Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tattoo Shoes

A few weeks ago I came across a photo of some really cool custom designed shoes.  They were designed and painted by the girl on this website:

The subject matter of the designs on her shoes is usually related to weddings, and it seems her target customer is brides-to-be.  I was enthralled by them and desperately coveting a pair.  But, since I am already married, I really had no use for a pair with my wedding date and theme drawn on them.  Then, a few weeks ago I pulled a box of shoes out of my storage unit in search of boots to wear this fall and came across this old, cheap pair of scuffed up white heels.

I had already given several pairs of heels away because I no longer have a professional job that requires me to wear them every day.  Plus, living in a rural area with a lack of sidewalks and driveways, and an excess of gravel and mud, sort of limits the ability to wear nice heels on a regular basis.  So, rather than let my entire collection sit in a closet and collect dust unappreciated, I gave away a few of the pairs I was least likely to wear again.  Since these aren't that comfortable, and had multiple scuffs, I very nearly threw them out.

Then, it occurred to me that since they are white and serve no current purpose, I could use them to experiment with this method of sharpie shoe doodling.  I began thinking of what I could draw on them, and decided that since I really like tattoos, but can't accept that kind of lifelong commitment to something that's essentially cosmetic, I could in fact, tattoo my shoes.

I began Googling tattoo designs and art, and the next time I went to Walmart I invested in a 6 pack of fine point permanent markers.  After a few sketches in pencil, a little removal with nail polish remover and a cotton swab and what equated to a few minor cover up jobs, these were my result:

I am rather pleased with them.  It was actually a really fun project.  At first I just sketched on a design in pencil, and then I went over it with a super fine tip black permanent marker.  After I colored the design in, the outlines would get blurred and smeared by the colored markers, so I had to go over all the outlines a second time to darken and sharpen them after the coloring in process.  The entire process took about two weeks of time spent every few days in the evening while I watched TV.

I decided I wanted to keep true to the tattoo theme, so I picked designs that had some sort of personal meaning to me and then researched sleeve and full back tattoos for backgrounds to link the design as a whole together. 

On the shoe in the foreground you can see a sparrow and a traditional Japanese dragon.  The sparrow has personal meaning because my maternal grandfather had two of them tattooed on his chest.  Another family member got a sparrow tattoo in his honor after he died.  I have tossed around the idea of following suit, but again, I can't make the commitment.   The dragon is a classic tattoo design and symbolizes strength, courage, and power.  I think every woman feels strong and powerful in a sexy pair of shoes.

The shown side of the shoe in the background is sort of my personal homage to my husband.  He has this eternal campaign of the idea that I should brand his name somewhere on my body, well this is the closest he'll every get.  I gave him some nice scroll font and the key to my heart.  (Aw, ain't I sweet?)  The skull and barbed wire are also references to him because he has tattoos that incorporate both on his arms.  Roses are also a typical romantic symbol and I made this particular one blue to be a bit more masculine.

personalized tattoo custom shoe heel

You can see that the front of the shoe in the foreground is the sacred heart with the cliche "Mom" banner.  The sacred heart is typically associated with Christianity and symbolizes the unconditional love of Christ.  This is why people often pair the symbol with the name of a loved one.  I am a mother, and I love my mom, so I thought this would be the perfect addition.

This side of both shoes is where I began to get a little more creative.  Tigers are also a common tattoo.  Here in our town, it is the mascot of the local high school.  My husband, both parents, aunts, uncles, brother and sister have all attended this school.  No way could I overlook it.  Now, the red maple leaves and waves usually are paired with Japanese Koi fish, which symbolize good luck and good fortune.  They are paired with the fish because they spawn in the fall.  For my purposes, I put them with the Tiger here because, well, fall is football season and that's when the Tiger makes his biggest yearly debut in our area.  The high school itself sits on a river bank, so the water fits nicely as well.

The background shoe in this picture shows a sun and clouds with an eight ball.  The eight ball is typically associated with risk or gambling.  Recently, we took a risk at relocating and had to deal with some cloudy times, but in the end the sun is rising and revealing a bright new phase in our life.  The nautical, or compass star, symbolizes making my own path.  I know, I'm getting really deep here. On a lighter note, I added the roses because they are one of the most popular tattoo images and look really nice with the rest of my work.  My favorite rose is the two-tone yellow and red or coral colored variety, so that's what I tried to illustrate.  And just so that I have complete research, the red rose symbolizes love while yellow is for joy.

I hope you like my latest project; I can't wait to wear them.  I'm hoping they will hold up nicely and I'm debating whether I should spray them with some type of sealant.  If they do fade or chip, I still have all the markers handy for touch ups.  If you are thinking about trying something new, go for it.  If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, I hope you will do at least as much research as I have before you permanently mark your body.  These are just shoes, and it didn't take that long, honestly Google is your friend.  Inking your body is forever.  Even when you're ninety, in a nursing home, and gravity has dropped or stretched all the images a few inches, you're still stuck with them.  I, however, will have gone through hundreds of pairs of shoes by then.



  2. Really neat!!!!!! I should get my 15 year old some of those dyeable kind - she'd probably love to do something similar!!!

  3. Jill - these were just cheapo fake leather. I think the dyeables might be difficult to work with because the sharpie could bleed on the fabric. Also, with these, if I made a mistake I was able to erase it a bit with acetone and a cotton swab.