Life, Interrupted: The Designer En Pointe

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Why you should care

Broadway actress Anne Schwantes is turning a curious hobby into a full-time gig: restoring, decorating and selling pointe shoes.

Anne Schwantes is taking a break from Broadway. For the past year, the actress, mother and wife has focused on pushing a hobby into what’s now a full-time job. The work? Restoring, decorating and selling pointe shoes.

Schwantes’ Diamond Pointes sees her taking worn pointe shoes, shoes she’s tucked inside a vintage chest at the foot of her bed, and turning them into small works of art. Small works of art that she then flips and sells for $250 per shoe. “Pointe shoes were so important to me as a little girl,” Schwantes says. “They were a special symbol of femininity and strength that held so much value.”

In 2016, Schwantes volunteered for the local youth program’s production of Cinderella. Charged with promoting the show, she took a run-down pair of pointe shoes, stripped them, restored them, dyed them, elaborately decorated them to match the show, and displayed them in a case on opening night.

But wonder of wonders, post-show, someone approached Schwantes about buying the shoes. Schwantes’ initial intention was never to sell them, but once the idea was planted, she decided to keep doing it. And as luck would have it, her daughter-in-law, also a dancer, had about 50 pairs of old shoes. Schwantes took and restored them, decorating each one based on a ballet.

A friend then suggested she take her whimsical works of art to the Metropolitan Opera’s gift shop and see if they would sell them. They did, and her clients? Mostly grandfathers buying the shoes for their granddaughters who dream of being ballerinas, and former ballerinas who reminisce about shows represented by a particular shoe.

Schwantes recently designed her 220th shoe, but she starts the process very much the same way: by stripping the pointe shoes and dyeing about 12 at a time. She then places them on recycled wine bottles for a week to let them dry. Once the shoes are dry, she slides an old musical into her VHS player and settles into her workshop — a room in her New Hope, Pennsylvania, home filled with the stones, glitter and ribbons she uses to decorate the shoes.

Does the same magic she treasured in the satin shoes as a little girl translate to the finished product? You tell us.

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