‘Renaissance Couple’ Hone Their Crafts

Megan Euell and Francis Waplinger are a Renaissance couple. Their inventive artistry meets a classic way of thinking. The two met through a mutual friend while studying at Savannah College of Art and Design, where smitten Euell would go to Waplinger’s SCAD soccer games. Both graduated in 2010. After several years of studying their respective passions — Euell, painting, and Waplinger, shoemaking — in Florence, Italy, the newly engaged couple moved back to Southampton three years ago to live in Euell’s sixth generation family homestead that dates back to the mid 1700s.

Why do you call yourselves a Renaissance couple? 

Euell: I studied classical drawing and painting while Francis studied shoemaking in Florence, Italy, the city where the Renaissance began. We are both extremely passionate in making the highest quality works, and have spent years learning the crafts of painting and shoemaking. We are trying to honor these time-old art forms by using traditional materials and techniques. We want to contribute to the current revival of fine art and craftsmanship that is currently taking place in the United States.

What are each of your respective passions?

Waplinger: My passion is shoemaking. I make each pair of shoes myself from start to finish and I enjoy the physicality and hands on experience of shoemaking. I have also always been interested in objects that overlap design and functionality. I have found the perfect marriage of this in making bespoke footwear, a necessity item, in its most beautiful form.

Euell: I have been studying art since the age of five, drawing since a young age, and then I began painting around the age of 15, taking evening classes at an atelier throughout high school. My passion is drawing and painting from life, capturing and interpreting the beauty of nature onto canvas.

How does life in Florence differ than that of the East End? How is it similar? 

Waplinger: Life in Florence is truly beautiful. La Dolce Vita is the perfect way to describe our experience with the people, the city, the culture, the food. We loved everything about Florence. It all felt surreal to us, the way that Italians appreciate even the smallest things — a perfectly ripe tomato, a beautiful building, a slice of prosciutto. The way of life complemented our art through and through, and continues to influence our work.

Euell: The East End has many beautiful aspects — I am partial being from Southampton of course. There are endless sandy beaches, beautiful old buildings in the towns and villages, and magical light here that ceases to amaze me every day. Not to mention the delicious wine and fresh produce from local farm stands and vineyards. The main difference we see is the pace of life. Americans are in such a rush and are obsessed with being “busy.” Even if we actually are swamped with work, we always carve out some time, no matter how short, to stop, take a break, and enjoy the little things — a coffee break, a home cooked dinner, or a beautiful sunset.

Have you ever created a piece together?

Euell: No, not exactly. While in Florence studying, I did a large still life of Francis’ shoes and tools. It is a favorite painting that now hangs in our joint studio space. I am also working on some additional shoe still lifes for an upcoming show in NYC in the fall, where Francis’s shoes will be displayed as well [Fine Art & Fashion show by Vanessa Rothe Fine Art at the Salmagundi Club NY].

Tell us about your Portrait Painting Series at Golden Eagle in East Hampton.

Euell: We have a portrait series planned for this September which I’m looking forward to. We welcome all ages and levels. I combine methods from the formal training that I’ve had in the last 15 years, to teach drawing and painting from life, which is accompanied by in-depth notes I created for each student to take home and pore over. We will have a live model sitting, for three days of portrait drawing and three days of portrait painting in the wonderful barn-studio on their property. Students will have the chance to study the portrait in charcoal, learning about anatomy, structure, and likeness, and then learn how to transfer their drawing onto canvas, to develop a painting.

I am looking forward to an upcoming plein air workshop in August, where we will be painting the sunset on the beach.

What Plein Air location captivated you most and why?

Euell: I have been enamored with plein air painting since my first course on the North Fork more than 15 years ago. I’ve drawn and painted in so many wonderful locations, [including] the East End, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, and Savannah, GA. Essentially, all of my travels revolve around painting. I think that painting on the streets of Florence, and in the Italian countryside with friends is probably one of my favorite experiences. There are so many beautiful elements there — timeless buildings, idyllic vineyards, and olive groves, and the most stunning Renaissance-esque sunsets in the world. Another favorite plein air location was in the snow-covered Swiss Alps, a very challenging and amazing experience.

What made you decide to design shoes? 

Waplinger: I’ve always been interested in shoes. I grew up skateboarding, and playing soccer, for both of which footwear plays a large role. I started airbrushing sneakers for fun in high school and college, and then a family friend told my mom about a shoemaking course in Port Townsend, WA. I had never thought about the actual process of making shoes before. After that first course, I practiced making on my own and sought out another course in NYC. I was hooked.

What I came to love about shoemaking is that it’s the perfect combination of beauty and functionality. I also take great pride in constructing the entire pair of shoes from scratch and I relish the challenges of such a physically demanding craft.

Who is your favorite designer?

Waplinger: This answer has to be two-fold. I’m Italian-trained, and thus, my first love will always be Italian-style shoes. I apprenticed under Roberto Ugolini of Florence, and greatly admire his work. Completely different, but equally wonderful is the Japanese maker, Masaru Okuyama, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your favorite pair of shoes that you personally own? 

Waplinger: My favorite pair of shoes currently is a pair that I made about a year ago, called Strozzi. It’s a hand-dyed whole cut, with a Norwegian construction, with a closed waist and closed heel. In short, the style is one piece of leather with a seam only at the back. The Norwegian construction is an intricate braid running along the edge of the shoe that binds the upper of the shoe to the sole.

The irony is, I made this pair as a show piece and have yet to actually wear them! I’m looking forward for that day to come.

Where can clients come to meet you?

Waplinger: I am located in Southampton, in a private studio space that I share with Megan. I take appointments there, and am also available to meet clients in NYC, where I collaborate with a bespoke tailor in Williamsburg.

To learn more visit www.meganeuell.com or www.franciswaplinger.com.

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