Shoes are something I take with me wherever I go. Since before I can remember, shoes were always special to me. I love fashion, so every morning when I choose my outfit, I start with what pair of shoes I’ll wear and work from there. I own many pairs shoes, and my selection is varied: from boots to ballet flats to strappy sandals.
When I first encountered the pair of shoes, I was just twenty years old. I discovered them at a small factory in the countryside outside of New York City. The shoes were hand-made and had the beautiful name of Aurora Shoes. They were made from high-quality soft leather and sewn together, stitch-by-stitch by dedicated craftsmen. They weren’t the kind of shoes that would delight stylish women with sleekness and coolness, but their simple appearance reminded me of a character from a fairy tale. After trying on the shoes, I instantly realized that it was not just their appearance that I liked; it was the comfortable way they formed around my feet that made me feel that, no matter how long I walked, my feet would never tire. Of course I bought them. And from Shanghai to Seoul, London to Paris, and now in New York, I have traveled to cities all over the world in these shoes.
My textile work is always based around a similar theme. When I was a child, I used to wear clothing that my grandmother made. She was an expert hand embroiderer, and the clothes she made were beautiful. She mixed many colors so that flowers, animals, fruits, fish, and vegetables existed in harmony. And as I grew, she would take her handmade sweaters apart and add new thread to remake them larger in size. Sometimes the results were a little clumsy, but it didn’t matter. I loved her work. In her way, she was a great artist. Her ability to express things influenced me because she used materials that were essential and easily found. As a result, I try to express my feelings in my work in a way that blends into our lives. I want my artwork to be like Linus’s blanket in “Peanuts.” Linus always carries his favorite blanket with him, and it makes him feel at home wherever he goes. Even though the blanket was not so special for other people, it was treasured by Linus.
With the pair of Aurora shoes as a model and with the ideals I learned from my grandmother and Linus, I began my shoe project. I used the techniques of aquatint and repoussage to reproduce the pattern of the shoe on a sheet of copper plate. While researching the shoes, I created a disassembled image based on my feelings of these Aurora shoes; I designed my copper plate show pattern, added color, and printed the piece called ‘West Indian.’ When I printed the shoes, they came out in more colors than I could have imagined. This inspired me even more, and I put the pieces together to create ‘West Indian Shoes,’ my first pair of paper shoes. I had planned on the shoes being just about the right size for a child that had just learned to walk, but because it was my first attempt they came out a little larger.
Next, I used paper that was thin like newspaper to express lightness, and created a mobile called ‘Dance in the Rhythm’ that appeared to dance in the air. When the wind blows, the piece creates a playful feeling. Continuing with the shoe project, I realized that not only the paper, but the copper plates themselves, were beautiful. This happened on a warm, humid day when the temperature changed the color of the copper plate. I tied the pieces together with wire to create a pair of shoes of the same size and design, which I called ‘Don’t Worry, Baby.’ Unlike paper, copper can be bent, so the shoes have an old worn atmosphere about them. I made them with the idea that a person who looked at them could imagine the child who had worn them. Whatever I make, it is all hand-made, and I want to show the warmth this gives so that perhaps someday one of my works will mean the same thing to someone that Linus’s blanket meant to him.
Sachi Kabeya is a Japanese student and artist who resides in Brooklyn with numerous pairs of shoes.