Two friends are turning plain canvas shoes into works of art.
WITH the tongue-in-cheek brand name, Art, My Foot, is spreading the word that art should be enjoyed in any form — even on shoes.
Whether it is a hand-painted book cover, Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved animation, a unicorn or a Pokemon, Dora Ong and Daniel Lim are turning canvas shoes into works of art.
Ong and Lim ventured into the business when they wanted to make their art wearable. They know people like art in different forms instead of only those that hang on walls or in museums.
“Some people feel that art should be an expression of their feelings and personalities. They want paintings that are personal to them which can be about their pets or a symbol.
“Art should be enjoyed by everyone in any form. They can enjoy it on their walls, on their clothes or on their feet. I don’t think anyone should question what is art and what is not. Our name, Art, My Foot, says it all,” says Lim.
Ong and Lim have been friends for more than 20 years since their art class days at Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and were again classmates pursuing the visual communication programme at Temasek Polytechnic. Both are Singaporeans, although Ong is married to a Malaysian and has been living in Kuala Lumpur since 1999. She now runs an advertising agency, a cafe and a select store.
Lim is working as a part-time baking instructor in Singapore after graduating from a patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu Malaysia.
The two have different styles although they complement each other. Ong says she is an animal lover so she focuses on animal-related and, at times, cartoon characters. Lim’s expertise is tattoo inspired, Japanese art and floral designs. However, both draw anything as requested by their customers.
“I receive a lot of requests to draw pets such as cats and dogs, sometimes tigers and wolves. I was also asked to draw Pokemon, Transformers and Star Wars characters. For more complicated designs, people go to Daniel,” says Ong.
It was Ong’s idea to set up Art, My Foot after a disastrous outcome at an art bazaar in Awegallery in 2016 and since Ong was running the gallery’s event space, she wanted to support the bazaar.
As she did not have anything to sell, she bought a few canvases and asked Lim to draw. A few days before the bazaar, they had about 20 paintings ready to be sold.
Unfortunately, no one bought the paintings except a few friends who wanted to support them.
“I thought something was wrong. Maybe our art was horrible or were too expensive, although the prices were between RM60 and RM90. It was then I thought maybe people no longer wanted art for their walls but on items they can wear. I told Daniel we should embark on wearable art and use shoes as the medium,” says Ong.
When Lim pointed out that hand-painted shoes are not a new concept, Ong convinced him that theirs would be different as the drawings would be personalised. Their canvas shoes are from Japanese brand Muji, as the material is more suitable for their artwork. Their first hand-painted shoes were a drawing of a bird by Ong and floral Japanese theme by Lim.
They posted the pictures of the shoes on Instagram, and soon after people were asking about them. To their surprise, the shoes became quite popular. People began to request their own designs and theme.
“Customers tell me that sometimes the shoes can be an ice-breaker.
“A customer wanted a book cover painted on the shoes. She told me that people would ask about the shoes and then they would talk about the book,” says Ong.
Ong’s favourite design is a request from a customer who loves travelling. The drawing is a combination of two of the customer’s favourite cities, New York, and Santorini in Greece.”
At the moment, their work is only on slip-on canvas shoes as they use acrylic paint which works best on the material. Usually the process involve coating the shoes with silkscreen paint as base. Then they paint the drawings with acrylic, followed by spraying with varnish.
Customers can pick their own brand of shoes, provided the material is suitable for acrylic paint. They can then select from a portfolio of designs or request for their own.
Ong says she takes between four and five hours to paint a pair of shoes which are priced between RM300 and RM400. To date, she has painted more than 100 pair of shoes. Lim, who says he is not as focused as Ong, takes three to four days to complete one design. He has painted 60 pairs of shoes.
“I could not have done this without Daniel. He was responsible for choosing the name and positioning the brand. Although he lives in Singapore, he takes orders,” says Ong.
Lim says although he was a bit apprehensive about the venture initially, he trusted her judgment. After more than a year of drawing on shoes, he is happy that he can share his art with others.
“I am glad we chose to work on shoes because people have more than one pair. Our customers are from all ages and that is what I like about our business. We also do not market ourselves aggressively other than posting pictures of our work on Instagram and Facebook. Our shoes speak for themselves.
“People like our shoes because the designs are exclusive. They are the owners of personalised shoes. Even with the same design, hand-painted shoes are not identical,” says Lim. His favourite design is a blue tiger surrounded by flowers.
Art, My Foot will be having an pop-up stall at Isetan One Utama from May 11 to 13 and will be launching the Malaysian Theme shoes with Salang Design Embroidery patch at the event.