By Leila Frederick, VI Form
Custom Shoes with the Fifth Form Fellowship
Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. At their 25th reunion, the Class of 1968 created a fund to provide grants to V Form students for independent study during the school year or, more commonly, during the summer between V and VI Forms. Their intent in establishing this fund was to reward independent thinking, ingenuity, and planning and to encourage the student exploring non-traditional fields of inquiry or using non-traditional methods of investigation.
This past Summer I utilized the Fifth Form Fellowship grant to pursue a new art medium: painting custom shoes. I’d held an interest in painting shoes for a while, mostly because I had been seeing more and more Youtube videos of artists starting to paint wearable art. Being a bit of a sneaker fan, I watched a lot of those videos, especially over quarantine. Thanks to this grant, I was able to purchase some preliminary shoes, paints, brushes, and shoelaces to begin working on some shoes of my own!
I began by starting an Instagram account (@first_soup_productions) in order to easily communicate with customers. When someone was interested, they would directly message me with some general ideas.
Luckily, a couple of people had already expressed interest in custom shoes. My process was relatively uniform. After receiving their message, I’d email them a questionnaire to collect some information, such as favorite colors, any ideas they had, shoe size, and gauge preliminary ideas. Then, we’d work to craft a unique design that they would like. For some pairs, people had an idea based on a photo and I would paint my best replication of that photo. For others, they gave me their favorite colors and let me handle it myself. Both were very fun!
Actually painting the shoes took a lot more time than I was anticipating. Each shoe took multiple coats and a keen attention to detail that was incredibly time consuming. Thanks to COVID-19, however, I didn’t have all that much going on anyways! I had so much fun fielding ideas and painting cool kicks for cool folks.
I decided to donate the funds from sales to The Loveland Foundation. In the midst of the second civil rights movement, it seemed most prevalent to try and help out a charity dedicated to improving the lives of black women and girls. They focus on mental health and healing in order to live empowered and healthy lives. I was so happy to be able to help in any way I could, and thanks to continued interest, I was able to donate over $750!
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to try something new. If you were thinking about applying for a grant, I would recommend doing so. The best part is that I’ve been able to continue to paint shoes for people, even outside St. Mark’s! This hobby is one I look forward to continuing, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Leila Frederick is a VI form day Student from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. She enjoys playing tennis with her sister, Tate, and watching cartoons.
(Art – Lily Wang Luo).