Step Into Some Mixed-Media Art

What do you get when you pair artists with iconic footwear? You get shoes that are mixed-media works of art.

mixed media art shoes
Our "pear" of mixed-media art shoes.
Artwork by Nick Prato

Last month, the Cloth Paper Scissors team rounded up a bunch of artists for an excursion to the Converse® shoe store in Boston. This particular store is one of just a handful in the country that allows you to design and customize your own sneakers on the spot.

My husband was invited to contribute his artwork and I was to supply the mixed media aspect. We picked one of his pear drawings, seeing as how we were decorating a pair of shoes. (Get it? Pair of shoes?) Some of the other artists brought fabric collages, mixed-media paintings, gelatin prints, and so on.

Each artist selected his or her shoe style and color, and then we watched the shoemeisters go to work. First they put a coating on the canvas where the artwork would go (in a single spot or covering the shoe). Then they scanned the artwork and projected it overhead so we could watch them edit the image (centering, making repeats, erasing, etc.) and approve the changes.

Once the artwork was set, the shoes were put on a machine where the design was printed on. I'm not going to lieit was so cool! While the design set, we selected shoelaces from a dizzying variety.

mixed media art shoes
Personalizing our shoes with
mixed-media supplies.

As each pair was finished, the artist headed down to the first floor of the store where we could avail ourselves of decorative hardware, fabric markers, embroidery floss, and charms to personalize the shoes. Some artists, like Michele Muska, brought their own doodads: colorful zippers, hand-dyed silk ribbon, and such.

Since I was bringing the mixed-media techniques to our pair of shoes' party, it was my job to do the embellishing. I added a bit of gilding with metallic copper embroidery floss on the pear stems and then wrote some shoe/pear puns on the side. I came up with "A shoe of pears" and "If the shoe fits, pear it."

Personally, I thought I was pretty clever. But our teenage daughters politely rolled their eyes and pursed their lips when asked for their opinion. The concept of decorating their own shoes, however, thrilled them, and we have promised to take them for their birthdays.

But kids, and artists, have been decorating their shoes for a long time; you don't need a special store to do it. Just a pair of shoes, your imagination, and some mixed-media materials.

Here's a list to get you started. Just be sure that whatever you add doesn't rub against your foot or impede your movement:

  • Fabric acrylic paint
  • Fabric or permanent markers
  • Transfer paper and photo-editing software
  • Beads and sequins
  • Embroidery floss, a heavy-duty needle, a thimble, and pliers (the canvas is strong and hard to pierce)
  • Ribbon and other trims
  • Novelty yarn
  • Rubber stamps and Staz-On ink
  • Charms, grommets, snaps, and other metal hardware
mixed media art shoes wilkinson
Shoes by Pattie Donham Wilkinson,
March/April 2011.

You can see the entire process plus the results of our Converse mixed-media shoe party in the May/June 2012 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

If collaged high heels  are more your style, check out the article "Shoes That Make a Statement" by Pattie Donham Wilkinson from the March/April 2011 issue, now on the 2011 Cloth Paper Scissors Collection, available to download or on disk

In those six issues, you'll find shoe art, plus techniques for mixed-media art to wear on your wrist, lapel, neck, and much more.

But absolutely none of my bad puns.

P.S. Do you decorate your own shoes? How? Describe your shoe art below and include a link to an image, if you have one.

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