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Earning her wings
Creativity has always been a part of Sari Vaananen’s life.
As a child, she used to make closets for her Barbie dolls out of shoeboxes.
She has done fine art photography, made handcrafted baby items, and has worked on what she calls mocha mitts, which is a coffee sleeve designed out of fabric.
And she is hoping one of her latest ventures, Shoe Shinez, could be the one.
“I can really see it taking off — pun intended — if it gets into the right hands,” said the 45-year-old artist who lives in Walnut Grove.
“I have been told I am creative … I am yet to buy that myself,” she said with a laugh.
Shoe Shinez is an idea she came up with in 2011.
“We decorate every other part of ourselves, why not our shoes,” she said.
The idea came after she started her small embroidery home business in 2010.
The mother of four — daughters Melissa and Emily are 19 and 15, respectively, and sons Eric and Markus are 17 and 13 — was on set of the TV show Level Up.
Eric had a recurring role on the show and Vaananen was bored one day on set and decided to wander over to the wardrobe room to see if she could be of use.
The show was working on a magic flying boot episode and she was commissioned to make eight pairs or rainbow-coloured embroidered wings for the flying boots.
After the episode aired, it sparked interest in her product, which is described as shoe embellishments.
She now creates ‘wings’ for shoes — in different designs — that can be removed.
Vaananen began by giving the product away on movie sets — including giving a pair away to Daniel Radcliffe.
“I thought that would be a good test market,” she said.
“I was giving them away just to see what people would do with them and see if there was an opportunity to embellish one’s shoes.”
And somewhere along the way, Hollywood has taken notice. She was approached about producing 50 pairs of double-sided Silver Screen/Red Carpet Shoe Shinez, which were used for gift baskets given to celebrities at the 2014 Academy Awards earlier this month. She also made 15 pairs of ‘baby wings’ which were to be given to expectant celebrity moms.
She does all the work herself — with a little bit of help from her children — and while her business hasn’t taken off just quite yet, Vaananen plans to keep plugging away.
“I am not selling millions of pairs yet, but no one has seen them,” she said.
“This is just the concept stage; this is a great opportunity to get them out there.”
“The enthusiasm of the people who see them is what keeps me going,” she added.
“I have no high expectations, but I do have hope. If this doesn’t pan out, I will try something else.”
For more, visit www.shoeshineztoo.etsy.com.