Ama Voetsek, Art


by Mahala Scribes / Images by Robyn Perros / 03.09.2015

We live in a world dominated by machines – monsters spitting out millions of identical products that tell us we are not individuals and our bodies are all the same. In the practical (and affordable) land of fashion it takes a good trek through the clothes racks to find something handcrafted with a bit of heart. But today there are more and more young creatives slaying the mechanical dragons, on a quest to bring some soul back into style…

Dhiantha Achary is a 22-year-old architecture student, artist and entrepreneur who customizes canvas shoes entirely by hand. The Durban-based creative started customizing kicks as personal gifts for friends and when the orders started piling up, she decided to start up her own biz. We spoke to Dhiantha about her three-month-old business, ‘Laced’, where walking in art never looked so practical and so damn pretty…


Mahala: You’re studying architecture at the moment. What does drawing on canvas shoes and drawing extremely calculated, technical lines in architecture have in common? How do the two techniques compliment one another?

Dhiantha: The two art forms definitely blend into each other. I think the biggest influence studying architecture has had on my work is the design process. Taking a request from a client and grooming it from a conceptual idea, into something which suits their taste, looks good on the shoe and still has a touch of my personal style in there, has been the biggest thing I’ve taken away from my studies. Although I haven’t done a pair of shoes with buildings on it per se; the graphics I enjoy using the most have super clean lines, some texture and blotchy colours here and there, much like conceptual architectural sketches.


Mahala: When you look around various markets, such as Durban’s I Heart Market where you sell your work, there seems to be so many young creatives starting their own businesses from scratch. Why do you think so many young people are making these bold, innovative business moves? What made you take that step?

Dhiantha: Firstly, I think all the traders at the various markets around Durban are incredibly brave. Starting something up and putting it out to the public takes a huge amount of pluck! And I can speak from experience; it’s terrifying. Especially when it’s something as personal as your craft. I think young people are taking these steps because they realise they aren’t defined by one career or life choice. We have the possibility of having a multitude of talents and capacities and the markets provide a platform for us to showcase that. Not participating would be the worst missed opportunity!


Mahala: Do you have a particular subject matter you like to draw or a specific style you employ? And is there a specific intention with your art?

Dhiantha: I can’t say there’s one specific thing I enjoy drawing the most. Since I design most of the shoes myself, they’re already something I would enjoy drawing. As for the style, I use colourfast fabric paint and pens, but the pen work is something I’m more confident in. I enjoy doing dense, detailed work, like the sugar skulls or the henna patterns, as well as the more graphic pieces with bold black lines. I’m still developing techniques and my control with paint, but it’s definitely developing fast! The initial aim was to try and capture someone’s personality and taste in the tailor-made designs. Practical, wearable art is something hard to come by, and I think the shoes are a perfect combination of the two.


Mahala: Laced seems to have grown pretty organically – you’ve had over 50 orders in just three months without even pushing a sales pitch at all! Why do you think people love what you do?

Dhiantha: There has always been something about art that manages to reflect personality and capture the imagination of people. I think people love the shoes because they’re almost like wearing a tattoo. It may sound strange, but the whole process of how it works and the more shoes I design, the more it makes me realise how the shoes are basically painless, temporary foot-tattoos. They’re a reflection of people’s personality, tailored exactly to their style, handmade, worn on their person and visible to the world. I’m sitting at around 30 completed pairs walking around the country now, about 20 still to go. A pair have already reached Germany – the first international country for my shoes to live in!

dandelionMahala: Which piece are you most proud of? And, not to be too disgustingly punny, but is there any sort of message you’d like people to walk away with when they lace up in a pair of your art? 

Dhiantha: Choosing a favourite is tough. I’d have to say the Pop-Art KAPOW ones are my favourite style of drawing and I had fun doing them. I was sad to see them go! (Even if they weren’t my size). Each pair of shoes takes me about nine hours or more to do, so there is an immense amount of effort which has gone into every piece. So if anything, when someone walks away in a pair, I’d want them to appreciate the personal investment that goes into each pair. To quote a client of mine: “Now I can wear my heart on my sleeve and art on my feet,” and I think that’s all I would want people to take away from it.

Mahala: Any advice for the young creatives out there pursuing a craft?

Dhiantha: I’m so young and new to the scene myself, I feel like I need some pointers! But if I had to give any advice it would be to put yourself out there. It’s not a dumb idea. Artists invest so much personal energy into their work that very often we want to protect it from being judged. Even if the few people who do see it don’t appreciate it, there’s always someone who will. Being acknowledged for hard work and passion is probably one of the most gratifying and inspiring feelings ever and you can only move up from there…


Follow Laced on Facebook and Instagram.

*Images © Robyn Perros

* Product Images and Artwork © Dhiantha Achary

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