With Xtratuf boots, jackets, purses, cellphone cases, instrument cases and other items as her canvas and paint pens as her medium, 16-year-old Daisy Walker creates customized, hand-painted wearable and functional art.
The Homer born-and-raised youth has been drawing since she was very young and this summer decided to turn that hobby into a business with Daisy’s Designs.
“I was looking for a new pair of Xtratufs and had a hard time deciding between a Salmon Sisters pair that comes with a design or a regular pair,” Walker said. “I went with the blank pair and decided to make my own design on them.”
With paint pen markers she found locally, Walker painted puffins, whales and flowers on her boots. Happy with the results, she painted her wallet and then her mom’s boots and suitcase. Encouraged to keep painting, she created a little sign with Daisy’s Designs on it and she and her friend Leah Dunn, another young artist, brought their art supplies to the Spit this past June, setting up a space at the Chamber’s Summer Solstice Festival and Concert at the Deepwater Dock.
On the Spit, Walker and her friend painted Stratum boots, running shoes and a guitar case for a traveling musician, charging by the intricacy of the design and with funds used to pay for art supplies.
“When I started out, I just wanted to connect with people and share my art,” she said. “That was my first time putting myself out there publicly and it worked out really well.”
From this experience, Walker learned about painting and sealing on difference materials and surfaces.
“I learned about putting sealant on boots so the paint stays on longer and I learned that with things people wear a lot, the paint tends to crack more,” she said. “When I started out, I was just thinking about painting beautiful designs and since that time I now know what to recommend to people when they want me to paint boots, shoes, and hats, and items they wear in hard conditions or use a lot.”
In July, she participated in a Pop Up event at Grace Ridge Brewing where she took several orders. Since these events, she has been commissioned to paint a snowy owl on a denim jacket, a Dolly Varden on a jacket, a blue jay on a cell phone case, a deep sea fish on a flute case, an octopus scene on boots and birds on a set of drinking glasses, as well as other designs on wallets, purses and even one on a mushroom.
“Wallets, purses, shoes, boots, hats, music cases — the options are endless for what I can use these paint markers on,” she said.
Walker loves color and loves to paint designs that are colorful, fun and whimsical, and creates both from her imagination and from images she finds on various sites, like Pinterest.
“It depends on how well I know what I’m drawing,” she said. “Sometimes I look up an image of something just to get an idea of it, like flowers and birds. When someone asked me to paint a set of birds on drinking glasses, she wanted specific birds, so I looked up what she wanted, which were a yellow-rumped warbler, red poll, red-breasted nuthatch and a clack chickadee.”
Walker said her customers occasionally have a very specific idea in mind of what they what, like with the drinking glasses, but more often, they have just a general idea and let her run with it.
Like a local musician who wanted a whale scene on their mandolin case.
“They wanted three different kinds of whales and I had to do a lot of research to see what each of the whales looked like,” Walker said. “I ended up making it look like they were following each other in a circle, with baby whales following them through the waves.”
Another customer wanted her boots painted with a tide pool scene on one boot and an octopus on the other.
“For the one, I incorporated a bunch of animals you’d normally see in a tide pool and put them all over the boot and includes waves and barnacles and for the other, I painted the octopus wrapping around the boot.”
Walker said that painting both of those boots took her three hours and that she charged for her time and supplies, noting that determining her pricing has been the most challenging part of her business.
“Pricing is tricky,” she said. “When I started out, Leah suggested we charge $5 for small designs, $10 for medium and $20 for larger designs. So for the tide pool and octopus boots, for example, I charged $40 because each boot had a large design. I’m still figuring out how much to charge, but most people are really encouraging and happy to pay what I’m asking, or more, since they are getting an original work of wearable art.”
Through the years, Walker has taken art classes, including from Homer artist and teacher Sharlene Cline. She has also attended art camps, like the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and has been the recipient of a scholarship from Homer Council on the Arts. Walker’s personal passion is for drawing, sketching and painting with markers.
A Junior at Homer High School, she continues to take orders and relies on word of mouth and the flyers she has posted around town. She is considering a career in graphic illustration and for now is happy to continue to share her creativity with her community through her original, hand-painted works of wearable art.