Lauren Luna is a classically trained painter who moved to Houston a year ago to pursue her second artistic career as a shoe designer. Though she's lived in many different U.S. cities, from San Francisco to New York, she decided to move to Houston because of its welcoming and diverse art scene. She has a master's degree in Fine Arts Painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco as well as a master's degree in special education. Though her canvas paintings often focus on things such as race and class issues, her shoes are whimsical, colorful and sometimes pay homage to pop artists of the past.
What She Does: "The easiest way to put that is that I am a shoe designer and a painter," she says. While Luna was already in the process of making a name with her paintings, she got into the shoe business somewhat by accident. She wanted a cool pair of custom sneakers, and a friend suggested she just paint a pair herself. That first pair, a set of Converse, were too small, so she sold them on Craigslist, but soon an obsession had begun.
"In Columbus, Ohio, I had an art show for my paintings, and a state senator showed up," she says. Luna had gone to school with the man's son, so the two started talking. "His son had started a hip-hop and politics magazine and I decided to run an ad." Luna thought to herself that people were more likely to spend $500 on a great pair of shoes than on a painting, so that's what the ad focused on.
That's not to say that her paintings don't draw their fair share of adulation. "I have a bit of a name for the paintings," she jokes. "But no celebrity endorsements."
Most recently, RaMona Rizzo of VH1's Mob Wives tweeted a photo of herself in a pair of Luna's colorblock stilettos.
Why She Likes It: "I've always been a shoe whore," she says. "I like fashion and art and the convergence of the two." Luna, who refers to herself as plus-sized, also sees shoes as an accessible way for women of all sizes to play with fashion trends.
"I stay up-to-date with the latest colors and trends, but it's also my own eclectic tastes." She's designed shoes inspired by the paintings of Keith Haring and Van Gogh (the Starry Night shoes above retail for $300), and has a whole line based on the Seven Deadly Sins.
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If Not This, What? Though Luna currently teaches bilingual education, she says she will always work in art. "I like to say I was inside my mom, doing cave paintings before I was born. I've been in art classes since I was five. My parents are interracial and my dad is a DJ, so I was never told, 'You can't do that.'"
If Not Here, Where? Luna only moved to Houston about a year ago. "I used to say 'New York' because of the diversity, but now that I've seen I can get that here, I really love Houston."
What's Next? Her shoes are being sold in a few boutiques in her hometown of Columbus, and she's looking for stores in Houston as well. In the meantime, she's selling on her Etsy store, LaurenLunaLtd.
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Sarah Cortez, writer Kent Dorn, drawer, painter, artist Lillian Warren, painter Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright