Laurent Roy of Lewiston shows off his Bean boot ceramic shoe during Thursday’s artist reception at Museum L-A in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Ceramic shoes? Sure, Laurent Roy can make those. No problem.

Laurent Roy, 86, of Lewiston shows his ceramic shoes at Thursday’s artist reception at Museum L-A in Lewiston. He was inspired after taking a class on ceramic shoemaking at the museum. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

We’re talking about a fellow who, at 6 years old, went into the woods and made a hockey stick out of a tree branch because he couldn’t afford a real one.

A fellow who, at 7, made his own sleds and miniature plows, which were so good that other children bought them for a quarter apiece.

“When I was young, we didn’t have much money,” said Roy, 86. “When you’re young, your mind is always working. You see something and think, I can make something out of that.”

So, yes, Roy can make ceramic shoes because making things is what he has done his entire life.

On Thursday, he brought three of his newly created ceramic shoes — two ladies’ shoes and an L.L. Bean boot — to Museum L-A to show them to the artist who inspired him.

Enter Marilynn Barr, an artist from North Carolina whose ceramic shoes have been on display all summer as part of Museum L-A’s “Footwear: From Function to Fashion” exhibit.

After Roy viewed Barr’s exhibit this summer with his daughter Janice, he was so impressed he decided at once that he would make his own ceramic shoes. When he made the announcement, nobody doubted him. Why would they?

“You name it, he’ll build it,” said Janice, an artist herself. “He can build a house from top to bottom. If he sees something he likes, he can make it. He’s always making something. When I saw the shoes, I thought this would be something new for him.”

Janice Roy shares a tender moment with her father Laurent at Museum L-A Thursday afternoon where the ceramic shoes he made were on exhibit. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Making shoes was new to Roy, but working with clay was not. Over the years he’s made hundreds of things, including woven baskets and more than 200 vases, which he gives as gifts.

“He hands them out like they’re candy,” Janice said.

Roy is a fabricator by trade and works all summer. He works for organic farmers, mainly. When they need a part for a tractor and that part can’t be found anywhere, Roy will make it for them.

When he made his foray into ceramic shoes for the first time, he mainly focused on women’s footwear, including a pump and a sandal, both painted bright blue. Then he became inspired by his own feet and decided to make a Bean-style shoe, as well.

“That’s what I’m wearing most of the week,” Roy said. “I looked at my shoes and thought, I’m going to make one of those.”

Roy needed specific tools that he did not have. That’s a problem for most people. It’s not a problem for this guy.

“He made the tools to make the boot,” his daughter said.

Roy is an affable man who seems quiet when you first make his acquaintance. When the topic of art and building things is introduced, though, he brightens up. He starts to talk more and he smiles the whole time. After 80 years of creating, building and tinkering, the craft still excites him.

Which Marilyn Barr can certainly understand.

On Thursday, she made her way back to Lewiston with her sister to pack up the ceramic shoes she had loaned the museum.

When Roy and his family heard she would be there, arrangements were made for the two artists to meet.

When it finally happened, Roy and Barr got through the introductions and small talk, and sat down to talk about art.

“I would say he’s a 21st century Leonardo da Vinci,” Barr said.

It seems an apt comparison. da Vinci, like Roy, was a little bit of everything. He was an inventor, a sculptor, an architect. da Vinci created many things because he either wanted or needed to have them.

Roy can relate.

“I don’t think of it as a talent,” he said. “I think of it as a need. You’re trying to make something out of nothing. You have to figure out a way to get it without spending.”

He and Barr chatted for a long time, each trying to describe the pleasure they get from creating something from nothing. They talked enthusiastically about their beginnings — how they got started and what they had planned for the future.

Barr looked over Roy’s work as carefully as he did hers. She was particularly smitten with one of the vases he brought with him.

“I absolutely love this vase,” Barr said. “It’s so elegant, so old world.”

She was particularly pleased by the shoes and that she had inspired them.

“His work is remarkable,” Barr said. “I feel blessed that he went home and made these after seeing my exhibit.”

Also at the museum Thursday was Jeannine Roy, Laurent’s wife of 65 years. Now, Jeannine is no stranger to the world of art. For many years, she ran a ceramic studio and taught the craft to others, including her four children.

“He’s so talented,” Jeannine said of her husband. “But we all have a bit of the artist in us.”

She said she doesn’t believe her husband will ever retire from working.

His daughter seconded that and guessed that her father will never quit tinkering and building things, either. Why would he?

“He’s having fun,” Janice said.

And at that, Roy smiled and nodded his agreement.


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