Ruth Neubauer

February 29, 2024

Ruth Neubauer is a self-taught artist and shoemaker from Louisville, Kentucky now living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She draws influence from her lived experience and environments as well as more broadly pre- and post-industrial society, globalism, science fiction, Americana, and more. Ruth's clogs use traditional Scandinavian and American techniques and materials alongside deadstock and other postconsumer materials. She is drawn to clogs for their utility, versatility, and tradition.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Ruth Neubauer. I make clogs and have been based in Philly since 2020, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I also spent a good amount of time in Minneapolis-St.Paul, where I was introduced to Scandinavian clogs. I draw a lot of influence from the people, landscapes, and cultures of the places I’ve lived. I enjoy time in nature, cooking, time with loved ones, music, vintage clothing, and of course most things shoe related.

How would you describe your practice?

I make clogs utilizing deadstock, up-cycled, and responsibly sourced materials. My goal is to explore different ways of approaching materials and construction, offer something of beauty or value to others, and hopefully encourage conversations around socially- and environmentally-sound production and consumption. Every season and style has it’s own inspiration and story, sometimes I will explain these but often I try to let the work speak for itself or let people come to their own conclusions. People have described my work in various ways, but to me it’s simply my version of mixing old and new ideas, material, and techniques.

What began your shoe-making journey?

I began deconstructing, decorating, and just generally playing with shoes in 2018. Before this, I was just a collector and admirer. I began with found or thrifted shoes and objects, this is how the tires came into play. I often wouldn’t set out with any goal, just be inspired by what I found. I began using screws to keep the various components together as they were the most cost effective and reliable. Gradually I formed my aesthetic. As time progressed I spent more time learning about footwear production and industry, and eventually traditional Scandinavian clog production, which is it’s own unique construction style.

Do you do everything by hand yourself? Or do you have a team helping you?

I am a one person operation. I import my clog bases from Sweden and raw materials from suppliers in the States but everything is processed, assembled, shipped, etc. by me.

Could you tell us more about the design of your shoes and how these clogs came to be?

In 2020, I deconstructed a pair of Dansko clogs, experimented with making new uppers, and applied the materials and techniques I’d previously been using on sneakers to the midsole. In the process of more fully developing the clog, I drew influence from traditional clog designs and elements, slip on/laceless sneakers and hikers, and the materials themselves. The bike tires have a lot of motion and functional design elements which informs their shaping and placement on my clogs. The exposed heel counter is a reference to the internal plastic heel counters commonly found in modern clogs like Dansko, Sanita, etc. The upper itself was developed over several iterations, inspired by traditional clogs, racquet sport shoes, work bibs, a handful of vintage sneakers from the early aughts, bridges, and a few other references. The material choices have always been very organic, often just a material I find or have an affinity for, for instance the heavy use of nubuck comes from Timberlands, and the cowhide comes from summers with my grandparents in Nebraska.

Do you make work outside of your shoes?

I do intermittent professional portfolio projects, but otherwise am pretty occupied creatively.

Who is someone you’d like to collaborate with?

I’d love to spend time with traditional western leatherworkers, at the family factory of my clog base supplier in Sweden, factories in Iberia, and spend more time with apparel designers, musicians, screenprinters, glassworkers, potters, jewelers, etc. Really anyone who I can learn and grow with. For me it’s more about the process and end product than a particular person or brand.

What artists or designers are you interested in right now?

Juliet Seger, Seeing Red, Gogo Graham, Joseph J Greer, Lisa Sorrell, Sebastian Burger, Palmistry,
Florence Sinclair, Ariana, lots more.

What’s the most important article of clothing in your wardrobe?

Probably my jean jacket. Excellent slightly oversized vintage Levi’s trucker. Lots of wear and memories over the years. Second place is any black slip ons with style and utility (Kukinis, Calzuros, Jungle Mocs, Instapumps, Mions, etc).

What’s your studio like?

It’s a home studio in my basement, very utilitarian set up but gets the job done. Work bench, sewing machine and tools, storage, with a little window to the street. My cat Cookie likes to come and supervise.

Neubauer’s home studio

What do you collect?

I have a modest shoe collection, but generally try to avoid clutter and buying too much I don’t need.

What’s the last lie you told?             

I’m a Gemini…

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I’d like to have really cemented and expanded my practice, seen more of the world, have good health, and be contributing to the world in a meaningful way.


Interview conducted by Emma Kang James and edited by Lily Szymanski and Natalie Toth. All images courtesy of the artist.