Art and Sole: Hanh Tran Debuts Sandals

Houston artist Hanh Tran takes her work to unexpected places—like the soles of your feet.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen February 23, 2015

Tran's "Happiness" flip-flops alongside the original painting they are based on.

"If I just sold regular art on canvas at my price point, I’d probably be a starving artist," says Hanh Tran, a painter and the owner of Hanh Gallery in Upper Kirby. 

That's not to say that Tran is unsuccessful—a large-scale oil painting recently on display in her gallery was priced at $30,000—rather that she's been innovative in finding non-traditional ways of sharing her art. 

"You can't only be an artist anymore, you have to be a businessperson. A lot of clients can't afford a $12,000 painting but they love the story, they love the art and want to support it," says Tran. "Those who want a painting one day, for now maybe they can afford a $200-$300 handbag."

Hanh Tran "Curtain Call" flip-flops, $29.99

Tran has translated her thick, textural style of painting into one-of-a-kind, handpainted purses, bracelets, pillows, plates, and furniture. Now she's adding sandals into the mix, her first product that isn't painted by hand. 

"I was thinking, 'what can I come up with that's fun and light that a machine could create for me, but that's still my brand?'" says Tran.

The lightbulb went off when she was looking over a few of her paintings, and realized they had the kind of summery vibe that would be perfect on a flip-flop. Tran and her sister started playing with the images in Photoshop, took the idea to a manufacturer, and a year later they're finally ready to debut her sandals.

An all-rubber flip-flop (think Havaianas) is priced at $29.99, with a leather version for $70 coming by summer. Each material is offered in two painterly prints with lots of pool-ready turquoise hues. The sandals are currently available at Hanh Gallery and at Skout online, but Tran is also hoping to distribute them to the local boutiques who carry her other wearable art products, and is currently pitching them for use in high-end spas.

"I love them! I wear my flip-flops when I'm running around the city between meetings, and then before the meeting I put my heels back on, and the flip-flops in my bag," says Tran. "As an artist, what I've learned is if you keep creating what you love, people will come."


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