By Hayley Thomas
Bold and beloved actress Bette Midler once pronounced, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Margot Silk Forest and Destiny Carter whole-heartedly believe in that statement – but with a twist. The Sassy Feet founders would much rather ladies create their own shoes and, perhaps by extension, take hold of their own destiny.
Sassy Feet offers classes, guidance and materials to help women transform their hum-drum kicks into vibrant, ready-to-wear show-pieces. Studios on the Park will host one of these classes on Saturday, April 28. Entitled, "I Can't Believe You Can Do That to Shoes,” the afternoon class will teach locals how to breathe new life to old accessories.
“Upcycling shoes and bags is for those of us who love to break the rules, express ourselves, have fun, and come up with highly-individual designs,” said Forest, a self-employed book editor, marketing writer, freelance graphic designer and fine artist. Originally from the Bay Area, she has made her home in Morro Bay. Artistic partner in crime, Carter, lives in Cambria. The two women, in their 60s and 20s, respectively, have hit a nerve among women of all ages and backgrounds. One class featured three generations of women.
“This class is great for kids and teens as well as adults, and we encourage people to bring their moms,” said Forest. “The spirit of ‘anything goes’ is really lively in Central Coast people as well as in kids. It’s a great energy we have in the class.”
The gals have taught more than 40 classes in the U.S., and their techniques have been picked up by some big names, including the wardrobe mistresses of Cirque de Soleil and the Broadway show “Wicked.”
Forest said Central Coast creatives are truly off-the-wall.
“They are incredibly enthusiastic and open to adventuring and trying wacky stuff,” she said. “At the classes held at Arts Obispo, people have gone in directions that I would have never predicted.”
Forest said she encourages free-form decorating, but emphasizes the fact that the shoes should be wearable – not just interesting looking.
One flip through the glossy how-to book, “Sassy Feet: Paint, Embellish and Love Your Shoes (and Bags)!” features more than 80 DIY designs for shoes and handbags. Mundane black flats are given a makeover with a splash of Kelly green paint and shimmery ribbons, sandals are spruced up with metallic stenciling and cowboy boots go from standard to special with a dose of color blocking. Each project detailed in the book is broken down by cost of materials, level of difficulty and patience required.
Forest said “upcylcing” is all about the idea of transformation.
“I had a rocky childhood and there was a lot to transform,” said Forest, who went on to help adults suffering from the scars of child molestation later in life. “There’s nothing so terrible you couldn’t transform it from your life. Lets have color, lets put some crystals on it. When I teach, I teach about life and the possibility of transformation and joy.”
According to Forest, the secret to joy is very simple: A splash of color and a dose of fearlessness. When it comes to upcyling shoes, “there’s no making mistakes because you can always re-do it,” she said. In a practical sense, refurbishing old items is also cost-effective.
“It saves money and gives us a feeling that we aren’t just running through the earth’s resources,” she said. “It means taking old or used or worn shoes and redoing them in a way that they are hugely more interesting and fun.”
The artist also writes for the magazine Altered Couture, which is dedicated to transforming scraps and old items into fresh clothing, bedding and more.
She said Studios on the Park is the perfect venue for her next class.
“The space reflects what the artists are like: incredibly creative and open,” said Forest. “ It’s a really unique space, and the classes they feature are wonderful. They are a real community resource.”
Those who take part in the class shouldn’t worry too much about their artistic ability. Forest admits she can hardly draw a tree. Carter is there to help where needed.
“She’s a color whiz and can draw anything at all. She’s brilliant,” said Forest. “If somebody wants to put a peacock on their shoe, she can sketch it.”
Forest and Carter encourage locals to “be fearless and put their best foot forward,” as shoe giant Manolo Blahnik once said.
“The bottom line is Sassy Feet classes are really fun and everybody who takes the class says ‘wow.’ It’s not only something new and useful, its something that keeps you alive and awake and makes you feel great,” said Forest. “You can finish a pair of shoes in one class and won’t go home with a half-finished project.”
Sassy Feet is currently holding classes four times a year in California, and Forest said she hopes it will catch on as a place for women to meet, get crafty and find confidence.
“We want it to be a group that gets together and inspires each other,” she said. “It’s like cross fertilization. Together, we all do a lot better.”
For more information, visit www.sassyfeet.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Class information
I Can’t Believe You Can Do That to Shoes!
Date: Saturday, April 28, 1 to 4 p.m. at Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine St. in Paso Robles
Description: A hands-on workshop in painting and embellishing shoes. All materials (except the shoes) included. Students will complete a pair of shoes during the class.
Cost: $50. A materials fee of $10 will be collected at the class. Sign up with a friend and the materials fee will be waived. Advance registration required: www. store.sassyfeet.com