One hundred, a century: whichever way you look at it, it sounds like a lot. Whenever anyone reaches one hundred in years, we rightly celebrate, as does the crowd at a cricket match for a century scored. One hundred feels like a special milestone.
And so it is with two of our very special Super Artists, namely Alison B and Glyn. Both of these amazing ladies have now created well over 100 pairs of Supershoes each. The truth is, neither of them was all that keen to go public on this, because, bless them, they didn’t want to detract from Supershoes’ main purpose: to empower children and young people with cancer. However, we couldn’t let this milestone go without sharing a little more about these very special volunteers. So if you’ve ever wondered about what it feels like to be a shoe centenarian, read on…
Alison painted her very first pair of Supershoes nearly 7 years ago, when the charity was still run from Sarah’s kitchen table. One of our pioneer Super Artists, Alison says that it took a few pairs before she felt properly comfortable to put brush to canvas; she would put off starting, in case she got it wrong.
These days, Alison has a routine that serves her well. She plans the design first and prefers to paint over one or two days and to finish in that time, rather than work in short spells over many days. How does she know when she’s finished? She asks her (very critical) daughter, Lilah, who is also a Super Artist. Alison acknowledges that Lilah’s eye for detail is annoyingly right, mostly! Alison also asks her sons or their friends if they recognise portraits she paints on shoes, usually footballers, to make sure the likeness is good enough for the child they are going to. A pair of shoes with portraits is possibly the most demanding of designs we get from children, and not everyone is confident to tackle them, but Alison taught herself over one summer break, so she could take on these requests if they were difficult to place, and now loves doing them as much as any others.
Before COVID-19 effectively shut down the industry, Alison worked as a face and body painter for over 10 years, and many of her colleagues in this field are also Super Artists, thanks to her encouragement. She says that her professional experience has helped her when painting Supershoes, because she’s used to painting on irregular shapes (not quite sure how your paying clients would react to that, Alison!!) Alison says that her industry colleagues have also been an inspiration to her, as before Supershoes’ lone working, COVID-19-safe policy, she loved being in the office on a Monday, which is dispatch day, to see the completed Supershoes arrive from all the various Super Artists. She admits she may even have pinched some ideas from her creative co-workers!
Each and every pair of Supershoes is special, because the Super Artist is designing around a child or young person’s special ideas, favourite things and individual thoughts. There are, however always some pairs of shoes that stick in an artist’s mind. Alison recalls the first pair she was really excited to paint, because she felt confident. The one where the mum of a child filmed her son opening his Supershoes, and his complete joy at what he saw made Alison cry. Another pair was special for Alison, as she was able to recreate the work of one of her favourite artists.
Alison is also Supershoes’ Super Artist Co-ordinator and manages matching design requests with artists, and is the person who helps prospective and new artists when they’re learning the ropes. Alison’s awesome gallery of photos is on our website for everyone to see. She is the stalwart of Supershoes, the big sister of our Super Artists, and she’s absolutely fabulous. We couldn’t do without her, that’s for sure.
It was Glyn’s love of children that inspired her to become a face painter over 30 years ago. She first started painting for Supershoes when the charity was just a few months old inspired by meeting Sarah at a face painting conference organised by our very own Alison B (above), and another Super Artist, Jo N. Sarah spoke about Supershoes, and Glyn was hooked on the idea, “I was blown away both by Sarah’s passion and dedication and by the ethos of what Supershoes was all about.”
Glyn’s ability to design and her eye for colour, learnt as a face painter, has been helpful to her, but she also says that painting on canvas has been a learning curve, as it’s such a different medium, along with the acrylic paints all Super Artists use.
When she’s painting, Glyn says she experiences a complex mix of feelings. She can often relate to the child she is panting for, as she has 4 grandchildren, aged 5 to 13, so those ages tend to touch her most. Glyn says that painting Supershoes makes her especially grateful for the health of her family and friends, although she also knows others who are going through treatment for cancer and appreciates how challenging the situation can be, and the need to remain positive. Such is her empathy for her poorly Super brave kids, that she sometimes gets tearful while painting and has to stop for a while to have a cuppa and get her head in the right place to continue. At times like this, she reminds herself that she is doing something to bring some sunshine to a child’s day.
Glyn’s confidence over the past 7 years or so has developed, so that she is now happy to take on most types of design, and remembers in particular one special challenge of a design where the brief was a pair of Supershoes featuring the Sprite soft drink, which she thoroughly enjoyed putting together! Glyn was supported by other artists with tips to paint portraits too along with Supercaps, which present their own challenges, and which she loves painting. She says she’d encourage all Super Artists to have a go at painting outside their “comfort zone” like she did, because “it will set you free”.
Glyn says, “Now I have been honoured to have painted over 100 pairs, and while I am proud of that, it also makes me very, very sad, as I would much rather there was no need to paint any shoes at all if cancer in children was eradicated.” All of us at Supershoes echo this sentiment.
When she’s not painting, Glyn helps Supershoes in other ways, and also loves giving Supershoes talks at various clubs, WI and church groups, spreading the word about our special charity and encouraging people to donate, or to join as a Super Artist (before restrictions, of course).
Lovely inside and out, not to mention talented, Glyn is a Super treasure, and we’re so lucky to have her on our team!
All our Super Artists are special, of course, but we just couldn’t resist highlighting these two, as we approach World Cancer Day on 4 February, to celebrate their achievements and give them a round of applause!