My Feathered Friends: Party Shoes and Nesting Shoes

Turning old shoes into pieces of art sounded like fun; I had no idea it would also be therapeutic. Last weekend’s Walk in My Shoes Soirée saw the debut of my Party Shoes and Nesting Shoes, two pairs of my old shoes converted into art objects. The process made me reflect on my life… from the costume jewelry of my childhood to the nests that symbolize new dreams that I have for my life and art. It was a wonderful project and I felt lighter, happier for doing it. I would love to repurpose old shoes as keepsakes for others.

Party Shoes

I turned a pair of high heels that had become excruciatingly uncomfortable over time into Party Shoes. I like to think of them as the drag queens of the repurposed shoe world, beautiful and flashy with glitter, flowers, feathers and ribbon. They were plain black pumps to start off, with a little velvety section over the top of the foot and a simple black bow. I finger painted them with acrylic glitter paint, one in green and silver, the other in green and blue, and stuffed them with glittery fabric flowers. I brushed some silver paint on to add a little more definition in some places. Originally I planned to fill the shoes with beaded necklaces, but the result did not please my eye, so, after a trip to Michael’s craft store, I went down a different path.

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At this point the designs diverged much more. Blue and green was stuffed with a bit of non-descript fabric to keep the toe area plump. This fabric was covered over with a lustrous blue ribbon which loops its way over and around the shoe before forming a celebratory bow above it, as well as a matching blue feather boa that envelops most of the back portion of the shoe and cascades down from the heel. I intended to put a piece of metal in the shape of two joined leaves which had come off of one of my favorite hair clips many years ago across the toes, but the leaves came apart by accident. One leaf remains on the front toe while the other is fixed on one side of the heel, helping to hold the boa onto the shoe. I placed a clear glass bead, the kind you might use in bulk to fill a vase, like a droplet on the toe-leaf, where it looks like a bit of dew. Absolutely fabulous!

As for green and silver, she was stuffed with a piece of purple shantung. A scintillating stripe of gold glitter ribbon anchors itself from the heel and holds the design together. I placed a section of a rhinestone necklace, the kind of costume jewelry my grandmother would bring out for me to play with when I was small,  around the gentle curve above the toe bed, placing a clear pink glass bead on either side for a neater, more finished look. A spray of feathers juts up from the back of the heel, sticking straight up with pride, and a gold ribbon reminiscent of a gilt spider web drapes itself over the shoe. Unable to make it stick with glue, I used a pair of sparkly earrings to pin it on either side and threw in three other pairs  to add a little more bling. This shoe is a celebration of all of those gaudy baubles we loved in childhood–the ones society tells us to put away if we want to be taken seriously. Society be damned! We need the whimsical and the kitschy in our lives.

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Nesting Shoes

The Nesting Shoes have quite a different mood. These winged boots are about the collaboration between earth (reality)  and sky (imagination) to provide for the nurturing of a baby dream. That dream could be anything: a project, an artwork, a vocation, a career, or even an actual baby. These shoes have an artistic, self expressive side as well as a practical one. They are mama shoes.

I took a pair of grey boots that had never fit properly…the arch is in the wrong place for my foot. I bought them years ago, along with a matching pair in brown. In denial, I hung on to them, occasionally wearing them, as if they would magically fit someday. I found a much better use for them.

 

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First, I cut away most of the upper portion of the shoe that surrounded the ankle. I left a thin strip on either side, like an ear, to support the wings that would be introduced later. I stuffed the shoes with raffia, one in a dark color and one in a straw color. Into the darker one I placed a large straw colored bead, careful to hide its hollowness. I glued somber colored mosses around the nest and tied a necklace with a spectacular plastic pendant around the opening, knotting it into a bow in the back so that the pendant would hang down above the toe. Black and reddish brown acrylic paint was added in whorls and stripes to accentuate the shape of the shoe and make it feel more natural, less mass-produced. Finally, sprays of peacock and other feathers were added over and under the “ears” to create the illusion of wings. She stands firm on earth, but the glory of her feathers declares that she is ready to fly away if need be.

 

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The other boot was the most difficult of all the shoes to make. It took hours for the tacky glue to dry on one section so that I could move her to glue down the next section. I can’t count the times things had to be reattached. I was worried she wouldn’t be done in time, but she was, and she was everybody’s favorite.

