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Grand Rapids student fashions creative footwear, builds business

A Chelsea Seekell original

A Chelsea Seekell original /Chelsea Seekell

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This article was written and edited by Amie Guin, Doug Johnson, Aly Lemire, and Catherine Lynema for EN 102-4433 at GRCC.

Who needs a pair of those high-priced, designer-labeled shoes that you can only pick up at a fancy retail shop? There is no need to go to all that trouble. You can have your own pair of shoes custom made to fit your personality for only $40 plus the cost of a pair of plain white shoes of your choice. You could choose ballet flats or just plain old tennis shoes. You can get any design painted on them- whatever your heart desires. Who wouldn’t want their own shoes with no chance of there being a matching pair anywhere in the entire world?

Chelsea Seekell, a student at Kendall College of Art and Design, started painting shoes in 2009 after seeing a pair of white canvas shoes at Target and deciding to personalize them herself. The business began to grow when people saw her shoes and asked her to make them a pair. All they had to do was pick out a pair of white shoes and give her a description of what they wanted. Anyone can get shoes done: men, women, and children. It doesn’t matter where you live: she has done shoes for people all over the United States and has even done pairs for people in Sweden.

All Chelsea needs is a list of what you want on your shoes, and she can do it. She said, “I can do whatever the buyer asks for.” First, she paints the designs using acrylic paint and covers it in a clear gloss coating, so it is permanent. If over time the design fades or gets scratched, she can do touch ups, too. The designs vary according to what the customer requests. Chelsea explained, “I can do extras that include sequins, studs, gems, buttons, and sparkles.” The only picture she can’t put on the shoes is a human face because “that’s pretty tough on such a small canvas.”
Once you have contacted Chelsea and supplied her with your pair of white shoes, it usually takes her about two weeks to complete them. Once finished, “depending on where they live, we either meet up,” Seekell explains, “or I ship them back [to the customer].”

Josh Hazel, a customer of Chelsea’s,  explained what inspired him to purchase a pair of these shoes in the first place. ”I saw a lot of people wearing the shoes,” Josh said. “And in a unique way, you were able to automatically be filled in on that person’s hobbies and interests, loves and obsessions, morals and ethics, all just by looking at that person’s feet. I felt like the eyes were no longer the only entrance to a person’s soul. But just by your shoes, you could tell everyone what kind of individual you were.”

Chelsea has several ways that you can contact her. Send her an email at [email protected], “Facebook” her, or add her fan page “Chelsea Seekell shoes.”


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