A pair of boldly painted stilettos are about to travel to homes across Canada.
The shoes are called Sassy Steps and were created by Digby resident and artist Diane Axent. She hopes that over the next year a pair of her artistically refurbished shoes will help to tell the stories of change and acceptance.
The whole story started when Axent was trying on a pair of her favourite shoes from years gone by. To her dismay, they no longer fit, Axent reminisced about special memories she had wearing her now tight shoes. Known in the community for organizing creative networking socials at her home, she thought it would be a great idea to invite her women friends over for a gathering and have them wear or bring a pair of shoes that held a special memory or story for them. “We all have stories of struggles, hope and change”, says Axent. “Just like a good pair of shoes we, too, have a story to tell.”
Listening to women tell their shoe stories that night and seeing the common bond they created among each other, inspired Axent to begin painting gently used shoes. “I like to think they are making a statement about how everything can be re-invented – like objects, careers and people.”
Diane Axent knows a little something about reinvention. Once a successful businesswoman with retail outlets and countless employees, she was forced to stop working due to her heart condition. “I don’t ever want to dwell on the negative,” says Axent, a grateful recipient of four pacemaker implants over 20 years. “I believe when one door closes, another opens.” Recently forced to slow down even more and look after her health, she took up a hobby of painting on boots and shoes. “Repurposing old boots into Birdhouse Booties and now these shoes into Sassy Steps has been a relaxing and meditative outlet for me”.
Ever since that night with the ladies Axent had been creating folksy art pieces for friends, charity and fundraisers. “Friends began dropping off old boots and shoes for me to paint, even leaving pairs on my doorstep,” remembers Axent.
But this week, a pair of once tan coloured heels, now brightly decorated, are going on a road trip. Axent has gathered a list of volunteer “hosts” from across Canada through her website www.mycanadianaxent.com. “So many people have contacted me to say they would love to be a part apart of this crazy-fun project.”
She will pack the shoes with their “Adventure Travel Documents”; all signed by provincial and local politicians and community leaders. The documents will accompany a binder, which the hosts are asked to fill with their stories and photos of the shoe’s adventures while in their care.
On her Sassy Steps website, Axent suggests taking the shoes to parties, to lunch with the girls, car rides or even to your school or work place - maybe wear them. After a 2-3 week period, hosts must send the shoes off to their next destination. The public can read up to date information about their travels on the “Sassy Steps” Facebook page.
Every host will receive keepsakes and promotional gifts from Digby and the Province of Nova Scotia plus a personal Sassy Steps shoe gift from their refurbishing artist.
At the end of the stiletto’s long journey, Diane plans to produce a book called “Sassy Steps on Tour” from the stories provided to her by their hosts. She also hopes to hold public events to display the book along with all the new Sassy Steps she'll continue to create.
Axent is already planning the next “step” for her shoes - to travel the world. “People from Africa, Germany, England, Columbia and the U.S. have contacted me saying they would love to host these shoes so I feel their potential for fun is endless”, Axent says with a smile.
It is easy to believe every future Sassy Steps host will agree.