I discovered recently that one of the wonderful women in my wearable art group (Peninsula Wearable Art Guild) is planning to get married in June. She and her darling fiance, Dave, are nearly retirement age, which made the event even more a delight in my eyes: living proof that it's never too late to find true love!
So I offered to create "bridal shoes" for Judi as a gift to the happy couple. She replied that she didn't wear fancy shoes, just comfortable ones like Clarks or Birkenstocks. I said, "So what? I could paint those!" She agreed and some email discussion took place about what she was planning to wear, what style and colors it would be, how long the skirt would be, etc., etc. Judi found some comfortable shoes with nice lines to them and sent them to me along with a photo of the dressy jacket by Spencer Alexis that she was using as a model for her own top. She also included swatches of the fabrics (a lovely palette of blues, purples, and plum) with notations on where each fabric would be used (long skirt, tank top, lapels, sleeves, closure embellishment, and so on.)
When I opened the shipping box I was quite excited because the shoe design was a lot more interesting than I was expecting, based on Judi's earlier comments. It's a low wedge made by Aravon, which is known for its comfortable shoes.
As you can see, the overlapping sections of the sandal look like leaves, which was the perfect shape to go with the slightly burnt-out floral pattern in the main fabric (a solid color of deep rich blue) she would be using. (The fabric swatches didn't photograph well, so I won't show you a picture of them.) Also, the points on the leaves nicely echoed the points at the front center hem of the jacket and those made by the bands at the ends of the sleeves.
I started working on this project by asking Destiny to come over and help since she's the expert on mixing colors. Together we decided to paint the different sections of the upper in three different colors to match the fabrics, then add some detail to enhance the design.
We decided to paint the two overlapping "leaves" in the two accent colors that were in the swatches: a dark purple and a plum color. The purple was a perfect match to Lumiere's Grape. The plum was a pretty close match to Lumiere's Burgundy, but we lightened it just a smidge with some Pearlescent Magenta.
That's when the shoe started to look really good! But the one thing I learned early on in painting and embellishing shoes is not to stop too soon. It seems like adding the extra detail or two is what can turn an attractive shoe into a fabulous one. Now, I had already decided not to add any embellishments to the shoe for a couple of reasons: One, I'd forgotten to ask Judi what kind of jewelry she'd be wearing; and Two, I thought that the shoe might be more useful after the wedding without additional decoration.
So I decided to play around a little more with the paint. I took a toothpick (another tip from Destiny for painting narrow lines that stay the same width as you go) and dabbed it into the purply-blue paint we'd mixed. Then I gently started dragging the toothpick along the embossed "vein lines" on the leaves. This also echoed the floral pattern woven into the fabric and served to unify the design, bringing some of the blue over into the grape and plum areas.
When that was done, we decided to use Future to add shine to the blue side of the shoe (as in the original Aravon design), but leave the other side unsealed so it gleamed but wasn't shiny. (The manufacturer recommends sealing Lumiere with Future, but in my experience you don't really need to unless you want the shiny effect of new shoes.)
The last step was to do something about the insole, which was originally brown to match the polyurethane wedge/sole. Now, you can't successfully paint that kind of sole -- the paint just peels off -- but it was quite a dark brown so Destiny and I figured if we painted the insole with a mixture of Neopaque Black and Metallic Rust, it would be such a dark brown it would probably look like black, and it might even convince the eye that the sole was black, too. Talk about sneaky....
And it worked! We were ridiculously pleased with ourselves at how well that turned out -- you can no longer tell that the wedge and soles are really a dark brown.
So here's to Judi and Dave -- may you enjoy your marriage immensely and have many wonderful adventures together in the years and years and years to come!