Saturday, May 4, 2013

Stepping Out in Faith

The talent of many of the artists on Etsy continues to amaze.  Last week I was introduced to the shop of Dianna Wood of TheWoodsSecretGarden.  On the heels of a lush Rousseau painting, her intricate botanical illustrations grace suede boots, shoes and other wearables.   She combines beautiful flora and fauna with text, often scripture passage, that she paints by hand with waterproof dyes.

When we chatted after a treasury exchange, she graciously agreed to the interview that follows these gorgeous product photos.

bark cloth inspired pumps
Hillard Hanson Suede Boots

high heeled lace up "Truth" boots

"Happy Trails" long suede jacket
Victorian inspired "Truth" boots
Bearpaw botanical boots

Q) Your illustrations remind me of a Rousseau painting.  Who have been the greatest influences in your art?

A) I really can’t point to a particular artist as having “influenced” my art. However, I can say that I am creatively “inspired” by just about every artist and tend to be most challenged by the realists from the 14th Century. I spent years working with oil on canvas and found that abstract and non-objective compositions were very easy and only require a good eye for color and composition where photo realism requires actual technical skill.

Q) What are challenges that you find using three dimensional suede as your canvas?

A) There is something wonderful about holding the canvas in your hand and being able to turn it as you go. I can complete a project sitting up in bed with a pillow on my lap – which is wonderful after a long day at the office.

In terms of the three dimensional aspect—really very little challenge at all. With boots and shoes, I do need to consider creating a design that will not only look good from every angle but will also work well with its counter part, i.e., the other boot or shoe. Decisions have to be made in terms of “the view” as well. Will the design look good to the wearer looking down at their feet, as well as from the vantage point of an on-looker?

Proper perspective can sometimes be problematic if you want a realistic image to extend down onto a heel or wrap around the toe. But that can be easily solved by using the larger flat surfaces for the more detailed realistic illustrations or by sketching out the design on paper and then tapping it to the boot and taking a “far off glance” before actually working on the boot itself. That has saved me from many a design mistake.

Q) How have you promoted your work outside the Etsy venue? 
A) I started my line of wearable art a little over a year ago and up until just a few months ago, had done no other promotion outside of Etsy. In December, I was looking for a pair of suede boots to illustrate as a Christmas present for our little granddaughter who lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas and struck up a conversation with the manager of the BEARPAW retail store in Citrus Heights. After showing her my business card and telling her what I intended to do with the boots, she promptly suggested that I contact the VP of Global marketing about the possibility of doing some boots for BEARPAW.
One thing led to another and I am now the lead artist for BEARPAW’s international campaign called “Creative Expressions” You can see my designs and read about the campaign on their web page at:

I work full time in law enforcement and also assist my husband with his ministry so there is little time to create, let alone promote. I am so grateful that this opportunity with BEARPAW came along. They are an international shoe company and the exposure has been outstanding.

Q) Describe a perfect work day in your studio/work space.

A) A perfect day would be to actually have a full day! I have to squeeze in design time when I can. There are, however, a few Saturdays when I wake up before the sun comes up with a design in my head and can spend the entire day getting that design out of my head and onto a handbag, jacket or boot.

I am very fortunate that my husband is supportive of my art and will actually do all the chores on those days to allow me time to create.

The only regret that I have about my line of wearable art is that it is not affordable for the average customer.  
I would love to see technology advance so that my designs can be printed on suede, therefore mass produced and sold at a more reasonable price.  We have a joke around my house, “I am the artist and even I can’t afford my boots”.
Until then – I will keep “Stepping out in Faith”

I think you will agree that this one-of-a-kind, wearable art is priced right.  Visit Dianna's shop here: TheWoodsSecretGarden.  She also will accept commissioned work on your existing boots or purse.  (FYI, I saw the "The Dream, by Rousseau" up close and personal at MOMA on my trip to NYC January, a highlight!  The soles of my practical tennis shoes came home adorned only with gum from the E train subway.)