyer Klebs writes from Puerto Rico (this week).

MovNat in New Mexico

On my way home from Portland, I stopped in Santa Fe for several days to attend a workshop with Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat. We met in the forested mountains nearby, and I got to watch the man in action, teaching the universal human motions and skills that we all possess and only lose in bouts of marathon sitting and other such forms of routine illness: balancing on fallen trees, climbing live ones, crawling, running — all done barefoot in the forest. The skills taught in MovNat are quite concrete, but the ways in which it expands your being are not so obvious. It breaks routine, builds useful skills, and expands your comfort zone. Everything Erwan teaches has an application. Humans were made to move, but not to exercise on machines and repeat routines which do not have any application. This means that every skill we learn is useful to us. Most basic and illuminating of these skills are the sit-downs and get-ups. In a world without chairs, how many ways can you sit down and stand up from the ground without using your hands? This is the question Erwan has answered as totally as he could. I cannot remember the exact number he gave, but with the specific geometry and structure of the human body, there are a limited number of possible motions to make. MovNat has been about exploring the full extent of my ability to move and manipulate the world with my body.

The shoemaker’s workshop

There has not been much time to set up the workshop, as I have only had a week on Martha’s Vineyard and now I am with Hudson, my brother, in Puerto Rico, for his vacation from work. Setting the shop up so far has gotten me excited about the whole business of shoemaking. The palette of colors here in Old San Juan has been inspiring too; I will be placing some orders for turquoise, faded orange, and purple leathers soon.

Puerto Rico

It’s only a three-hour plane ride from Boston to San Juan. Boarding a 7 am flight, my brother and I arrived at 11:30 am, and we were already sauntering through Old San Juan not more than an hour after disembarking. I love the colors in Old San Juan, and the Castillos surrounding it are beautiful. But. Something about the number of Land Rovers and Suburbans congesting its single-lane cobblestone streets, the skyscraper-laid-on-its-side that is the Carnival Liberty cruise ship docked nearby, always looming higher than any rooftop even though the buildings are on a hill and the ship is in the water. Something about the open-air bars with signs advertising happy hours lasting from noon till midnight, and the ubiquitous and invisible old men carting flavored ice, just a step above the equally common and unseen begging homeless. Something about the hundreds of tourists waddling through this scene makes me sad.The architecture is beautiful, and the Castillos are nice, though. I mean, after you get past the number of native Puerto Rican leaders who have been imprisoned there, and the 300-year history of Spanish oppression and imperialism, and almost 100 years of the same from America. The people really are nice. It’s nice here in paradise, or something like that.

This is my first 12 hours in Puerto Rico and in Old San Juan. On the train ride back to the hotel, I saw many abandoned buildings and gorgeous graffiti. The rest of our trip will be spent in the national forest and closer to nature. The bioluminescent bay, which glows blue at night and reacts to being disturbed, is something I am particularly looking forward to.

SandalsI will be traveling back to Portland, Ore., at the beginning of June, and spending two weeks making sandals and helping teach some of the shoemaking methods I learned. Sandals are absolutely my favorite form of footwear, excepting my naked soles. And summer is the time most appropriate for both. Unfortunately, most people I know don’t often let their feet touch the earth. I am happy to be entering the refreshing realm of sandalmaking, and soon will be equipping humans with more aesthetically pleasing footwear which bears no similarities to foot binding.

The opportunity to teach some of what I have been learning is essential to me, as I feel it will be critical to cementing the method in my own memory.

Mental shift

In school, and even when apprenticing, the amount of work I put into things was always capped by the institution, the teacher, but now there is no one else responsible for keeping me on schedule or up to snuff. Neither is anyone dictating my goals or limiting how much effort I can put into my work.

I am starting a business, and now realize that I am connected to my work. I won’t make much money for a long time, but I want to work at this. I want not just to be a shoemaker but also to run my business intelligently. Where I have seen masters of craft fail to carve out enough space for themselves, constantly taking too little for their work, I want to rise. I am by no means a master, but I don’t intend to be the blindly passionate craftsperson, underpricing my creations simply out of the desire for the opportunity to create.

I am so happy to be out of the theoretical world.

Next time: the importance of coming home, sandalmaking and setting up the workshop, the Chilmark store.