Sole mates

 

Mushroom paper shoes
Mushroom paper shoes

My dyepots have been cool for several months now—fall is the time for collecting dye mushrooms, and it was a fairly good season, all in all—so here’s a photo of something else I made in the summer. These were in response to a call for entries for an exhibit, “Under My Feet,” put on by my fibre mentor and textile artist extraordinaire, Yvonne Stowell, in her lovely space, FibreWorks Gallery, in Madeira Park.

Papermaking takes second place to dyeing and spinning, but occasionally I get the urge to mix up a vat of mushroom pulp, pull out the molds and deckles, and make a right good mucky mess. Yvonne’s call for entry came at a time when I decided I needed some slip-on shoes specifically for my studio (the bright orange Crocs just don’t do it for me), so I used a pair of almost-falling-apart house slippers as molds.

I first made the soles (using pulp made from red-belted conk, or Fomitopsis pinicola), cutting several layers of paper around an outline of the slipper soles and pressing them together—”laminating” sounds more sophisticated, doesn’t it? Then I draped more cut-to-shape pieces over the tops, again pressing several layers together. I hadn’t planned how to secure the various parts to the soles, but my hands naturally went into piecrust mode, and that seemed to work, so for continuity, I continued that pattern around the backs of the soles. The shoes needed some embellishment, and I had lots of leftover Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) pulp on hand, and I used that to make some brown diagonal bands. Phaeolus pulp is quite crumbly, and I had to be careful to keep it from falling apart.

I covered everything loosely with plastic wrap, to keep the shoes from warping, but after a few weeks I noticed bits of white mold were taking root. I removed the slippers and stuffed the openings with crumpled newspaper, placed them on a mesh screen to encourage the bottoms to dry, and left them under a very loose tent of plastic.  When everything had dried, the dark brown bands were still crumbly, so I gave everything a waterproofing coating.

Mushroom paper being what it is, I didn’t expect to come up with anything dainty or delicate; “robust” is probably a better word to describe these (although they weigh almost nothing). However, they’ll end up being for display only—these thick soles have absolutely no capacity to bend, and stomping around flat-footed is a bit ungainly!

Don’t expect me to create a line of fashionable paper shoes—not in the immediate future, anyway.

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