Footwear

Didi Rojas' Ceramic Shoes Are Made To Be Admired, Not Worn

“I love working with ceramics. It’s not just a career for me, it’s also my safe zone.” — Didi Rojas

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Didi Rojas' Ceramic Shoes Are Made To Be Admired, Not Worn

“I love working with ceramics. It’s not just a career for me, it’s also my safe zone.” — Didi Rojas

When you think of ceramics, you probably think of bowls, plates or vases, but Didi Rojas, a multimedia artist based in New York, thought, “What if I could make ceramic footwear?” Drawn to pairs being a twin herself, Rojas handcrafts single and pairs of shoes from clay, ranging from life-size to super-sized; creating art pieces that challenge our perception of fashion as something to be admired rather than worn.

Born in Cali, Colombia, the artist’s creative endeavours with clay only began in Brooklyn, where she studied at the Pratt Institute. She was exposed to a city bursting with life and inspiration around every corner, with the diverse styles of footwear and classics most worn by New Yorkers inspiring Rojas’ work.
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
Rojas ceramic creations are loved by many, having made hundreds of shoes in collaboration with namesake brands such as Vans, Dr. Martens and Adidas, to name a few. However, making ceramics is no easy process, involving artistic skill, manual labor and trusting the lengthy drying, firing, painting and glazing process.

For our latest installment of Baes with Kicks, we sat down with the artist to learn about what it’s like to make ceramic shoes for a living, along with the fun and messy side of using clay as her primary medium.

Name: Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas
City: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Multimedia Artist
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
What drew you to making ceramic shoes in particular?

I would wear Nike Air Force 1s to a ceramic studio that I used to work at every single day. After working at the studio, my shoes were sort of encrusted with clay and just so worn out because of usage. I remember looking down at them and being like, oh, it would be cool to see if I could make shoes in ceramic, because they were starting to look like they were almost ceramic. That’s where the idea stemmed from.

Have you ever been inspired by a certain environment or place to make a shoe you’ve seen people wearing?

It’s hard to not find something to be inspired by in New York. I was paying attention to what was happening in fashion at the time. Sneakers were having a moment. It was impulsive for me, too. I would see a shoe that would stand out and that made me want to challenge myself and attempt to sculpt it in clay. It was always like that. I didn’t see designer shoes as an attainable thing, but I had the materials to make a ceramic version and that was a playful way of having the shoes but as an art piece instead.

The adidas Stan Smiths were pretty big in the Soho area at the time, so I would see that little green tag everywhere when I was walking around the city. A full circle moment for me was being featured in the Stan Smith book, Some People Think I’m A Shoe. I made ceramic pieces and wrote a small piece for the book. I had been paying attention to this particular shoe for so long, so it was such a cool thing to be a part of!
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
Which collection is bigger? Is it your ceramic shoe collection or your real shoe collection?

Oh man, I feel like they’re both in equal spots right now. I’ve definitely made more ceramic shoes than I have real shoes. It’s definitely in the hundreds, maybe over 400. I’m just kidding, I don’t have 400 pairs of actual shoes, I have way less. But I get gifted shoes every now and then so, that’s truly why I have more than I know what to do with. My constant and almost every day pair right now are my Mary Janes.

What is one project you’re really proud of?

In 2022, I got to work with Vans for their “Steal This Gallery” New York Fashion Week experience. I made over 100 Vans sneakers for it, so that was a really intense project for me. I grew a lot from it and learned a lot in terms of what my hands could do, I didn’t even think that I could make that many in such a short period of time. That project was also special because it made my art accessible; anybody could walk into that gallery space and take a piece with them. It was an interesting experience working with a brand, challenging myself and at the same time making a project that still made sense with the overall trajectory of my art practice.

Can your process be tough physically in terms of making ceramics full-time?

That project wore me out for sure. It was definitely one where afterward I was like, well, I think I need to take a break in terms of just how physical it was, every single sneaker sculpture for it was handmade. But I love working with ceramics, it’s not just a career for me, it’s also my safe zone. It’s hard to imagine a world without it in my life.
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
We hear that you are an identical twin. In what ways have you noticed that impacting your work, if any?

It’s something that I’ve been sitting with a lot more now. There’s something about how you have a pair of shoes and how one is for your left foot, one is for your right foot, they’re the same, but they’re not. They have a function, like you can’t use your left shoe on the right foot because the function gets all messy. In a way, a pair of shoes is kind of like a pair of twins.

You said that you usually only make one shoe, why have you started doing more pairs?

I’m trying to work with different forms as I’ve become more interested in the interaction of either pairs or multiples and this idea of quantity and obsession. I’m curious to see the pieces interact in a certain way that feels a little bit more human or character, versus the audience or viewer just connecting to one single piece.

Have you ever considered trying a different medium other than ceramics?

Metal would be amazing. I think doing cast metal versions of my pieces would be really cool. Also, glass could be really interesting. I think a lot about the Cinderella slipper. It makes me think of how we were subtly taught that a glass slipper is a symbol of femininity.

But, I feel like, the shoes in most fairy tale narratives we’re fed as kids, or the heel in general, impede your mobility and you’re taught that this is what you should strive for or that you should want that “glass slipper,” or at least that was the case for me growing up. That’s why seeing women in sneakers is so empowering. Sneakers don’t impede mobility and that’s why I’m drawn to them. This might sound corny, but there’s nothing more empowering than seeing somebody #girlbossing in their sneakers. Shoes are truly a powerful object.
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
Are there any recent or upcoming projects that you are allowed to talk about?

My show with the Shrine Gallery in New York titled “Can Someone Gently Explain Everything to Me” just opened on March 29. It’ll be open through May 11 for anyone who wants to check it out. Apart from highlighting shoes and ceramics, the sculptures in the show express human vulnerabilities and curiosities. I feel really grateful for the opportunity to keep sharing my work and I’m excited to see how people respond to this show.

I’ve also been working on a podcast with my twin, called Good Twin, Bad Twin, which is sort of a passion-side project. We just get to talk about being twins and what that means to us. We’re learning about each other in a way that’s really special and kind of healing. Our 6th episode is in the works so, shamefully plugging it here, you can listen to the pod on Spotify or Apple.
Didi Rojas, Handmade Ceramic Shoes, Adidas, Vans, Dr. Martens, Interviews
What is one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to get into making ceramic footwear or sculptures?

Follow your impulses, just go for it. Because a lot of the time, we tend to second-guess ourselves. If I come into the studio and I have something in mind, I’ll just go for any kind of art-making or creative process. Don’t talk yourself out of following those impulses. Also, don’t be afraid to fail, because you’re still in a constant learning process. For me, for every piece that I’ve made, there’s always something about that piece that informs the next one. I’m always learning, and I think that’s the best part of life!

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