 

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I tied together three small speckled beads on a piece of raffia and placed them in the nest. I knew from an earlier project that these beads make the best eggs. A piece of rough ribbon, something like pieces of thin twine laid next to each other to make a thick strip and painted across with white stripes, was glued around the nest opening. I  cut a matching pair of wings from a cardboard mailer and glued them to the shoe’s “ears”. Brushing on yellow and black acrylic paint, I made them into butterfly wings. This would have been easier to do before I had attached them, but I hadn’t had the idea yet. I then began to attach bright green and neutral moss, as well as some delightful bark lichen and seed pods from sweet gum trees which I had picked up on walks. The seashells and glass beads which peer out from below the moss proved the hardest to secure. I love the encrustation of different objects, especially the whorl of a shell attached to one side of the heel. This shell took so many attempts before the glue finally stuck, and it is also one of the elements that keeps the left wing from falling off (if you try, you can also find a bit of twine that helps do the job). Working with so many items of varying weight was a huge challenge, but the “faerie” Nesting shoe came together beautifully. She is heavy on the earth, but graceful and delicate as well, with her fragile butterfly wings and brilliant bright colors. If the first nesting boot were autumn, this one is certainly spring.

Hmmm… that leaves winter and summer for the brown boots, doesn’t it?

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Quote for Today: Kevin Codd

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I hear a swelling swoosh; from the south a bullet train whizzes into view on the tracks, knifes through the landscape in a matter of moments, then disappears with a whoosh. It has just covered in a few seconds what has taken me hours to walk. That very fast train reminds me that, as a pilgrim, travel is made holy in its slowness. I see things that neither the passengers of the train nor the drivers of the automobiles see. I feel things that they will never feel. I have time to ponder, imagine, daydream. I tire. I thirst. In my slow walking, I find me.

― Kevin Codd, Beyond Even the Stars: A Compostela Pilgrim in France

Image: Mt. Fuji and Bullet Train © Roger W with CCLicense

 

Quote for Today: Muriel Barbery

 

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In a split second of eternity, everything is changed, transfigured. A few bars of music, rising from an unfamiliar place, a touch of perfection in the flow of human dealings – I lean my head slowly to one side, reflect on the camellia on the moss on the temple, reflect on a cup of tea, while outside the wind is rustling foliage, the forward rush of life is crystalized in a brilliant jewel of a moment that knows neither projects nor future, human destiny is rescued from the pale succession of days, glows with light at last and, surpassing time, warms my tranquil heart.

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Public Domain Image via MaxPixel.com

Quote for Today: William Wordsworth

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What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
William Wordsworth, from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”, Recollections of Early Childhood
Image: Poppy, Snug Harbor Botanical Gardens, Staten Island, 2014, by Katherine McDaniel

Quote for Today: Kamand Kojouri

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We are told that in translation there is no such thing as equivalence. Many times the translator reaches a fork in the translating road where they must make a choice in the interpretation of a word. And each time they make one of these choices, they are taken further from the truth. But what we aren’t told is that this isn’t a shortcoming of translation; it’s a shortcoming of language itself. As soon as we try to put reality into words, we limit it. Words are not reality, they are the cause of reality, and thus reality is always more. Writers aren’t alchemists who transmute words into the aurous essence of the human experience. No, they are glassmakers. They create a work of art that enables us to see inside to help us understand. And if they are really good, we can see our own reflections staring back at us.
Kamand Kojouri

Public Domain Image via Pexels.com

 

Quote for Today: Wallace J. Nichols

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I wondered whether water is a mirror for our darker emotions as much as it is an engine for our happiness. Water quiets all the noise, all the distractions, and connects you to your own thoughts.

―Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
Image: Dark Water Fade Out © Chad Cooper with CCLicense

Quote for Today: A.E. Housman

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Naiad’s Mirror, Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, Katherine McDaniel, 2015

Oh fair enough are sky and plain,
But I know fairer far:
Those are as beautiful again
That in the water are;

The pools and rivers wash so clean
The trees and clouds and air,
The like on earth was never seen,
And oh that I were there.

These are the thoughts I often think
As I stand gazing down
In act upon the cressy brink
To strip and dive and drown;

But in the golden-sanded brooks
And azure meres I spy
A silly lad that longs and looks
And wishes he were I.
A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

Quote for Today: Annie Dillard

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Hanging onto Abundance, Rocky Mountain National Park, Katherine McDaniel, 2015

It has always been a happy thought to me that the creek runs on all night, new every minute, whether I wish it or know it or care, as a closed book on a shelf continues to whisper to itself its own inexhaustible tale. So many things have been shown so to me on these banks, so much light has illumined me by reflection here where the water comes down, that I can hardly believe that this grace never flags, that the pouring from ever-renewable sources is endless, impartial, and free.
Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek