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Bootmaker steps up to festival

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Oct. 22, 2011 at 5:22 a.m.
Updated Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.

Terry Glueck, left, of Waco, and John Dell, of Victoria, talk as Glueck's son, Fritz, works on the sole of a boot at the Four-Square Custom Footwear tent Saturday afternoon during Victoria's first-ever Bootfest downtown. Fritz was making a pair of custom boots out of sharkskin leather for himself for spectators.

The inaugural Bootfest was thumping merrily along in downtown Victoria, but the crowds and the clang of music seemed to drop away as Fritz Glueck dug a thick curved needle into the sole of a boot, pulling rough maroon thread through thick brown leather with his large sure-fingered hands.

People gathered around, watching him work. He glanced up to smile at the spectators, but his attention never wandered from the leather in his hands.

"All most people know about boots is that they're something you pull on, but there's so much more to them," Glueck said.

Glueck, 21, grew up working with leather, hanging around his father's saddle shop in Waco and working with the scraps his father didn't use. About five years ago, Glueck and his father decided to learn the bootmaking trade from a custom bootmaker who agreed to teach them the trade.

Glueck fell in love with the trade, and threw himself into learning how to make boots that would fit the wearer as naturally as his or her feet.

"I like working with my hands, and I like to be able to know the inside of how these things are done. I like to be able to wear what I make, to be able to say that I made these boots," Glueck said.

It takes him between 25 and 100 hours to make a pair of boots. To fit right he has to learn everything he can about the wearer's feet - everything from once broken bones to a tendency to swell will impact how the boots will fit.

"Bootmaking isn't just making a boot. It's actually making a customer happy, that's the biggest part of making boots," he said, running his hands over the supple brown leather soles of a pair of sharkskin boots. Sharkskin is notoriously difficult to work with, so Glueck is making this pair of boots for his own feet, to see whether he can learn how to work with the leather.

Even though he has been studying bootmaking for the past five years, Glueck said he is just beginning to learn his craft. That's part of what he loves about being a bootmaker - there's always something to learn.

"It's something that feels so big you can spend your whole life trying to figure it out and learn more," Glueck said.

Miranda Wiebusch stood watching Glueck work. Wiebusch and her husband came from New Braunfels to take part in Bootfest.

"I think this is great. What a cool idea," Wiebusch said as she watched Glueck work.

Glueck said he was happy to get an invitation to demonstrate his trade at the first Bootfest.

"I think it's a great idea, and I'm glad I get to be a part of this" he said, smiling.

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