If you’re the type of person who likes having things that are completely unique, how about walking down the aisle in a pair of bespoke hand-painted shoes? Gemma Kenward is an artist who specialises in painting footwear, so we asked her to tell us a bit more about her work and her quirkiest wedding requests…
I came across hand painting shoes by complete accident. I was selling paintings and greeting cards at the time, taking on freelance jobs and basically doing what every artist does to get by. One of my friends was having a fancy dress party and I went as a clown. I bought a funky t-shirt, a red nose and a bowler hat as well as an oversized tie. However I didn’t want to be stomping about the party in big clown shoes, so I bought a pair of cheap white high heels and painted them up with polka dots, stripes and stars in bright colours. Literally everyone at the party (especially the girls) were stopping me asking where I got my shoes from and how could they get a pair.
Then the lightbulb moment struck! I began to hand painted shoes with flowers, stars, etc. and popping them up on social media sites to sell. As my posts got seen by more and more people, I started to get messages from new clients asking me if I could personalise their wedding shoes for them. I’ve always been interested in typography and calligraphy, yet was not sure how that fit into my artwork until that moment. I knew it was going to be success after the first one or two shoes I painted. I had finally found my unique selling point and I ran with it!
I adore every aspect of my work, from the initial emails chatting to brides and grooms, to packing them up and sending the shoes on their merry way. I think the most satisfying part of the process is when the bride or groom receive their shoes. I still quite believe that someone would like me to be part of their special day and walk down the aisle in a pair of shoes I have painted. It’s an amazing compliment to my artwork.
I think every couple wants something special that sets their wedding apart from others. Personalised wedding shoes really are completely and utterly unique to you and you are guaranteed no other couple is going to have your shoes. I’ve painted llamas on wedding shoes, leprechauns, dragons, portraits, tardises and even gym equipment! Just last month I painted a pair of shoes for a bride with an orangutan, ring-tail lemurs, the Israel skyline and a troll stomping through Norway (prime Troll territory apparently!). It was so unique and every single illustration on the shoes meant something to her and her partner.
The shoes are also something that can be kept for years to come. I have one bride who wears her wedding shoes on her anniversary every year and sends me an annual picture to say thank you.
Wedding shoes always make a great photo on the day and quite a lot of our couples leave the shoes as a surprise for their guests so it’s an added extra to tie the whole wedding together. Just last week I finished a pair of shoes for to-be-wed who asked me to paint a pair of Toms shoes as a surprise gift for their other half to wear at the dancing part of their reception, which I thought was so cute. They were so sweet emailing me about designs for pink, butterfly themed shoes. I can’t wait to hear how the surprise shoes went down!
I have also painted quite a lot of shoes where a bride or groom has lost a loved one and would like a part of them with them on the wedding day in the form of a little tribute on the shoes. I, too, lost my Mother a few years ago now and know how hard it can be knowing someone you want to be there with you so much won’t be. It’s just a little nod to fallen soldiers, as my fiancée would say. It’s things like that which make the wedding day special and to be part of that is magical.
The majority of our to-be-weds give me a free reign because they have seen my work on our website and know what kind of style they are going to get. I always ask if there’s anything in particular they would like included, particularly colour schemes.
Having said that a good handful know exactly what they want down to the last detail, which I try my very hardest to fulfill. The shoes have to be perfect! I can often tell when a couple doesn’t mind a bit of my crazy stylised flicks and curls in the artwork (which I tend to get carried away with once I’m on a roll!) just from speaking to them and the tone of their emails, just like I can tell if a bride wants something a little more subtle and understated. That comes from experience of speaking to all kinds of couples from all walks of life.
Find out more about Gemma shoes or order a pair direct at gemmakenwardshoes.com