Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lost and Found: The Ghost of a Shoe

Once an object is lost or abandoned and out on its own in the universe, it simply waits to be found. Some objects are luckier than others. Some have souls (see Tsukumogami: Objects with Souls). 

This object was a fortunate case of mistaken identity. While my dinner companion was driving us through the Piedmont parking lot one night, I spotted an object on the ground in an empty parking space and ordered a halt. We both peered at the object illuminated in the headlights and tried to figure out what it was. I finally got out of the car, picked it up, and it was mine — to do with as I wished before sending it back out on its travels in the world.

Original mystery object

Both my dinner companion and I thought the object looked a lot like a shoe — more specifically, a Chinese shoe from yesteryear. By the time I ran into a six-year-old who immediately identified the object as the padded armrest from a child's car booster seat, it was far too late. It was already half-way to being transformed into the soul of a shoe.

Embroidered Chinese bound foot

Embroidered scan showing the bones of a foot inside of a high heel


Lining: silk from 100+-year-old Indian temple sari


Embroidered sole


After giving this lost object a soul, the next step was to send it back out into the world to continue its journey. The ideal place to do that, of course, was to take it back to exactly where I had found it. Initially I thought the perfect spot to install the soulful shoe would be atop one of the payment machines in the Piedmont parking lot until this duo came along to use the machine....and I realized that basing the installation on my height might mean that a sizable portion of passers-by would never see it.

Installed atop parking machine

Test subjects

I re-installed the shoe and label card, moving it to a little planter rim on the edge of the parking lot.

Installed on planter rim



And then I walked away. The shoe is now out in the world. May its wanders be wondrous.


  1. What an amazing piece of work. I once saw the X-ray of a Chinese woman's bound foot with the pickled bound foot in a jar right next to it in the Aberdeen University Museum. And the little shoe right beside it all. I'm so happy to have the word Tsukumogami. I find them but I call them Sad, Dead Toys see @vancouverbarbara IG. I don't usually do anything to them except document them, maybe brush them off and move them to a nicer spot. I always hope the owner will return to find them or that some nice person will give them a new home but now that I know they are neither sad nor dead, they can have a new life. Thank you for this and your recent post. I love all your work. You are a treasure.
    Vancouver Barbara


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