Steel Sculptor of Kinky Shoes
It all started with a witch and a pair of red shoes. No, the story is a little different than the one you’re thinking of, but for sculptor Micki Shampang-Voorhies, it also has a happy ending.
Shampang-Voorhies, a resident of Blue River, OR, first got her start working with steel about 14 years ago. She and her husband, a coppersmith, had ordered a large metal witch to decorate the side of their house. She remembers, “When they delivered her, they brought a sheet of steel and a welder and said, ‘Try it yourself.’ I was hooked instantly.”
Shampang-Voorhies began experimenting with welding, first trying her hand at simpler projects like flat garden stakes, before moving on to more complex pieces like gates, arbors, and trellises. But it wasn’t until she saw a beautiful but expensive pair of red high heels in the window of a boutique that she was inspired to start designing what has become her signature: steel shoes. “I was doing silver work anyway, so I made a shoe and took it in and we traded. That started it all,” she says.Seven years later, Shampang-Voorhies continues crafting shoes out of various pieces of scrap metal and old tools. While her “Kinky Shoes” range from chic and sexy to fun and whimsical, the heel of her shoes is always made out of a tool of some kind, whether that might be a drill bit, hammer head, pliers, or a wrench.
For Shampang-Voorhies, inspiration comes not from celebrity style or fashion spreads, but from her own creativity, something she says is stoked by living a more remote lifestyle. “Being out in the country and in the middle of nowhere gets your creative juices flowing,” she says. “My husband and I don’t have TV or radio or newspapers, so we’re just kind of in our own little world here. It makes it easy to just concentrate and tap into your creative side, without the distraction of everything else going on.”Shampang-Voorhies’ method for creating new pieces reflects her appreciation for savoring the creative process. “I never just sit and make one shoe,” she explains. “I usually cut five or six at a time. I’ll cut the footbeds with a plasma cutter, apply the heel, and then bend and form the toe piece. From there, it’s just sitting around with buckets of junk and usually a glass of wine. I never sit down and have a finished product in mind before it starts,” she adds. “It’s basically an evolution. A piece that I intend to fit on a shoe may not fit, but it goes on another one. They just take on a life of their own.”
While Shampang-Voorhies relishes the process of creating her shoes, she also takes much joy in seeing the reaction of customers to her work. “I love meeting the people who love them. It keeps me fresh,” she says. In fact, Shampang-Voorhies does not offer her shoes online. She prefers to have them displayed in galleries like RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, OR and Two Moons Gallery in La Conner, WA. She also sells them herself at art shows and exhibitions across the country. “It’s a fun, fun job,” she says. “Sometimes people come up thinking they’re actually real shoes and then realize, ‘Oh, they’re metal!’ That’s a favorite reaction.”Shampang-Voorhies notes that her customers range in age from teenagers that save their money, to her oldest client, a woman who owns several Kinky Shoes and is in her 90s. But, somewhat surprisingly, Shampang-Voorhies says that she actually sells more shoes to men than women. “I think it’s a combination of the whole tool thing and the sexiness of the stiletto,” she says. “They’re very popular for man caves and offices.”
Shampang-Voorhies’ shoes will be available for purchase this October at the LOCAL 14 Women’s Art Show and Sale taking place at the World Forestry Center in Portland.Shoes available at Forever Art, 828 NW Hoyt St