If the shoe fits ...
Palo Alto artist takes her passion for shoes to the next step
Walking up to the front door of Corinne Friedman's Palo Alto Eichler, one can't help but notice the shoes all lined up — in the dirt at the side.
The saddle shoe, work boot and brown-leather number are filled with plants, and are indeed garden planters.
Friedman calls her entry "rue de shoe."
What began as a whim — let's have a garden party and turn an odd collection of white high-heeled shoes into little vases — has turned into a passion for this artist. Today, there are shoes in Friedman's front yard, backyard, living room and bathroom.
Friedman, who works weekdays as a massage therapist, spends her weekends on her art.
"You have to find balance in your life. One can't be healing all the time," she said.
Friedman was originally drawn to painting, studying art for three years at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, then transferring to the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied under Richard Diebenkorn.
"I wanted to get more into three-dimensional (art), and that led to paper-making and mosaics," she said.
But for years she sought ways to bridge the gap between healing arts and fine arts, at one time running a children's art center in Carmel Valley. She was ultimately drawn to Palo Alto to work at a holistic health center, and taught couples massage therapy at Watercourse Way.
But once she discovered shoes, her career started taking another path.
Besides the garden planters, Friedman has created 40 collages using mainly high-heeled shoes as her "canvas."
"I'm interested in the architecture of the shoe," she said, noting that she's drawn to shoes with big, high heels.
Marching along the half-wall between her living room and kitchen, and scattered about her living room, are her many sculptural shoes, with names such as "Shoe-fisticated" (decorated with butterflies); "Marie Antoinette" (inspired by a jar top); or "Watch Your Step," which is covered in parts from timepieces.
She finds the raw materials for her "re-treasured" art at flea markets, garage sales or at the monthly FabMo giveaways.
"(And) people bring me stuff," she adds.
One person brought her a broken teapot that had belonged to her grandmother; she decorated a shoe with the shards, and added wheels.
Many of her creations involve mosaics, but not only from traditional tiles; she incorporates glass beads, broken china cups (with the handles), teapots (with the spouts), dishes or pearls. She's also used feathers, leaves, anything that gives her the color and texture she's seeking.
Outside, her studio is a converted potting shed, with bins and boxes of bits and pieces of just about everything that's caught her eye.
In addition to the shoes, Friedman creates mosaic-topped garden tables; each takes her anywhere from three to five months and will sell for $600 to $800 (as do the shoe collages). She also makes large mosaic-covered planters.
Friedman tends to work on several projects at once.
"I have more ideas in my head," she said, than she can execute at once.
Once a month she gets together with other mosaic artists, who have even had a group show. Recently she had a "shoe show" at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, where she gleaned two honorable mentions.
Photos of her shoe sculptures can be seen in a book called "Artful Shoes," which she self-published through blurb.com. It can be previewed at www.artfulshoes.com.
Friedman's work can be seen in town as well, in the window at In Her Shoes at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto and at Open Studios in the spring.
One of her latest projects is re-purposing odd bits of china into tiered serving platters, which she calls "Artful Tableware."
"Aren't they zany?" she asked, pointing out the Bailey's cup on top of one. "Why not have a statement at your party? I wanted to make statements."
She's also thinking of expanding her art business to include more items for the home, whether it's garden art for the yard or a backsplash in the kitchen made of grandma's broken china.
"My idea is everybody has a box of their grandmother's stuff that they're shlepping around."
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Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.