People always seem to be pretty surprised with the shoes that I make. It’s funny because they see it as something completely outlandish, unique and one of a kind. I say this is “funny” because everyone I know has the ability to make these. If you can write your name on a piece of paper, you can make your own custom shoes, even if all they have are your name on them.
Okay so there’s a little more finesse involved than a ballpoint pen and some chuck taylors, but the idea is the same. When I make custom shoes, I am essentially just painting and drawing on canvas. It is an irregular surface for sure, but it’s still just like drawing or painting on a normal canvas or even just on fabric.
I’m going to go into a little detail as to how I made one of my latest pair of commissioned shoes, the Charcuterie Shoes.
I think my favourite part about making shoes is collecting the references. I get tons of ideas going through my head of things that I want to try, ideas, places that the project can go, and I rarely ever end up using all of the references but they’re fun to collect. I use Google images and I type in anything related to the show’s subject matter.
In this case I spent a lot of time looking up terms such as charcuterie, brie wheel, cheese tray, pickled foods, French food, appetizers. Remember to think outside the box when you’re searching, because sometimes the perfect images won’t be in the words you think they will be. Such as “fancy French food” may get you some generic small images, but if you type in specifically “brie cheese wheel” you’ll get awesome high res images of fancy cheese.
Photographing the Shoes
Once I have the shoes that I will be drawing on, I take photographs from several angles so that I have a good idea as to how the images will look on them. I just use my phone for these pictures, nothing fancy. I try to have good lighting but even that doesn’t really matter, so long as you can see the shoe itself clearly.
Sketching a Rough Digitally
Next I make some sketches from the references that I got, and start playing around with where I will want to put them on the shoes. I either print out the photo of the shoes that I took and draw on the printed photo, or I put it into Photoshop and draw on the image of the shoe digitally. Either way it gives me a rough idea of the sizing and what the artwork will look like.
Sketching a Rough on the Shoes Themselves
After I’m happy with my sketches and colour schemes digitally, I grab a regular pencil and start marking where I want things to go. This part usually takes a bit more care because I don’t want to get the shoes TOO dirty while I sketch things out. I try to draw lightly so that I don’t leave a mess for when I paint over it.
Finalizing the Rough Design
After the drawing, I take a felt fabric pen or a permanent fine tip marker and go over the lines that I like and want to keep. This will NOT be the final black outline, but only something like a placeholder for when I lay down the colours.
This is the fun part, but the most dangerous! Because if I mess up here, it’s really hard to clean or correct. I use very tiny paint brushes and acrylic/water based fabric paints for the colours. It’s important to establish your colour scheme before you actually start colouring, to make sure that the artwork on the shoes will match and look nice.
Shading and Outlining
After many hours and after the paint has dried to the touch, I go in with the black outlining pen/marker again and thicken the outlines as well as add any shading or hatching that is needed. This is the last step where artwork will be applied!
This part is fairly simple. I have to use a blowdryer (or an iron if it were flat) to heat set the fabric paints. This is common for any kind of fabric painting, be it screen printing or regular fabric paints, they all have to be “set” to be permanent. I use a blow dryer because it’s really hard to iron a shoe. I have even heard of some people putting things in the dryer on high heat, or even the oven!
Care & Maintenance
After all of the drying and heat is done, I use a layer of spray acrylic varnish. Once that is dried, I spray on another layer but of waterproofer for shoes. You can find it at any show store really, it’s used to seal winter boots, or similar. It’s a generic shoe spray for waterproofing, and that is the final layer that I apply.
Then, voila! Shoes! Time for a photo shoot! If you are interested in commissioning a pair of shoes, I am currently taking offers. Please email me for more information and rates! 🙂