is an alternative outlet for the people
of the community to exert their creativity
and cultural expressions. The Style page
was created to work as a medium for this
creativity and _expression to be showcased.
The page will also help educate people
on the many different styles and cultures
of people who are not like them. We also
offer this page as an opportunity for
local designers to introduce themselves
and their work to the world. Each month,
a different designer from the community
will be highlighted, allowing them to
give a brief history of themselves as
well as giving theirselves the chance
for exposure for their work.
This month we highlight Helene Mitauer,
an artist, youth encourager and art teacher
in the Philadelphia School District for
14 years. This artist isn't a designer
by trade but she has taken her art to
another medium: what we wear on our feet!
Ms. Mitauer does inspirational boots,
shoes and sandals for all to see what
is really good.
met in her Northern Liberties home to
talk about her designer shoes and boots
but of course it develops into so much
more! Look out for part 2 of this interview
where we talk more about the person and
her interesting life.
Now how long have you been making these
wearable pieces of art?
Helene Mitauer: First
time I started was in 1990, a woman noticed
1991 me and she put me on her greeting
cards. It was funny, I was walking
down South Street and someone stopped
and said to me: "I have your shoes on
my desk!" And I turned around and said:
"what are you talking about, what do you
mean? She said: "someone sent me a card
with your boots on it and I put the card
on my desk" and I said: "oh".
a few samples of the visionary product.
So in 1991 CC Buff used your boots for
HM: She made four different
cards using four different photographs
and sold them in greeting card stores.
She asked me if she could and I
said yes and I didn't ask for any money
I just asked for pictures of the boots
because I didn't have a camera and was
just saying three days before "I need
pictures of my boots". She took pictures
of my boots and copies of the cards.
I figured you gave me something now you
can have something for free!
So you have been wearing the boots ever
HM: Ever since!
You know I love paint everything. Since
I have been a artist, it has been hard
to pick a surface to do things on, because
any surface I see could be art!
I know if I were young I would be doing
pieces everywhere I would be doing drawings
on walls, not black line but big beautiful
color pieces and I would be in some type
of a collective. As it is you know I painted
my car, an old Chevy Chevette.
I did my front door of my apartment.
So you do know I can't stop. One
the back of the car it had Albert Einstein's
huge face and it said next to it: "To
Teach Is Humane, To Teach Art Is Devine"
and on one side I think I wrote something
like "Being in school is cool and all
the schools I've attended like Academy
of Fine Arts, Moore College of Art and
the University of The Arts, I have a thing
about painting on things just so (pondering)
people will see my art maybe? Maybe it's
also to get reactions but the words on
the boots are really because instead of
saying them of speaking them I can be
like a walking graffiti piece.
So how was the reaction to them?
It was welcomed, people always wanted
to get a pair done or telling me how cool
they were. Eventually I got to
the point where every time I go a new
pair of shoes I felt I had to paint them
because that is who I am. It was a Helene
thing. People will just notice
me from the boots and say: "there she
is" or people will say, "I remember your
She has seven pairs of boots in her home
not to mention the shoes, sandals. What
was the inspiration to do the boots?
HM: Actually it's like
the writings I see on the streets; it's
exactly the same concept! Kids write on
walls to give a message. I write on my
shoes to give a message. My shoes are
not just drawings they have words. The
words are always something I would say
or something I want people to hear.
So there are some positive messages?
HM: The messages are
always something positive and sometimes
my shoe even have a motif so I have my
survival and resistance shoes, my learn
to read shoes; I have my use your brain
shoes. They have their own concept.
I use words like (as she goes over
her collection): "Art makes you smart,
School is cool, Spread the word, Unlock
your mind, Freedom now, Spirit, Family,
Fly with me and Spirit from Africa".
And when I do this I know I'm doing it
because I want to see youth and people's
reaction to it. This is especially
true when I where it around the children
and they see words like "school is cool"
I think it makes people think I think
it makes people reaffirm what I have written
because the shake their head and say "right
on!" Or they shake their head and go:
"great shoes". They agree with
what I'm saying they like what they are
reading and they feel good when they see
it, I think! Those are just the
reactions I see.
