Artist Claudia Lynch produces prints, cards, books and more based on her ShoeStories collection. We spoke with her recently about selling to a niche market.
ABI: What started your obsession with shoes?
CL: In the second semester of my return to art school, a fellow student facetiously wondered whether I’d ever turned in a project that didn’t have a shoe in it. As a former costume designer, it seems I was unconsciously still thinking in terms of clothes. These days, I find great freedom in designing fanciful footwear that will only exist on paper.
It’s easy to envision anything as a shoe! The graphic shape of a shoe, especially without the constraint of functionality, lends itself perfectly to unusual architecture and applied embellishment — whatever is necessary to express a character, a situation, or even an entire story. To paraphrase one reviewer: the Red Riding Hood shoe is not what Red Riding Hood’s shoe would look like, but what Red Riding Hood would look like if Red Riding Hood herself were a shoe.
ABI: What strategies have you used to make your work more saleable and collectable?
CL: The combination of elements make it possible to enjoy ShoeStories on a number of levels. There is literally something for everybody: a well-painted picture of a crazy shoe combined with puns and innuendo, topped off with the narration by a hard-boiled skirt chaser right out of a 1940’s detective novel, a character everyone can recognize.
A high heeled shoe is inherently sexy, so the stories are, too. But because the sex is never in the words but in the way they are interpreted, the viewer/reader is an integral element in the creation of the artwork. I think people really respond to that inclusion and the trust I place in them to bring their own life experience to the art and the stories.
Not to sound totally sexist, but I’ve seen this happen many times: A couple comes into a gallery to look at the ShoeStories, the man almost always against his will. Surely nothing about women’s shoes can be for him! While the woman is attracted by the paintings of shoes, the man starts reading the stories to pass the time until he can get the heck out of there. Instead, he is sucked in by the writing, proud of himself for getting the jokes and amused by the innuendo. In no time, he’s laughing out loud and invariably, he’s the one who ends up making impulse purchases for his friends.
ABI: How do you sell your work?
CL: I’m a regular exhibitor in a number of galleries, gift shops, museum shops and shoe stores. I also sell online and do a handful of trunk shows and book signings, mainly during the holidays. I try to have something at every price point to make ShoeStories prints, cards books and coloring books an affordable gift choice and impulse purchase.
Although I do sell the originals, the gicleé prints are a very faithful reproduction and make it possible for anyone to afford and to have a collection. When visiting someone’s home, I am often delighted to see a grouping of 4 or 6 ShoeStories in a guest bathroom — it’s the natural place for a bit of reading material! That phenomenon led to my tagline: “I’m proud to be represented in more downstairs powder rooms than any other living artist.”