this artist makes color-drenched sculptures of your favorite designer shoes
Didi Rojas celebrates the beauty of footwear with her first solo exhibition 'You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie.'
Images courtesy of Didi Rojas.
Shoes fascinate Brooklyn-based ceramic artist Diana Rojas. First using ceramics in college, she soon began to casting her favorite sneakers, heels, and boots using clay, making some life-size and some gigantic. Her creations have been featured by Gucci — she recreated their Ace sneaker for its #24hourace campaign — and Adidas Originals — she built a giant ceramic Stan Smith sneaker for the book Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe.
Born in Cali, Colombia, Diane, known by everyone as “Didi,” moved to New Jersey when she was four and then to New York to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2014. Her first solo exhibition “You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie” is open from September 7 until October 19 at Launch F18, New York. The name being a nod to an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, the exhibition will feature a collection of over 20 of her life-size creations, ranging from a high-heeled shoes to sneakers and boots.
“I want viewers to spend time with the pieces and to not solely see them as replicas or shoes even,” explains Didi. Instead, she sees shoes as a representation of the beauty in the everyday object. i-D spoke to Didi about ceramics and big shoe energy in the lead-up to the exhibition opening.
Tell me about your childhood in Columbia. Have you and your family always been creative?As a child I grew up drawing, painting and building things. My grandma took care of us when we were really young [in Colombia] and she’d always have paints, crayons, and markers at hand. We’d sit outside and draw flowers from her garden. When we moved, my parents kept encouraging us to draw and paint. I was also super inspired by my Dad. He went to art school growing up and worked as an architect in Colombia. When we moved to the US, he had to get a factory job but continued to find the time and space to work on what he was passionate about.
When did you start using ceramics?
I came across the ceramics studio at Pratt my freshman year. I had never taken classes in ceramics before college. Before I began classes in the program, I started working at the studio. I learned how to mix clay and glazes out of raw materials, how to use the ceramic kilns, as well as basic studio maintenance. This helped my appreciation and understanding for the medium grow. I loved it and knew that it was what I wanted to continue doing for as long as I could.
Tell me about the exhibition and what sparked the idea for it.
This exhibition has been a dream since I first started making the ceramic shoes. I’m always super excited and grateful whenever there is any opportunity to share & show my work. One of my goals this year was to lock something in for a solo show and when Launch F18 reached out to me about doing a show with them it felt surreal but I was ready.
To be honest I don’t have an exact answer to why shoes. I feel like there are a lot of reasons, but at the same time they honestly just fascinate me, as objects, shapes and how they relate to the human experience. I think it’s a bit obsessive too.
What's your process like?
I currently work out of my studio space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The process for making each one varies in their sculpting and painting depending on the shoe. For the more detailed ones, it may take me anywhere from three to five hours to sculpt in ceramic clay. After sculpting, the pieces need to fully dry and this can take anywhere from three days to a couple weeks depending on their size, temperature, and the weather conditions in the studio. After the pieces are fully dry, I glaze them and place them in the kiln.
What are your next steps after this exhibition opens?
At the moment I’m working on putting together a publication that will feature all of the pieces included in the exhibition. Some video pieces that include the shoes are also in the works as collaborations with [my twin] Mars and my friend, Emily Overhoff. I’m continuing to work on more ceramic shoes of course and would love to venture into actual shoemaking at some point in the near future.
What have you learned through the process of putting together your first solo exhibition?
I learn something new every time I make a sculpture. In terms of the shoe sculpting process, there’s always a new shape to tackle. The ceramics process can also often be a great metaphor for life. Not everything is perfect, or turns out the way you think it might, but there’s power in that. There’s power in visualizing something, making it happen, but then letting it do its thing.