A Wearable Canvas: The Hand Painted Accessories of Corrie Tice

19 Jul

Sure, Corrie Tice can create artworks that you can hang on your wall….but she’s just as excited to make pieces for your feet! Here, she shares how she combines her passion for flora and fauna and reusable materials to construct customized works of art that you can exhibit on the street.

Philly Swap: Give us some background.  How did you get into DIY work? 

Corrie Tice: Like DIY crafters, I have been immersed in creating things since I can remember. I was always an avid drawer, and later, painter. After completing art school and becoming disillusioned by the politics of the traditional gallery “art world”, I became more interested in the DIY mind-set and communities. I wanted to make painting fun again, and not focus on concepts and heavy critical art theory. I wanted to paint in a utilitarian kind of way. I wanted to allow more access to the paintings I made, instead of just locking them in my studio, waiting for some elusive show. I have always loved fashion, and began to think of ways I could wear images I painted. I wasn’t interested in silk-screening or printing [mostly because I’d have to outsource for that]- I wanted my own hand to still show. Why not try painting on shoes?? I started doing that and then onto bags/purses and wallets.

PS: What do you like about Philly? Is it a good place to do what you do?

CT: I love how eclectic it is. I think it’s especially good at picking up folks working “under the radar” and then getting them noticed, through the DIY galleries, craft show circuits, and local publications [City Paper, Grid magazine, etc].

PS: DIY projects have never been more relevant than they are right now. Whether the motivation is to minimize one’s carbon footprint or maximize what’s in the bank, people are showing an interest in reusable materials, local goods and creative projects to do at home. What are some simple steps we can take to be more financially-sound and environmentally-friendly in our creative projects?

CT: Use what you already have!!! I collect the shoes, purses, handbags, and wallets that I paint on from local thrift stores, Philly Freecycle, and random donations I get from people. In addition to painting on accessories, I also still create paintings and 2D artworks for myself. For these projects, I try to use the paints I already have, house paints others have discarded, and lately I’ve been playing around with “painting” through fabric and other textiles. Clothing is so full of color! To me, it’s practically pure unadulterated color- so I’ve been composing images of animals using bits of cut scraps from my overwhelming fabric/clothing collection, using tiny fabric pieces as a “stroke” of color. It’s slowly using up the fabric I’ve been hoarding, I don’t spend additional money on fancy [delicious] acrylic paints, and it’s more enviro-friendly [I’m still working out the adhesive part…]. Forcing yourself to exclusively use things you already have, or materials you find pushes your creativity and ingenuity to translate what’s in your head to its visual communicative artifact.

PS: How do you think about the audience for your work? Who is it you want to reach?

CT: With the painted accessories, I ideally would like to reach those obsessive shoe/accessory purchasing women, who will spend a good $200 on a pair of “stylish” shoes- you know, the ones that look so unique in the display, but have been, in reality, mass-produced in some Southeast Asian sweatshop where the workers see less than 0.00002% of that corporation’s profit. You can spend half that amount on handmade, fair labor products, whose creators AREN’T exploiting workers or resources! In the meantime, I sell to like minded folks who want something truly unique, that have an appreciation for love, time, energy, and craft put into a customized item.

PS: What’s your take on the recent proliferation of the DIY/craft sales online, such as Etsy?  Do you see  this more as a network of support, or as competition for your sales?

CT: I love how the “DIY Movement” has exploded! I think it’s fantastic that people are both interested in purchasing directly from the artisan AND looking to learn how to create similar items on their own. Of course this creates some competition: “if that person can do-it-herself, than why can’t I?!” And so you have a million different people hand printing cute images of birds on cloth napkins, but it’s great, it’s just one more thing that motivates crafters/artisans/artists to improve their products and evolve their designs. I would hope that artists see it more as a network of support, and respect it as such- we can all learn from each other, and we just have to demonstrate and trust that another doesn’t blatantly “rip off” others’ ideas.

PS: What do you hope the future holds, for you and for the arts and DIY scene in Philly?

CT: Handmade taking over the world! And replacing generic sweatshop-made junk.

PS: What comes first, the material or the project? Are you inspired by a specific material and develop a project around it, or do you first envision a project and seek out the materials to suit it?

CT: For my accessories business, it usually starts with the simple idea of “Man, a ________ [insert flora/fauna species here] would be awesome on this handbag/wallet/shoe I just found.” So I guess it goes both ways. I might be craving to paint a certain animal/plant/motif and then will search out the right color/style of shoe, but usually I will happen upon an accessory item and an image will appear in my mind’s eye.

PS: Name your favorite 3 places in Philly to find reusable craft materials.

CT: #1  So, since I hunt for shoes/bag/wallets, the BEST time/place to find some GOOD stuff is end-of year University City college house move-out time! University City students throw away THE BEST shoes!!!! I’ll either find them on the street, or go to… #2  The Second Mile Thrift Store in West Philly- if students aren’t literally throwing out their used accessories, they’re donating them to this local thrift store. Last year I bought a pair of really nice pair of Camper boots for a couple dollars!  #3 Philly Freecycle is another good bet for items to be added to your DIY arsenal. Everyone is trading items constantly. When I decided to stop using oil paints, I posted the leftover supplies for someone else to pick-up and use. And when I am searching for something in particular, I peruse the listings to see if it’s available there first.

PS: These days, we can learn knitting (or other folk arts) by reading an online tutorial (namely, in isolation), while past generations of crafters often learned in a knitting circle (namely, in community). How does this impact the artist community and the future of traditional folk arts?

CT: It definitely has encouraged the development and detailed organization of online/”virtual” artist communities, such as those found on CRAFT:, Craftster, the plethora of community options on Etsy, etc. While I am personally for more real-person interaction and learning from a group of people in a physical space [which, admittedly, I need to force myself to do more!], it’s becoming more prevalent to live your life via the computer. At least these online communities are providing these interactions [teacher & learner, feedback/critique on works, buyer-seller dialogue]. And on a positive note, they are connecting artisans and makers that would otherwise never have the chance to connect. It does facilitate long-distance collaborations and dialogue, things we should probably take more advantage of if we aren’t already [I know I am currently not, but it’s something I’d like to do!]

PS: Many of us are not as good with tools as we’d like to be.  What are   some tips and tricks to fake it till your skills make it?

CT: I like this question! I guess it depends on what the project is. If it involves construction, it at least needs to hold properly, you can’t really fake it too well with safety pins and glue [unless it’s hot glue. Hot glue is awesome and I’m not ashamed to use it!] for me, if I am constructing something [I love to play around with sewing and altering clothing, but I definitely suck at it, technically speaking], and you can see lots of mistakes, I usually add lots of useless decorations. Decorations are key to covering bad craftsmanship! Others will be too busy admiring all the beads and sequins to notice the crappy sewing job [except for skilled/professional seamstresses]. With my painted accessory items, this is more difficult. I have to be good with my paints and the brushes, otherwise it shows. But when I can’t get something right, or am being lazy, I’ve discovered that, depending on the size and shape of image, waterslide inkjet decal images are a fine substitute!

Thanks, Corrie! We can’t wait to have you share your creative skills at Philly Swap 2010!

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