Saturday, July 23, 2005

painted shoes

I have painted a number of canvas shoes in my life, mostly for children. I've painted them to look like hot rods (above.) And, less successfully, like garbage trucks (below.) I've painted apples and math problems for a teacher, and I've painted herb plants for the owner of an herb store. I've painted cats, rainbows, spiders, alphabets, butterflies and who knows what else. I've lost track of how many shoes I've painted.

My own personal favorite is painting random designs and getting to use the colors I want to use. I used to paint a lot of baby shoes like the ones below - until I had babies of my own, and realized how impractical baby shoes are. Now I prefer to paint shoes for young children instead.

I use acrylic paint on canvas shoes, and prefer the "artist's" tube acrylics such as Liquitex (though I have to water them down slightly) because they have a shiny finish and are more likely to bend with the shoe instead of cracking. But craft acrylics such as Plaid work fairly well too, and not having to mix all your own colors (nor dilute the paint) is definitely a time-saver.

One of the fringe benefits of the acrylic paint is that it waterproofs the shoe a fair amount. One of the drawbacks is that it stiffens the shoe and makes it harder to get on your foot. It also makes the shoe less breathable.

I've discovered you can resuscitate dirty or stained sneakers fairly well, but there's nothing you can do (with paint anyways) to prolong the life of well-worn favorite sneakers.

Many people have asked me why I don't sell painted shoes for a living. I have been tempted. But I treat the shoes like works of art; even small ones generally take me 20 hours or more. I couldn't stand to sell them for $200 and up. Perhaps there are people who would spend that on a child's shoe, but none of my friends would (or, generally, could.) Nor could I stand to turn the process into a quicker and less satisfying mass-produced craft. So I give them as gifts.

For awhile I tried to paint the shoe laces to match. But even with very thinned-down paint, the shoelaces get too stiff from the paint to tie well. If I want a colored shoelace for a particular shoe, I buy it. Painting on the rubber part of the shoes (toes or bottom edge of sides) doesn't work much better - the paint rubs off after very little wearing. I haven't tried painting on leather or fake-leather sneakers.

Every time I ask the kids their favorite way to have their shoes painted, their answer is always the same: "I'd like to paint them myself." As you can see from the photo below, it's been awhile. Lately Chickie, my artist child, has been asking when we could paint shoes again. Hmm. Well, summer's canvas sneakers ought to be hitting the sale tables at K-mart now...


Blogger Karin said...

Gosh I loved my painted shoes!! I wore wore wore them until they literally wore out. xoxo Thanks for them again and thanks for reminding me of something I liked sooooo much! :)

7/23/2005 8:42 PM  
Blogger slugmom said...

Me too! In fact, I think I saved the worn-out ones in one of those keepsake boxes because I loved them so much. And I wore them for a long time afterthey ran out, I remember having to avoid puddles because I'd worn a big hole in the sole. And you're right, there's nothing you can do to prolong their life when they're that well worn. Even if your mother insists she can glue it ;-) ... so, to copy Karin, thanks for them again, and thanks for reminding me how much I loved them. Most of all because they were a 'work of love'. -Kim

7/24/2005 7:13 AM  
Anonymous wendy said...

These painted shoes are great. I love them. It is such a great gift!

7/25/2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

wow, thanks! and you're welcome! I actually forgot I'd painted shoes for some of my blog audience too... :-)

Someday when the little ones are bigger I'll paint some shoes for you again...

provided your feet aren't (like mine) acting like the feet of a middle-aged woman and often needing more pampering than canvas tennies can provide. Why a young just-post-college mother like me suddenly has middle-aged feet, I can't imagine... :-)

7/25/2005 10:30 AM  

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