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@fungal.fancy’s freakish foot-shaped soaps celebrate fetish culture

TextScarlett Baker

The bony and bulbous foot soap sculptures – created by Eve Shashoua – challenge unrealistic beauty standards and expand the meaning of femininity

Feet. Not the six-feet-apart-two-metres-away kind, but the two trusty multiples of five attached to your ankle bones that allow you to wander the Earth. Are they your fear, or your fetish? Ask yourself: are you podophilic, or podophobic? In a world presently frenzied by the state of our hands, lathered in layers of sanitiser and angst, isn’t it high-time we gave some equal attention to the other set of metatarsals at the end of our bodies?

Remember way back when, in the OG lockdown when the gatekeepers of society, more commonly known as Instagram, set the agenda for our quarantine hobbies? It was a time when banana bread became the holy grail; TikTok the safe haven; and a Zoom quiz simply translated into an opportunity to get inebriated on a Sunday afternoon. Yet rather than pander to convention, Eve Shashoua foresaw a different approach to pass the time. Instead, she began creating her own foot soaps – not to be confused with soap for the feet – but rather, actual bulbous and bunion-y foot-shaped sculptures. 

The 24-year-old artist from Northumberland, who goes aptly by the Instagram moniker, @fungal.fancy, is leaving her own digital footprint in more ways than one by creating an online apothecary of soap sculptures, in the shape of freakishly-looking feet. Her striking figurines with wrinkled skin, bulging veins, and protruding toenails, each adorned with a metallic pedicure, are redefining our washing routines – gone are the dull days of a parochial Dove bar – because nothing makes bath-time more exciting than lathering yourself up with a huge knobbly foot. 

“I’ve always been drawn to feet because they really represent the cross-section between sex and disgust,” shares Shashoua on the origins of her project. This binary traces back into the history books, underlined by an unsurprising Freudian analogy that feet are somewhat risque because they resemble penises. “I read somewhere the other day that apparently 50 per cent of people who have fetishes have a foot one, and I feel like there’s something really intimate about it. That’s why I like them; most people feel on the surface that they’re disgusting, but when you think about it, they’re really intriguing.” Citing the theory of the grotesque body – a school of thinking that transgresses beyond what is considered normal and stable – Shashoua’s carvings are the product of an on-going fascination with challenging heternormative assumptions surrounding the female body. 

“Something that is so garish it’s hard to look at but also hard to look away from. it’s humorous and disgusting, but underlined with intrigue” – Eve Shashoua, @fungal.fancy 

From fashioning pig snouts to trotters, Shashoua began to interrogate this thought at university, training in Fine Art at Kingston School of Art and later undertaking a 10-week course in prosthetics at the Delamar Academy of Make-Up and Hair. She became fixated by the repugnant images of the female form, instead questioning what femininity really means. “It’s about making the woman feel powerful in situations where her femininity has been exaggerated from swollen lips to really long nails,” she says. “Something that is so garish it’s hard to look at but also hard to look away from. it’s humorous and disgusting, but underlined with intrigue.”

Part-soaper part-sculptor, Shashoua’s provocative paws are challenging unrealistic beyonds standards, So what does beauty mean to her? “Beauty is about not caring. It’s about being unapologetic and owning your humanity,” she shares. “As a species we’re really gross by default. We’re so leaky and oozy and I think it’s really empowering and sexy to embrace that. Even with bits of spinach in your teeth.” Shashoua attributes her philosophy to the influence of drag culture in her life, a place she considers to be one of play, and of power. “It’s proving that the possibilities of what is beautiful are endless. “Aesthetically I love how it’s over-the-top, how it explores gender and subverts what femininity can be. It goes beyond gender, becoming all sorts of post-human. There is drag out there where people are ogres and fatbergs; it’s so exciting!” 

Somewhere between the Grand High Witch and Cruella de Vil – “my beauty idol,” she says –  Shashoua’s suds are carefully crafted from a traditional moulding process and are available to purchase via her IG account. “You make a sculpture, and then you cast it, which was something I learnt to do over lockdown. There was so much talk about how you have to wash your hands so I thought, it’s the perfect time to make soap,” she explains. And while she’s not shy of Instagram’s detrimental relationship with the beauty industry, Shashoua is using her platform to promote a positive relationship. “We’re exposed now to so many differences and variations; everyone has a platform of some sort now,” she notes. “This is huge. It’s more important than only ever seeing models in glossy magazines.” 

Tackling convention by standing on her own two feet, Shashoua’s cleanly creations are serving a pithy reminder of an industry still in pursuit of change.  “I get a lot of messages, – mainly from men – saying, ‘I don’t know whether I’m turned on or disgusted by this,’ and that’s exactly the line I want to be sitting on.” She delights in the discomfort it provides for her viewers, breaking the stigma around what society charters as attractive, using this unmistakingly visceral body part to tear down the chagrin of fetish culture paralleling an overlooked zone of intimacy, rich with sensory receptors, to the intimacy that comes with washing. Whether you gingerly accept a foot rub, or whether you’ve got full-blown foot fever, Eve Shashoua is using her theatrical shapes to tackle our body insecurities one toe at a time. “I’m going to start making candles next. I think it’ll be really cool because hopefully the nail will curl over,” she laughs, expanding her empire by putting her best foot forward.  

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