The sole of invention

Ivanka Ska’s shoe designs are a product of serendipity and collaboration.

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click to enlarge The sole of invention - UNGALA Photography
UNGALA Photography
The sole of invention

Inspiration is a powerful force. It can take you places you never imagined.

Much-loved local fashion designer Ivanka Ska was inspired to design her first pair of shoes when she took part in VERTICAL Tampa Bay magazine’s ProjectSTYLISH initiative; now her footwear designs are stepping out all over the world.

Closer to home, the proposed redesign for the St. Pete Pier has inspired Ivanka to take part in an unusual collaboration.

Nobody sets out on a creative journey with a crystal ball. The outcome is always a mystery. But one thing is certain: Some of the best stuff happens when an artist like Ivanka is willing to leave one realm and enter another.

First steps

Ivanka was known for her fabulous dresses when I invited her to participate in the first ProjectSTYLISH. She agreed, and took the first step of choosing a photograph to inspire her design. She chose “Stain,” a photo I shot in The Keys.

One remarkable thing about art is that it’s all about perspective — treasure can be discovered just by a shift in point of view. Ivanka took “Stain,” which was a horizontal shot, and looked at it as a vertical. There, in the ripples of the water, she saw a shoe.

That was 2011. Since making a splash with that first shoe, she’s designed over 300 pairs. Currently, she is working on a commission for Russian Fashion Week in Moscow. Her inspiration? Russian church spires — apropos for an 8-inch platform.

“People either love them or think they are crazy cool,” Ivanka says. A birthday cake was fashioned after her heels once. Ivanka sees her footwear on “petite women, art lovers and fashionistas.” Designer Dolly Donshey owns two pairs, and Tracy Ann Guida is the proud owner of the first-ever ProjectSTYLISH pair — proceeds from which benefited Ivanka’s beloved Creative Clay (

Thanks to what Ivanka calls a six-degrees-of-separation-type-thing involving her Creative Clay colleague Jody Bikoff, her shoes have been featured in the Dutch Virtual Shoe Museum ( And later this month, a pair of her shoes will be showcased in an exhibit called Stepping Into the Limelight (March 28 through September 29) at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, Germany. She’ll be in well-heeled company with other artists she admires from around the world.

“Can you believe where ProjectSTYLISH has taken me?” she exclaims. “All the way to Germany’s most important museum of applied arts!”

One foot in front of the other

Ivanka won’t make the trip to Germany for the opening of the shoe exhibit. She’s involved in a whirlwind of artistic collaboration designed to celebrate the possibilities of St. Petersburg’s new pier, aka The Lens.

“This is the next thing for our city! This is the progress! It will be a major landmark,” she insists. “People could come from all over the world to see it, just like the Sydney Opera House.”

“The New Pier in the City — Fashion, Art & Photography Celebrating St. Petersburg’s Waterfront” will be free to the public at Mahaffey Theater on April 11 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Fashion designers Kimberly Hendrix for k.hendrix and George Medeiros and Scott Durfee of Spathose are among a collective of St. Petersburg talent gathering in support of the Lens.

“We should celebrate,” Ivanka says, “and bring more awareness to the fact that this is a fantastic opportunity for us.”

T.W. Curtis, multimedia artist Chad Mize of Bluelucy, and gospel singer September Penn join the celebration, along with an impressive list of other artists who support the new pier. Paintings, sculptures, clay and glass works and photography will be available for purchase, with a portion of sales going to Creative Clay and the remainder to the selling artist.

Ivanka is producing this event in partnership with Pitchmen personality Anthony Sullivan for “Just call me Ryan Seacrest,” she says. “But I have a big army.”

Q&A: Walk This Way

CL: What do you think about while designing shoes?

Ivanka Ska: I work with music, so that’s a big role in my inspiration process. Then fabric — the way it moves — and last is color. All make sense at the end... at least in my head.

What’s on the horizon for your shoes?

To lower them to a heel and even a flat shoe design for all women.

Favorite walking city?

Den Haag in Holland, where walking is easy and bicycles are free to ride around town.

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