If I haven’t extolled the artistic talent and sheer brilliance of my sister Freda, and how incredibly blessed I am to have her working with me day in and day out, please let me do so now. At the risk of sounding over-the-top, she is simply the most creative individual I know. Case in point: Mardi Gras.
If you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you know there is no other energy like it in the world (except possible Carnival, but I’ve never been to Brazil, so I can’t really speak to that). Mardi Gras is an explosion of color, sound, culture, food, and drink. It’s an amazing week-long party with parades, outrageous costumes, and my personal favorite: specialty giveaways. Most people know about the beads that are tossed from floats and balconies all over town, but did you know people also give away doubloons, coconuts, and shoes? Yes, shoes! I’m not talking little plastic Barbie shoes, I’m talking the most amazing, hand-embellished shoes you ever did see. Each shoe is a work of art!
We are lucky enough to be involved with the process of making these shoes for a beloved client, and thought we would pass on the tradition for your next Mardi Gras event.
Personally, I think these shoes go way beyond the status of “craft,” and into the realm of high art, but they would make a great activity at any glitzy, glamour-filled event. Basically all you need are some fun shoes (high heels are always great, but boots, wedges, sandals, even flip flops or baby shoes can work). The main ingredients for making Mardi Gras shoes are glitter, glue, and fun.
The shoes can be found in any discount shoe place (such as Payless), but for variety, I like to hit the thrift stores. The great thing about thrift stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army is that you’ll get an unbelievable variety of shoes to choose from, and all the money goes to a good cause. I always think it’s much more fun to have tons of different shoes, as opposed to one repeated style. You know what they say: “variety is the spice of life...” or in this case, the “variety is the glitter base for these amazing shoes!”
I must warn you that this is a messy craft, and your workspace may just end up looking like Tinkerbell and her friends went to war. But if you cover your floors and workspace with plastic or tarps, it shouldn’t be too bad. Still, it may truly test the suction power of your Dyson vacuum cleaner! I also have to warn you that glitter is contagious. My sister calls it the herpes of all craft supplies. You will unintentionally pass it on to your friends and family. Like the norovirus that is shutting down schools here in San Francisco, it’s merciless. You’ll find it in your bedsheets, your laundry, your pores... Yes, gross but true -- my sister has actually had glitter-filled zits! I won’t go there..
Here's a peek behind the scenes at our Mardi Gras shoe shop!
Anyway, if I haven’t frightened you off, you are going to have the time of your life!
The steps to making a Mardi Gras shoe are really easy, and the supplies are so varied that once you’ve got your base, anything from paperclips to bottlecaps can make a cool decorating element.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your shoes:
- Assorted shoes (any size, variety, or style)
- Modge Podge (my sister has tried every type of glue out there, and this is the best)
- Sponge-tipped paintbrushes (cheap ones are fine, just make sure you have plenty as they do tend to disintegrate with usage)
- Standard glitter (you’ll need a good sized jar, 4 oz. at least) Don’t get the expensive, ultra-fine glitter, you want the regular type. (As many colors as you can find!)
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks (stock up on the sticks!)
- Cardboard box (like a shirt/gift box, with a smooth bottom and no folded flaps) -- 1 per glitter color
- An assortment of embellishments: trims, laces, puffballs, old toys, bows, old Christmas ornaments, things you find under the seat cushions of your couch, etc.
- Plastic tarps to cover your working area
- Take your shoes and give them a gentle cleaning so they are dust and dirt free.
- Using your sponge brush, liberally apply Modge Podge to one area of the shoe at a time (you may want to start with the insole, or possibly the toe portion of the shoe).
- Hold your Modge Podged shoe over your shirt box and liberally shake on one color of glitter. You will only want to work with one color at a time, letting that color dry before adding another color. In this way, you can actually make patterns with your glitter.
- Make sure that your glitter adheres to all of the Modge Podge. Don’t leave any white spots. If need be, place your shoe on a piece of newspaper, and pour the glitter contents of the shirt box back into the glitter container. Repeat step 3 until the shoe is completely covered.
- Set your shoe aside to dry.
- When the shoe is dry, repeat step numbers 2 & 3 on different areas of the shoe. Keep repeating these steps until the entire shoe is covered in glitter. This is your base shoe.
- Let your base completely dry (may take 24 hours).
- Now, go to town! Using your glue gun, add whatever kind of crazy embellishments that you can gather. Don’t be shy; the crazier and wackier the shoe, the better it is!
- That’s it! Now display your shoes for the world to see.
You will want to make these shoes over the course of 2 or 3 days. The first day or two will be the preparation days, meaning, getting the shoe base ready for embellishment. The following day will be spent in a glue-gunning frenzy.
Day 1: Prep your area/prep the shoes
Make sure to cover your work area with plastic, tarps, etc. Trust me on this one.
Day Two: Decorating the shoes
As I mentioned above, I think this would be an amazing craft for a party, event, or fundraiser. The host would need to prep the shoes ahead of time, but once the base is done, then the real fun can begin. Invite your friends over for an evening that is bound to create memories. Just like a quilting bee, this is the kind of craft that engages lots of people at the same time and invokes that wonderful feeling of sharing. I can almost guarantee that if you get a group of friends together around the table decorating these shoes, the stories will fly (just like those glitter-bombing fairies)!
If you want inspiration just check out some of the amazing creations my sister Freda made for our client. I hope you, like me, can appreciate the utter genius behind each shoe, and although these boots may not be made for walkin’, they certainly (as the Cajuns say) laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll)!