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Meet The Artist Turning Today’s Most Hyped Footwear Into Covetable Works of Art

The ugly sneaker trend shows no signs of waning. As many hypebeasts save up their cash and drool over their favorite fashion-forward footwear, Brooklyn-based artist Diana Rojas is making her own using clay and a kiln. From Vetements’ Fire and Star boots to Balenciaga’s Platform Crocs, her works of art serve to freeze some of today’s most absurd fashion trends, making unexpectedly permanent what was previously a fleeting flash in the pan. The result? Crave-worthy artworks that rival the very footwear they’re modeled after.

We sat down with Rojas to talk about her creative practice and the moment she decided to turn high-fashion into fine art.

Where did you grow up? What brought you to New York?

I was born in Cali, Colombia but spent the first few years of my life in Sevilla, Valle del Cauca, Colombia. My mom, dad, twin and I moved to New Jersey when I was about 4 years old. I moved to Brooklyn in 2012 for college along with my twin. We both attended Pratt.

Was there a specific moment growing up when you realized you wanted to be an artist?

I never really thought about wanting to be an artist but I don’t know what the heck I’d be doing if it wasn’t making art. My twin and I grew up watching my dad draw and paint after long days at work. He’d sit us next to his drawing table when we were really young and we’d try to copy the same thing he was making except with crayons. I think art is something I need to do rather than try to become an artist because I don’t think there is one specific trajectory that leads you there. I know it sounds corny but I can’t describe it any other way.

When did you first start making ceramics?

I came across the ceramics studio at Pratt my freshman year. I had never taken any ceramics classes before then. Ceramics had always been sort of a mystery to me and when I finally got a chance to try it myself I completely fell in love.

What do you like most about working with clay?

I love that clay (at least the clay you use for ceramics) is technically dirt or mud. It’s a material that can be transformed into anything with a little water, air, fire and an idea. I love how versatile the medium is.

What inspired you to start making ceramic shoes?

I remember looking down at my sneakers in the ceramics studio and seeing how they looked just like clay from how worn out they were. I think the ceramic shoes stemmed from the idea of making something out of nothing. Making what I didn’t have.

How long have you been developing this series? How has it evolved since you started and how do you hope to evolve it moving forward?

I’ve been working on ceramic shoes for about two and a half years. Every time I start one it feels super exciting and I think I’ll keep making them until it no longer does. Currently, I’m exploring making multiples of one shoe, thinking about how shoes are displayed in a commercial setting and working on shoes at different scales. I have a few ideas that are in the sketch phase, most of which continue using ceramic, but I also want to see what a giant plush leather boot would look like.

What is it about footwear that interests you most?

I think I’m a little obsessed with people’s relationships with shoes. Shoes are self portraits of their wearers. It’s interesting to see how a shoe can become a trend, and become a symbol of a generation. There’s so much hype around shoe culture. I’m also fascinated with how shoes can be both functional and not. We all understand a shoe’s purpose yet some shoes are not made to be worn, but rather they become collectibles.

What’s your process for making each sculpture?

Each sculpture is handmade using the “coiling method” in ceramic. I begin by collecting images of as many angles as possible for the specific shoe I’m going to make. I prefer working using the actual shoe as reference but most of the shoes I’ve made are using photos as reference. After having the silhouette of the shoe made I do the detailing work. The clay shoe then dries for a few days. I then glaze the piece and pop it in the kiln!

What are some of the shoes you’ve made so far? Do you have a favorite pair?

I’ve made Converse Chuck Taylors, Vans Slip Ons, Crocs both the regular and the Balenciaga versions, classic Ugg boots, Adidas Stan Smiths, Nike Air Forces as well as Margiela Tabis, a few from Gucci, Vetements Fire and Star boots and my favorite, Balenciaga Triple S to name a few!

What shoes do you hope to make in the future?

It’s hard to say. There are endless possibilities. Right now I’m working on more of the already iconic shoes but I always look forward to Fashion Week and keep up with sneakerhead Instagrams.

What do you hope viewers will take away from seeing your ceramic shoes?

I hope they find the humor in them because sometimes you can make what you thought you couldn’t have.

Who are some ceramic artists that inspire you most and why?

Alice Mackler’s work changed the way I saw ceramics from functional to sculptural. I’m so grateful to have stumbled across one of her shows at Kerry Schuss gallery when I first started working in the medium. Fischli and Weiss’ piece Suddenly This Overview will probably always remain my very favorite “almost” ceramic piece.

Images courtesy of Diana Rojas

Stay tuned to Milk for more hype art.

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