Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Morse Code and my Michael Jackson Muses Shoe (I swear, there's a connection)

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink he describes the phenomenon of "fist" in the context of telegraph operators and code-breakers during WWII. I'm no Malcolm Gladwell, but I'll sum up for those who haven't read it: the British women listening in on the German's messages eventually noticed that the way each operator tapped out their dots and dashes was distinctive, like a voice. The unique individualized way of sending a message in Morse code was termed "fist." Eventually, they could tell which operator was sending the coded messages, which gave them information indirectly even if they didn't know what the messages were saying (who was moving where, etc.).

Now, I know I'm pretty obsessed (one might even say *addicted*) when it comes to glittered throws, but more and more I notice that individual glitter artists have their own distinctive styles, their own glue-and-sparkle-covered "fist," if you will. A certain type of trim or color palette, and I immediately have at least a guess whose shoe or purse I'm looking at (though all the marvelous cross-pollination we have going these days makes it a little tougher to trace). There's something to be said for identifying what elements characterize your style, both so you can push outside your comfort zone and, at the other end of the spectrum, so you can embrace your unique take on the throw.

In weak moments I may believe I'm an exception because I'm so super versatile with such eclectic tastes in inspiration that this couldn't possibly be the case for me shoes, but who am I kidding with that? I think my signature style (certainly the shoes of mine that people are most responsive to) is what I tend to term the "structural shoe" which I define as a shoe where something has been built out or replaced, especially the heel/back of the shoe. For example, if the back of the shoe is a popcorn box, or a snoball or a trumpet...that's more likely to be one of my babies (though not always - plenty of other people rock this approach out). I am also most inspired by shoes in this style, like Robert Tabor's Shoe Sculptures and Claudia Lynch's Shoe Stories Prints.

Last year a friend asked if I'd make her a Michael Jackson shoe last year, but Glitter Buzz Nola had recently absolutely crushed it on this fabulous pair of MJ shoes. So I had to really think about it: "What are the unique elements of my shoe style? What can I bring to this concept? What would make it not only an MJ shoe but undeniably one of my shoes?" This was one of the shoes of 2016 that people most gushed over (in person and online), so I feel like that approach paid off in a really satisfying way. I'm also embracing my crazy a little more, so I felt like it was ok to lean into over-the-top construction details - hand placing hundreds of rhinestones is nuts, sure, but the end result was so worth it and that makes me happy.

On to construction details and pics!

Glitter Buzz Nola nailed the color palette, so I didn't deviate much from that: silver, black, red and plenty of clear rhinestones. I used Gary's glitter by the pound for the black and silver, and Martha Stewart "garnet" for the red.

I knew I wanted the rhinestone glove on there, and considered attaching it like it was holding the shoe, very much like what you see here on this weird pair . But no matter how I configured that, it always looked a little creepy, like a disembodied zombie hand reaching out and grabbing onto your shoe. My overactive imagination aside, I needed something to bridge the gap. I decided to go with what I'm best at shoe-wise and put some structural element in place of the heel/back of the shoe. I made the heel into a stylized microphone, then wrapped the glove around that, then bedazzled like a mad women (which I am). Success! I loved the way this looked.

The microphone is a foam ball covered with some netting I spray-painted silver on a cylinder of black craft foam with some silver trim. I stuffed the white glove (my late mother was a costumer, so her stash includes many many pairs of cheap white cotton gloves) with cotton and hot glued it to the microphone, then did several coats of white glitter to stiffen the fabric and add some shimmer between the rhinestone cracks.

Here's the shoe after the microphone and glove were added, before any beddazling. You can also see I used a little black craft foam to add some loafer detail to the shape.
 Once the glove was in place, I started adding the rhinestones one at a time. I used Jewel-It (devoted readers will remember that E6000, though near and dear to my heart, is no beuno for rhinestones and Elmer's wasn't really working out - not thick enough). This was my first foray into serious rhinestone coverage and I learned a lot. I used a wooden dowel and a plain chapstick to dip in glue and transfer rhinestones onto the glove, then buffed off the chapstick from the dried surface. That worked pretty well, but I have since invested in some of these, and they're even better (though I'm hoping Santa brings me a rhinestone katana). I've also started using GemTac instead of Jewel-It, and I might maybe like it a tiny bit better (though both are good).

Rhinestone coverage in process! Please don't judge the mess - it was nuts trying to get shoes done this year

One of the other elements of my style (though just about everyone else who uses this technique does it better than me, including former workshop attendees, which seriously bruises my poor frail ego) are transfers. If you haven't tried transfers yet, check out my write-up here and Glitter Buzz NOLA's excellent blog post here here (including video!!) It's an awesome way to add great detail to your shoes/purses/etc.

I did a couple of black glitter silhouettes of MJ. I tried them on the red, but they popped most over the silver so I stuck them inside the shoe as a little hidden Easter egg type detail.

The one of the far left didn't look as clean once transferred, so I just used the middle and right and made a graffiti lettering red "WHO'S BAD?" transfer to fill the space
After glittering, adding the glove and hand placing hundreds of rhinestones, working out some additional glove embellishment and gluing on transfers (including the silhouettes, an "I <3 MJ" with the heart outlined in rhinestones, and Muses 2016), the shoe was ready to go be loved in it's new home:

Next post I'll share what I'm working on right now for 2017 - pralines, fish shoes, snoballs...