ARTISAN TEXTILE DESIGNER

'Ruby Shoes Design' Myth and Fairytale

The seed of an idea can start many months, even years before it becomes a reality. 

Watching a short movie by Alex Prager, in her ‘Silver Lake Drive’ exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery, London in late 2018 sparked an idea. In Prager’s, first short film 'Despair', the last shot is of a pair of red shoes, randomly placed under a spotlight.  I’d taken an image of the last still where the red shoes were positioned, one upright, one on its side, and began to explore the significance of ‘Red Shoes’ within our visual culture as research for my design ideas.

Prager’s film was inspired by the 1948 film ‘The Red Shoes’. The 1948 film itself being inspired by the fairytale “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Andersen, and the ballet within ‘The Red Shoes’ 1948 film, roughly follows the Hans Christian fairytale, where a ballerina sees a pair of ‘red shoes’ offered by a Shoemaker, and cannot stop dancing as the shoemaker controls the shoes.  As in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ 1948, Prager’s film set in 1960’s Los Angeles, chronicles the struggle of a ballerina whose obsession with dance conflicts with her need for love. Kate Bush's album ‘The Red Shoes’ was inspired by the 1948 film and ‘Firebird’ (1952) a film directed by Hasse Ekman was largely a homage to ‘The Red Shoes’.

The ruby slippers as worn by Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ being one of the most famous examples of red shoes with magical powers to transport Dorothy home. The myth of red shoes within our visual culture, spans film, dance, music and literature where darker and lighter forces are both explored.  Having only touched the surface here, it is a subject filled with myth and fairytales.

Exploring many themes through my research, the title ‘Ruby Shoes’ comes from a play on ‘ruby slippers’ and ‘red shoes’. The shoe shape in the design is hand-drawn from a pair of 1940’s red shoes and overall the final textile is influenced by mid-century design.  The shoe motif was formed from the last still of Prager’s film, where the ellipse in the design references the spotlight on the red shoes, and in turn Prager’s spotlight referenced the 1948 film, where Lermontov announces that the ballerina Vicky, will never dance again, and ‘a lone spotlight will take the place of her onstage’.

The red shoes in the finished design ‘Ruby Shoes, Myth and Fairytale’, are positioned randomly, mirroring Prager’s final film still, giving further thought, and allude to the myth and fairytales surrounding ‘Red Shoes’.