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Sculptural Shoes.

Have you ever noticed the variety of styles, forms, and materials in which shoes are created today? Shoes have always been statements in style, but in recent years technology has allowed manufacturers to produce them using varied materials.

Brown butcher paper (roll)
Brown paper bags (grocery)
masking tape
rubber cement
white glue

Observational Drawings

Ask students to draw three pairs of shoes in their sketchbooks over a three week time period (one per week as homework). The drawings can be line drawings or value studies, and at least one hour should be spent on each observational drawing. I encourage students to make their selection of shoes based on their own criteria--these are the coolest shoes I own, or these are the ugliest, oldest, most comfortable and so forth. Each week we have a group critique where the student work is encouraged and validated for its use of line, value, or clarity of its three-dimensional qualities.

Share images of various kinds of shoes. My examples were wooden shoes from Holland, ballet toe shoes, and handmade woven san dais from Japan. Show examples of artists who use shoes in their work. I showed two reproductions by Vincent van Gogh, Wooden Shoes, and Boots with Laces. Discuss shoes in terms of style and diversity, as well as varied sculptural forms.

Creating a Model

Begin by deciding the kind of shoes to be developed into this sculptural process. They need not be one of the first three drawn in their sketchbooks.

Use cut paper (inexpensive butcher paper) to create a model of the size and shape using scissors and masking tape. Students will resolve the basic shapes and overall design by creating this model. Students can deconstruct this model if they choose, to use as a pattern for the final sculpture made with the heavier brown paper. Use ordinary brown grocery bags for the final paper sculpture. Remind students that craftsmanship is important and that any bonding material such as masking tape, white glue, or rubber cement should not be visible to the viewer on the final sculpture.

Overcoming Obstacles

Most students used one pair of shoes previously drawn in their sketchbooks even though they could have chosen another pair. Students were frustrated in the beginning process and up until the first thin paper model was constructed because there were many technical decisions in shaping the thin paper into the first three-dimensional form.

Many students deconstructed the thin paper model and some even labeled each piece before using it as a pattern for the final form. Others created one complete shoe and copied each shape to create the second.

Students cleverly made shoelaces by twisting paper, buckles that actually work, and even textures on different areas of the shoes and soles.

One student took my suggestion to use natural color thread to add authentic-looking stitching. This hand stitching added texture to her interpretation of well worn sneakers. The life-size sculptural results showed both skill and quality in craftsmanship. Many students even chose to work at home to develop the finished pair of shoes within the allotted time frame. Once completed evaluated the sculptures by asking the following questions: Are the shoes you constructed well proportioned? Do they look like they go together? How well are they crafted? Is the bonding agent you chose showing? What was the most difficult aspect of the process and how did you overcome it?

Working in Other Dimensions

By beginning with an observational drawing, students studied the form in detail. This is a demanding project yet producing two shoes is not twice as difficult as producing one, as I had first perceived. The thinking through of the first shoe made the second one easier to develop. Making a pair just added to the challenge.

Twenty pairs of paper shoes were chosen to fill a showcase by the artroom. This exhibition space contained a poster that stated: "Shoes seen for their sculptural qualities." We used a half dozen shoe boxes to create levels. Some shoes were hung from the ceiling of the showcase, while four pairs were cantilevered from the sides. The end result looked like a shoe store window filled with a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes. This exhibition generated very positive feedback from a broad cross-section of the school population due to the quality of craftsmanship of the identifiable subject matter.

Students increased their knowledge about structure and construction techniques while producing overall matching forms. These well crafted results began with the challenging process of translating three dimensions into two and back into complex sculptural forms, all based on simple materials.


Mazza, Samuele, Cinderella's Revenge. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994.


Students create multiple solutions to specific visual arts problems that demonstrate competence introducing effective relationships between structural choices and artistic functions.

Ken Vieth is an art teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, New Jersey.
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Title Annotation:making shoe sculptures
Author:Vieth, Ken
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Previous Article:Remembering the Trail of Tears.
Next Article:Silly Sneakers.

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