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Shoes to make you smile

Central Point artist uses her skills to accent the positive
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneCharity Williams of Central Point works on a shoe for "Hope Shoes" at her home in Central Point on Friday.

Central Point resident Charity Williams says it’s hard to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. In fact, sometimes it’s no picnic to walk in your own.

But what if whatever shoes you happen to be wearing, or looking at, brought a smile to your face and sent a message of positivity and hope?

After a rough patch with some health issues a handful of years back, Williams was looking for a way to infuse some inspiration into her life. A lifelong artist, Williams said she had always found happiness in vibrant colors and beautiful fonts.

After making her first — now very worn-out — pair of brightly painted shoes, adorned with words like health, hope, courage, thrive, love, sing and blessed, Williams felt inspired to offer the shoes to others.

While her first foray into shoe-making was lackluster, a boost from her church family and the pandemic — with a societal craving for some good old-fashioned positivity — created a niche for her artistic footwear. Each pair, Williams said, is basically a blank canvas customized to fit whatever the wearer is trying to exude.

A Central Point School District 6 employee by day — in the district speech department — Williams is a mom and an artist. She vividly recalls the obstacles she was facing when she was inspired to paint her first pair of shoes.

“I got really sick about four-and-a-half years ago. I was in the ICU and was really depressed, so I made myself this pair of shoes. I’d been thinking, ‘The one thing I’ll always have on are shoes.’ So I felt like, maybe, whenever I was looking down, I’d be able to see the shoes and the colors and remind myself of what I loved and what I was trying to aspire to,” Williams recalled.

While her first pair have long since fallen apart, Williams remembers every word she carefully painted on the unlikely canvas.

“I painted the things I needed at that time in my life. I painted courage, health, hope, joy and fearless. I painted, ‘I am free.’ Thrive. They were all words that reminded me that I was OK, and I was getting better. Even though at the time I didn’t feel like I had courage or that I was thriving, more like barely surviving.”

Fast forward four years, Williams’ church supported her effort to make the shoes for others.

“I sold a couple pairs at first but nothing else, so I kind of put it aside and decided to wait for the timing to be better,” she said.

“This year, my pastor was praying for me and he said, ‘I just see shoes. Something about shoes.’ Then somebody from my church came over and said, I wanna buy a pair of your shoes. Let’s get a big order of shoes and let’s launch this thing!”

Minnesota resident Kristi Graner, a big fan of Williams work, was sold on having a pair of Hope Shoes as soon as she discovered them online.

“We have friends in common, friends of friends. She’s in a creativity group online, and I saw some of her stuff. I knew two young women graduating and I needed a unique gift idea.

“She gives you several words that describes the person you want to give them to — or for yourself, too. Both times, I sent her the words, and she just did an amazing job. It was colorful and the words were artistically incorporated into the shoes,” Graner said.

“Both girls were like, ‘I don’t even know if I want to wear these! They’re so amazing! They’re just really wonderful and high quality.’”

Medford resident Brenda Mickelson was an early, instant customer, too.

“I saw the shoes and thought, ‘Those are so crazy and fun.’ You just had to buy the white tennies and tell her what kind of words you wanted,” said Mickelson, noting that she opted for pastel colors and faith-affirming words like love, hope, peace and courage.

“She does a lot of them in brighter, bolder colors. Mine are more pastel. I love them. I feel like when I wear them, I have all these nice things on my feet. And it’s nice to have something so uplifting and encouraging. That’s what her shoes are.”

Williams surmises that perhaps the unrest in the world since the pandemic began have made Hope Shoes even more needed. She’s mostly hopeful her shoes will provide some smiles … and maybe a little bit of hope.

“They really are like a commissioned art piece, really. It’s just wearable art,” she said. “And it’s really hard not to smile when you see these bright colors and inspiring words on your feet every time you look down.”

For more information, see http://iamfearlessart.com/; www.instagram.com/hopeshoesbycharity/; or www.facebook.com/HopeShoesByCharity

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.