So what do you use to make your art?
I use paint pens (the ones when you shake
'em you can hear the metal ball), usually
water based but when they dry they stay
forever and I use a silicon spray and
spray over the boot one or two times and
the images and words never, never moves.
The only way it will move is if
you scuff it off and then I can redo them.
will probably paint my shoes till I can't
paint any longer. I will always
write a message on my shoes and I will
always paint my shoes. Even if it is something
small like on the front just so your brain
is being used. Something about
who you are as an person can recognize
what I'm saying.
am a teacher, mother, neighbor and someone
in the community who truly cares!
The next pair of shoes I buy I'm going
to put in big letters on both sides of
the outside "I CARE". Because I'm hearing
too many people saying they don't care,
and some don't even know why or they are
doing it because they are numb. I need
to find more people who care and want
It's hard when it doesn't start at home
HM: Yes but I think everyone
needs people to talk to. For most people
school is the only thing that is there.
Everyday for 180 days of the year even
when home is not dependable school is
there. My dream is every child
can come to school and talk to someone
about anything that bothers them.
That's the only way things will get better.
Not by internalizing it, not by
ignoring it or trying to forget it but
by talking to someone and figuring how
to make it better.
kids don't know that they can talk, they
aren't told that and I think at times
children are so involved in their lives
that they don't hear us and we let it
fly, we just let it go. If I had
a classroom everyday with 30 children
everyday it would be different because
I know out of every class I have I have
5 or 6 that are mine, they love the class
they love what we are doing they love
me. They live for my class, when
they see me in the halls they want to
go to my class, they want to help they
are so good when they are in my room.
These children are children are
probably lucky because they have moms
and dads that give them everything they
need so when they are in school they can
be everything they have to do!
only thinking of it in perspective of
my life. When I was a kid I had
a horrible life, didn't care what I did
in school! Didn't worry what the teacher
said or anyone else for that matter.
I was just focused on me, my life, survival,
doing what I wanted and I didn't have
anyone who really taught me to be a good
kid. They just told me to be one
but never showed me and I think I teach
a lot of children like that so I can't
blame them I just have to find that niche
and reach them.
I had them everyday I would have the best
class in the school because I would make
sure that we would have great personal
words to live by.
So back to the art, have you thought of
making and selling these boots?
Yes that's why I did my webpage, if people
look on the page and are interested in
the boots they can email me and I usually
make the boots out of a concept. When
I take someone's boots I have to know
whom they are, their favorite saying,
some things they believe in, brother and
sisters, if they are an only child, what
their favorite genre of movies are, what
kind of books they read, if they read
at all. Things that are personal to them
because what they tell me I'm putting
on the boots or shoes. If they don't want
to do that they could also get an artistic
boot with me painting them. But that is
what I need I need input. They can either
send me the shoes in a box and I will
ship them back done (I'll pay for shipping)
or I'll buy Timberland boots or Birkenstock
sandals or any top quality boots myself,
(they have to know their size) and I will
paint them and send them to them.
If I buy them they pay for shipping.
People have asked for some and maybe seen
them on my feet and wanted a pair because
believe it or not people look at your
feet, more than they look at what you
So how long do these take to make?
HM: Sandals about 2 hours,
and boots might take me about 6 hours.
Sneakers aren't that easy because
the material doesn't keep the same consistency.
I like a challenge though so I
you have any ideas I'm game but you have
to trust me. You can give me the concept
but I will do my interpretation of the
concept going along with everything you
communicate to me. They can look at my
portfolio and check it out.
Yeah that's called artistic integrity!
I feel confident that anyone who goes
to people for art knows to trust the artist.
What are the price ranges on the wearable
HM: They can start as
low as $75 and as high as $300 depending
on the type of footwear used.
So how can they get these? What is the
HM: They can go to helenemitauer.info
and look for the email icon or they can
also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For part two of this interview as we go
deeper in the growth of Helene Mitauer.
If you have questions,
comments, suggestions or if you would
like to be a Featured Designer. Feel free
to email GeoClan at email@example.com