Ruby Silvious, Paper Shoes

Introduction by Mary Kathryn Jablonski

Whimsy is thought of as something quaint and/or fancifully odd behavior. Each of these artists’ works may seem to fit into this category at first glance, but upon considering their work more closely over time, reflect on how play is an integral part of the creative process and how “whimsy” may be a veil to deeper meaning. Play, in art and other fields such as writing, music, math, science and technology, keeps creative minds open to “accidents” and new possibilities or discoveries. What may seem random (or whimsical) often has or can lead to patterning, logic and structure. Consider the Fibonacci sequence (expressed in the pine cones, pineapples, sunflowers and more) and the Golden Ratio in nature itself. Then again, sometimes whimsy is just whimsy.

An Interview with Ruby Silvious

Mary Kathryn Jablonski – Can you talk a bit about process and how the “Paper Shoes” series evolved from your other bodies of work including the painted tea bag art and Oribrami.” Is paper your favored medium?

Ruby Silvious – In 2019, I decided to scale back on my tea bag paintings and, on a whim, try my hand at making paper shoes using scraps and upcycled packaging board. Early that year, I met a friend whose incredibly extensive shoe collection inspired me to start the new series. I’ve always loved paper and from my travels, I had accumulated quite a pile that was just collecting dust. It seemed like the perfect project for it. You can turn something plain and flat into something sculptural and dimensional, and the patterns and designs of the paper all have a story to tell. What’s not to like?

MKJ- I’ve noticed there are no pairs of “Paper Shoes.” Is this intentional?

RS- They were never intended to be created in pairs. Why make another of the same shoe when you can design a new one? It’s not unlike my favorite sock brand’s slogan — “Life’s too short for matching socks.”

MKJ- At first glance, this series of yours titled, “Paper Shoes,” is certainly colorful and whimsical, yet in looking at these shoes, I cannot help but think of all the myths and associations having to do with shoes that imbue this work with deeper meaning. Think of course of the adages: Walk a mile in your shoes… If you were in my shoes… Can you speak to this feeling we get from these pieces?

RS- Old cliches and adages did cross my mind when I started this project, but I wanted my collection to stand on their own. I mean, sometimes, titles have a way of limiting what you can create. For example, I knew I would eventually explore the use of upcycled materials such as shopping and food paper bags, used tea bags. With not much else to do, I even created a couple of shoes with used masks at the height of the pandemic in 2020. There’s something magical about turning paper scraps into shoes.

MKJ- There are cultural concepts lurking in the history of this series as well. Basquiat made a stir when he wore a suit & tie on the cover of the 1985 New York Times Magazine for his photo shoot but refused to wear shoes in a statement of defiance and/or irony. The painful tradition of binding feet, as well as the freedom of going barefoot, and the punishment of taking a person’s shoes, in the case of prisoners, all come to mind.

RS- I wish I could tell you that my paper shoe collection has a more profound meaning. While it’s far from utilitarian, the one-of-a-kind collection is an art form intended to excite and live in the world of imagination.

Artist Statement

Since 2014, Ruby Silvious has focused almost entirely on commonplace items as her medium. In 2015, she started a project called 363 Days of Tea, a visual journal using the emptied-out tea bag as her canvas and altering it to create a new work of art every day for 363 days.

Shifting gears in 2019, Ruby debuted her first full foray into one-of-a-kind paper shoes, created with handmade and found paper, colorful scraps, cardboard and glue. Early on in her Art for Your Feet series, one of her creations was featured in Vogue Italia, inspiring her to further explore new styles, sometimes utilizing commonplace items like Dunkin and Starbucks paper bags. She now has over 75 handcrafted paper shoes, and she continues to add to her burgeoning collection.

About the Artist 

Ruby Silvious is internationally recognized for her miniature paintings and collages on the used tea bag. She is the author of 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journal on Used Teabags, and Reclaimed Canvas: Reimagining the Familiar. Over time, she has turned everyday materials such as egg shells, paint chips, leaves, wine corks, rocks and paper bags into canvases for art. Her paintings on tea bags, some inspired by her art residences and travels around the world, have been featured in numerous publications including CNN Travel, Vogue Italia, Cosmopolitan China, Disney Malaysia, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Good Morning America/ABC News, National Geographic Kids, and the internationally syndicated Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Silvious was educated in the U.S. and Asia; she currently lives in upstate New York. Her art is exhibited internationally and is featured in public and private collections.

List of Works

1- Silvious-SeeThru-2020

2- Silvious-Green-Floral-2019

3- Silvious-Sundial-2019

4- Silvious-Floral-2019

5- Silvious-Strappy-2020

6- Silvious-Dont-Mess-with-Me-2019

7- Silvious-Green-with-Envy-2019

8- Silvious-Tsuru-Shoe-2019

9- Silvious-Blue-Spiral-2019

10- Silvious-Sakura-Pink-2019

11- Silvious-Pink-Yellow-2019

12- Silvious-White-Leopard-2019