Of Soles and Feathers: Walk in My Shoes

February saw the second Synkroniciti event, themed Walk in My Shoes. It was a great time to recharge batteries and share new creations.

We began a wide ranging conversation touching on, among other things, art, family, ghosts, spirituality and work. The expression of selfhood and its impact on relationships was the center of our musings. This eventually lead us to speaking of teenagers and our own teenage years, and we continued with a reading of Sister Godzilla, a chapter from Louise Erdrich’s masterful novel, A Plague of Doves.

Evelina has a new teacher. Sister Mary Anita has a large toothy jaw and Evelina, lost in a daydream in class, makes a drawing of “Sister Godzilla”, not realizing that the Sister is looking over her shoulder. Erdrich’s honesty, matched by her riotous and impish sense of humor, are disarming and inviting as Evelina’s cruelty is changed into empathy. Here is the moment of transformation, which comes after a humorous and yet serious exchange between the two women. The evasive humor drops away, replaced by naked awareness.

“Can I go now?” 

“Of course not,” said Mary Anita.

I was confounded. The magical two words, an apology, had dropped from my lips. Yet more was expected. What?

“I want you to understand something,” said the nun. “I’ve told you how I feel. And I expect you will never hurt me again.”

Again the nun waited and waited, until our eyes met. My mouth fell wide. My eyes spilled over again. I knew that the strange feelings that had come upon me and transfixed me were the same feelings that Mary Anita felt. I had never felt another person’s feelings, never in my life.

“I won’t do anything to hurt you,” I babbled in a fit of startled agony. “I’ll kill myself first.”

“I’m sure that will not be necessary,” said Sister Mary Anita.

After the reading, Kelly showed some beautiful prints she had made recently using the soles of old shoes. The prints were inspired by a fascinating pendant made by her son when he was in third grade. You can see that the first one is light and tentative; the second, rather like a flower’s corona, is aggressive and darker; and the third, which may evoke snakes, coffee beans, or strings of beads,  is a play between the two. You can’t tell this from the pictures, but the prints also had a lovely texture. We don’t think about the patterns on the bottoms of shoes and the surprising variety and beauty in their design.

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I was very excited to present two pairs of my old shoes converted into art objects. One pair of high heels that became uncomfortable over time is now a pair of Party Shoes. I like to think of them as Shoe Drag Queens, beautiful and flashy with glitter, flowers, feathers and ribbon. A pair of boots, lightly worn because the arch was in the wrong place for my foot, became Nesting Shoes, earthy representations of nests with wings. They were so much fun to make that I had to force myself to stop (I have a couple more pairs of old shoes).  You can read more about my process and my interpretation here. They are somewhat kitschy and very striking. I would love to make more of these for people…it can be an interesting way of preserving a favorite shoe. I am fairly sure this is the only time I’ve ever felt good about “putting my shoes on the table”.

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IMG_7651It was a lovely evening. Yuri came out to claim his position as official Synkroniciti Mas-cat. Those who attended our earlier Open Mics before the second and third floods in our old home will remember that his sister Lisa Sasabuki used to preside in meetings, taking an interest in art and performance. She was one of us, and she was always an encouraging and attentive critic. She passed over the rainbow bridge between the second and third flood. We miss her but still feel her big presence (especially for such a small kitty).  Yuri’s specialty is performance art, especially rolling over for tummy rubs. Younger sister Keiko Buki spent the evening in the office closet, reminiscent of Yuri in his younger days.

 

Our next gathering, which is our first Playdate (these are more active than Soirées) is March 30th and we will be building faerie houses. We made faerie houses in 2016, right before the flood came and washed them away. We are confident and hopeful that things will last longer this time. If you are in the Houston area, please come and be a part of this delightful event. It is my absolute favorite!

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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: Ruta Sepetys

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“The shoes always tell the story,” said the shoe poet.

“Not always,” I countered.

“Yes, always. Your boots, they are expensive, well made. That tells me that you come from a wealthy family. But the style is one made for and older woman. That tells me they probably belong to your mother. A mother sacrificed her boots for her daughter. That tells me you are loved, my dear. And your mother is not here, so that tells me that you are sad, my dear. The shoes tell the story.”

Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea

Image © Idhren with CCLicense

Quote for Today: David Baird

 

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Yes no yes no yes no?
Red blue?
Yes red, no blue?
No red, yes no?
In out, up down?
Do don’t, can can’t?
Choices sit on the shelf like
New shoes in a shoe shop.
If the in crowd are squeezing into a must-have shoe
And the one pair left are too tiny for you
Don’t feel compelled into choosing them
If you’re really a size 9, buy that size.
While everyone else
Hobbles round with sore feet
Your choices should feel comfortable
Or they aren’t your choices at all.
Why limp when you can sprint?

― David Baird, Fiesta of Happiness: Be True to Yourself

Image © Andy Mabbett with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Catherynne M. Valente

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

I see you go bare-shod. This is most likely extremely sensible. Shoes are no end of trouble for girls. . . . How many have danced to death in slippers of silk and glass and fur and wood? Too many to count—the graveyards, they are so full these days. You are very wise to let your soles become grubby with mud, to let them grow their own slippers of moss and clay and calluses. This is far preferable to shoes which may become wicked at any moment.

Catherynne M. ValenteIn the Cities of Coin and Spice

Quote for Today: Richard Keith Frazine

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

…the sensations she was asking about were very pleasant; some of them were nothing short of delicious; but to know them one simply had to go barefoot. I could sense a mixture of envy and fearful reserve. It was time to tell her what another barefoot hiker had once told me, when I had stood, still shod, on the edge of wanting to go barefoot: “Take off your shoes.”

Richard Keith FrazineThe Barefoot Hiker

Wondrously Made: Nubia’s Shoes by Katherine McDaniel

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Public Domain Image via Pixabay

We all have struggles in our lives, areas in which we are lacking. Why are some of us so resilient?

This is the first of three poems which were commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for Houston Artists Respond, based on videos from Baker Ripley Community Center in Houston, Texas. I selected the stories of three women who immigrated to the United States from Latin America and interwove their experience with my feelings.

This poem tells the tale of  a woman from Nicaragua who received her first pair of shoes at the age of sixteen, a hand-me-down from her mother’s employer. Never did a pair of plastic shoes bring about such joy, although that joy was laced with trial, as you will see. Nubia’s humor and strength of character are inspiring. How many of us, who I daresay have enjoyed more advantages, are as grateful as she is?

If you would like to read the other poems in the set, we have shared them here and here.