Thursday, 10 May 2012

From the wall to the shoe: is art becoming portable?

Traditionally, ‘portable art’ refers to small examples of Prehistoric art that can be carried from place to place, usually in the form of engraved or painted bones and stones. Whilst this has certainly gone out of fashion, it would seem that a different form of portable art has taken its place.  The art form of graphics is far from new as artists including Alan Fletcher (1931-2006) and arguably the Victorian William Morris have shown. What perhaps is new is the idea of transferring our art onto more transportable and conventional objects. 
Felix Green, founder of the shop, InkHeart Custom Kicks & Caboodle, sees himself as an artist. Graphics is his forte and shoes are his medium. The reason is simple: although his drawings and designs were popular, would a picture sell? With more artists choosing different mediums such as bags or clothing to channel their work as part of a ‘bespoke craze’, the question is raised whether the classic ‘painting on the wall’ is falling out of favour among some of us art lovers.

The enlightenment for Felix to transpose his art onto shoes came with a dramatic leg break. Completely unable to walk for a long time, he could not find a pair of shoes that he liked enough to treat himself to upon recovery, prompting him to draw one of his works on a pair of pumps. At the same time, his recently launched online portfolio was receiving generally very positive feedback. With the collaboration of a local shop to stock his produce, and a launch on the online store Etsy, his prints were transferred onto pumps. When business really kicked off, Felix bit the bullet, quit his job and turned his full attention to his art works. Next, he plans to incorporate printable bags and t-shirts. Demand for these has clearly risen, as seen in the mass availability ofBanksy print bags and clothing.
Felix has been in London to test the waters with the ultimate aim to launch on Spitalfields market. Although a somewhat daunting prospect, Felix admits that London definitely spurred him on, as the custom-made t-shirt and bag concept is big news down there and he has found London-based graphic artists to be helpful. Whilst members of art communities are often guarded with their plans, London artists were open with tips and ideas.

As an artist, Felix gives the creative process as much significance as the finished product and he only ever produces images that feel natural to him. Even so, a majority of his work is on commission, with clients requesting a specific image and leaving him the sometimes difficult but enjoyable task of adapting it to feature on a shoe. Whilst some of these requests are sometimes odd, Felix stresses that this is what makes his art so exclusive; it allows for that unique stance within the bespoke craze and it is the individual touch that he so loves in his work. Moreover, these suggestions often move Felix in new directions not otherwise considered. As a keen photographer, he does the professional marketing shots of his products himself. Before any graphic elements may be applied to design, they must be created by means of visual art; thus, the artistic flair is maintained throughout the whole process.

So, is this concept of approachable and portable art the new art form? The uniqueness and nostalgic concept of InkHeart’s products obviously make them sentimental and expressive pieces; they are his works of art. This, along with the fact that the Internet plays such a prominent role within his work through the commission, the advertising and the inspiration of his products, suggests that the modern art form is changing. It is becoming more transferable and fluid, with a much wider ability for the individual to develop that personal touch.  And with an actual need for shoes and bags, Felix has the perfect opportunity to transfer his skills.

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