Rea and I have won the same Business Recognition Award on Twitter. The Royal Connection was started by Aqua Design Group as a fun way to celebrate women in business with the #QueenOf day competition which was weekly during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, this proved so popular that the competition has continued ever since.  I really admire Rei’s art and bringing up her son at the same time,  such an inspiration; here is her story:

Who is Rei?

This is an awkward question but I will answer honestly. I am a optimist, a mother and an activist. My son’s father is a stalker from whom I will never be completely safe, so I cannot reveal my whereabouts but I can say that I live in the UK in a lovely warm, very colourful, and joyful home with a little vegetable garden where I try to grow nice things to eat.

What do you do?

I create wearable art. My specialty is hand painting onto shoes & apparel. People come to me with a design or an idea, whether it be a photo of their child or pet or a theme or pattern. Some examples that I’ve painted onto Converse shoes are pictures from a favourite holiday photo, a particular airplane that a pilot flies, a memorial pair for a child sadly lost, some music that a pianist loved, or two cute pets. Matching totes and shoes, upcycled denim jackets, I like to paint onto unusual surfaces, but I can paint flat canvases as well. I thrive on creating something special and personal for people that gives them happiness and means something, has meaning, is colourful, and fun. I help them to wear their individuality. Plus, I can’t deny that I I love the fear/buzz that comes with potentially ruining a very expensive pair of trainers!!
My other full time job (and the most important one) is the home education of my son. It’s a busy and wonderful life.

Have you always done this?

My life and career since school has been a little eclectic, even somewhat eccentric, from working in an office to dancing in a nightclub, cleaning houses and teaching adults. I studied a Masters in Computing and worked in IT for many years but when I was pregnant in 2009 I lost my contract as a college lecturer, at the time of the first wave of “cuts”. I then blogged for a few years until the stalking got too heavy and I had to shut down my online presence for a while. I started what I do now in 2015 by painting a couple of pairs of canvas shoes as a thank you to some people who had given me valuable support during that time. By word of mouth and some incredible encouragement and support from friends I started to sell online to strangers, too. 

Prior to doing this I had barely picked up a pencil – and had never picked up a brush – since my childhood. Now I’ve been painting for almost three years and have found my dream job, my soul career. In three small years I can see such a massive improvement in my work that frequently, if not always, I wonder where the painting has come from. Me? Did I really just do that?!

I do it for my son, so that I can work from home and flexibly. I would love ShoeTattoos to become a full time career by the time that he is a few years older and more self-sufficient but for now, he needs me, most of the time. I’ve fought Tax Credits, and established in court that this is a valid and commercially viable career and I am driven to keep improving and diversifying my artistic skills and one day earn enough money to live a simple life with my son and have enough money to buy us a nice holiday once a year.

What is your favourite tool or prop or item you love to use or couldn’t live without?

My workspace is very compact so if I had to name one thing after my brushes, it’s be my Ikea unit with the little plastic drawers that helps me store all my wonderful brushes and incredible paints, additives, fixers and all that malarkey as well as the paperwork and packaging.

Do you have any pets that keep you company whilst you work?

At the moment we live with one incredible amazing GSD x Collie called Shadow – my soul dog, my rock, and second best friend after my son. Three gerbils, five rats, and one ball python. Yes…cleaning is also a significant part of the day too!

You can find Rei and her beautiful shoes here:

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