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Meet the artist behind those giant ceramic Stan Smiths

Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas is recreating all your fave fashion footwear in clay

After tiny handbags and tiny shades took over the runway at the beginning of 2018, the latter half of the year is going in a different direction – one that seems to suggest that, actually, size does matter. First, there was Big Dick Energy, then came Kanye West’s giant Yeezy slides, before Proenza Schouler debuted oversized handbags slash sacks at its SS19 show just last night.

Joining the gang of size queens is artist Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas, who is making a name for herself by recreating your fave fashion shoes completely out of clay. After studying Communications Design at Pratt Institute in New York, Rojas realised she was more interested in focusing on ceramics.

Since then, she’s made clay versions of Balenciaga Crocs and Triple S’s, Fenty x Puma’s flip-flop heels, Vetements’ flame-print platform boots, and those double-ended Hood By Air cowboy boots. Playing with proportions, too, the ceramic shoes are often blown to gargantuan proportions, or alternatively, presented in miniscule form. “I love looking for shoe memes and fashion or shoe accounts such as @liljupiterr or @crimesagainstshoemanity – even @diet_prada ” Rojas tells us on where she finds inspiration.

Unsurprisingly, the artist’s work has already got her noticed, with adidas and Stan Smith himself enlisting her to create giant clay versions of the iconic shoe for its new book: Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe. Shot by Juergen Teller, the shoes appear on the tennis player who gave the shoes their name – the epitome of Big Shoe Energy.

Here, we speak to Rojas about creating her pieces and what it means to have Big Shoe Energy.

When did you start creating shoes out of clay?

Diana Rojas: I made my first clay shoe in 2016. I was looking down at my worn out sneakers that I wore all the time to the studio that I realised they looked like they were made out of ceramic. Then I thought it’d be funny to capture them in the material.  

What’s the process? How long does it usually take?

Diana Rojas: Depending on how detailed the shoes are, a ‘to scale’ version takes me anywhere from three to five hours to sculpt. After they’ve been sculpted they need to fully dry before they can be glazed (painted) and fired in the kiln. The drying time can take anywhere from a few days to weeks. In the kiln, the pieces take a full 24 hours to reach temperatures of over 2,000 degrees and then cool back down.

I love the medium, honestly, the range of emotions it evokes knowing that only so much is in your control is insane. Once the pieces are in the kiln all you can really do is hope they were dry enough and double check to make sure you set the kiln properly.   

What are some of your favourite pieces you’ve created?

Diana Rojas: My faves to sculpt were the Balenciaga Triple S sneakers. When I first made them, they had just been released so I had only one photo to work from and it didn’t show me all angles; I had to guess what the rest of the shoe looked like. I’ve made a few versions of the sneaker, both ‘to scale’ and oversized. I even made a Triple S ashtray for Fisher Parrish’s Ashtray Show this summer.

What is the reception like to your creations?

Diana Rojas: The reception has been so surprising! I started and continue making the shoes in ceramic because I truly enjoy it. In a way I’m pretending to attain these pieces, except I’m making them myself out of a medium that I love working with. I get super excited trying to capture these shoes as moments in our history.

How did the project with Juergen Teller and Stan Smith come about?

Diana Rojas: The team at Johannes Leonardo and adidas reached out to me about the project a year ago. I was super blown away. It’s funny how the project seems to have come full circle, as one of the first pieces I made was an adidas Stan Smith sneaker and this year I got to meet Stan Smith himself!

It was such a surreal project to be a part of and I’m super grateful to have been able to work with people that I admire so much. I still don’t quite have the words to describe how much Juergen Teller’s shot of Stan Smith in my ceramic Stan Smiths means to me. Everyone keeps saying it’s a big deal and to me, it still feels like a dream.  

What’s the most important thing to know about Big Shoe Energy?

Diana Rojas: You can’t exert Big Shoe Energy if you don’t have big shoes.

What do you do with the shoes after you’ve made them?

Diana Rojas: I’ve gotten the chance to show some of the pieces at  galleries like The Hole, Fisher Parrish, Andrew Edlin Gallery, and recently Pablo’s Birthday Gallery. A few shoes are floating around my apartment and studio. I gifted the very first one I ever made to my twin sister, Mars.

Some of my shoes have even made their way to Kendall Jenner, Frank Ocean, and my fave Petra Collins. Stan Smith has a ceramic Stan Smith Sneaker in his trophy case and I was told Juergen Teller has one in his studio! It’s so surreal! When I first started the project I just dreamt it’d be cool to fill a room with them, to make so many of them, they’d fill the walls and floor. I’m still working towards accomplishing that.

What would you love to recreate in clay that you haven’t already?

Diana Rojas: This is a tough one for me as I’ve been so shoe focused, but I’m also really into ceramic dog sculptures. I’ve made my dog Charlie from clay before, but I think it’d be cool to make a ton of ceramic sculptures of her – similar to how David Hockney had a ton of paintings of his dogs.

Right now I’m also focusing on developing the shoe idea into something more than ceramic. I’ve been wanting to experiment with bronze as well as softer more plush materials... but still shoes. I have plans to make the Yeezy slide too small for my own feet to recreate that photo of Kanye with his small slides. Also ‘the shoe’ from Cardi B & Nicki’s NYFW party fight is in the works too!

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