It might look like Santa’s workshop, but the basement of Keerthi McIntosh’s house is the hub for this gang of glitterati, the ladies of the Krewe of Muses, to decorate their shoes for the upcoming Carnival season.
Beginning in September, McIntosh opens her home to the Muses’ members for a shoe-decorating party, equipped with 800 pounds of glitter, fancy ornaments, sequins, fur, glue and more. These masterful works of art are hand-crafted and richly adorned after hours of hard work utilizing special tricks of the trade shared among the sisterhood.
“I train the women on technique when decorating these shoes,” McIntosh, a member of Muses since 2005 said. “You always do the heel last because you need full control of the shoe. The heel is your handle.”
McIntosh has developed specific steps of converting an ordinary shoe into a spectacular piece of art. First of all, a member brings a supply of 12 shoes to the party in order to stay busy and work on one shoe while another is drying. There is a limit of 30 shoes per member allowed on each float.
“I found my shoes at a garage sale and also a thrift store in western New York when I was visiting my mother,” Claudia Lynch, a local artist and member of Muses since 2005, said. “They were a $1 a pair.”
Some shoes are donated or found at local flea markets. “My friends clean out their closets and donate shoes to me,” Barbara Cohn, a local realtor and member of Muses for 13 years, said. “I buy some at thrift stores and find sales.”
Some ladies may prefer to buy new heels on sale. McIntosh likes to work with new shoes that do not need any primer or surface treatment. Old shoes, on the other hand, are spray-painted on the exterior and interior of the entire shoe, which is necessary in the first stage of production. For suede shoes, McIntosh recommends using a liquid starch on the surface so the glitter will stick and shine.
People who love our parade really deserve these shoes as they support us by standing in the rain, wind, cold and hot weather.
Next step is to pick a color or blend of colors to make the shoes interesting and festive. Some of the ladies select themes for their shoes like Mary Lee Carver.
“I prefer to pick a specific theme rather than glittered shoes,” Carver, an Uptown resident and member of Muses organization, said. “One year, I made a muffuletta sandwich with a flip-flop and a peeled banana stuck inside a mule shoe. I have made shoes with a hunting theme and a deer on the front of it. Or just recently, I cut out a piece of map to fit the inside of this shoe, lamented it and wrote Muses on the front of it.”
Finally, McIntosh indicated that the parade name Muses and the year 2016 must be written somewhere on each and every handcrafted shoe. After delicately painting and scattering glitter on the stiletto and wedged heels, McIntosh brushes the glittered surface clean with a makeup brush and seals the colorful design with a clear coat of hairspray. Now, she begins to decorate with hot glue, fur and rhinestones on the shoe.
“People who love our parade really deserve these shoes as they support us by standing in the rain, wind, cold and hot weather to catch a shoe. I have had people offer me money, wine, kisses and someone even told me he was proposing to his girlfriend and needed a shoe to put the ring in,” Cohn, who has decorated in groups but tends to decorate individually because she works full time, said. “I have to decorate when I get time so my preference is to talk to other Muses about what they are doing and exchange ideas on the phone. It’s fun to decorate at least a couple shoes with my float lieutenant.”
Over the next few months, McIntosh plans to host these shoe decorating parties twice a month, assembling 25 members in her basement for three hours to talk about life, love and family while steadily transforming these shoes into monumental Muses’ throws for parade spectators. For these gatherings, McIntosh has a few simple rules: “Bring at least 12 shoes and a box to take them home, something to drink and eat, and a joke.” “As seen in the past years, their hands are busy and the Carnival spirit brings us together, “she said.” “I have made some amazing friends.”
As the Carnival season approaches, the all women Krewe of Muses, with its 1,000 members, prepares to impress the crowd with only the highest quality of shoes displaying their exquisite artistry. By Thursday, February 4, this party of Muses is “head over heels” ready to roll.