Artist gives life to Belgian boot-scrapers during pandemic

ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) — During the coronavirus pandemic existence can appear bigger or smaller, as constraints on the public health reduce social interactions to a bare minimum.

However, despite the unfolding crisis, the Belgian artist Elke Lemmens was able to create contacts.

She uses her creative talents and a grant from the City of Antwerp to open up everyday lives – and remarkable tales – to disused boot-scrapers.

Lemmen will use this grant to set up at least 50 miniature scenes in the old outdoor niches that were once used by families to clean their shoes.

These gritty architectural relics of the era when dirty roads and the shortage of sidewalks have made the rubbery of metal-based boots a requirement for indoor usage in city sceneries from Europe into the USA.

"When she's using tweezers to transfer miniature figures in cigar boxes, so many people have so many stories behind the doors," Lemmens said. "Each one of these stories fit into one of the wooden boxes of cigar, and then I write the names of those owners on the front in crab."

In different communities around Antwerp she aims to set her designs.

A boot-scraper portrays Roger van de Velde's jail cell and was kept in a mental jail owing to painkiller abuse.

Another land scene on a short street not far from transmits a message of integration of residents passing rainbow bridges.

The scraper space in another household displays people on a map.

Lemmens was created for a family that loves to fly around the globe and has relatives.

"It's sometimes hard to locate the numbers," said the designer.

"There aren't many colored people models or people in assorted religious dresses and other things.

These are sometimes myself I need to color.

Other niches include intensely intimate tales.

A white door has a sign scratched down the suburban street lined by vibrant houses: 'Lived and played Tia — April 11, 2006 — September 12, 2015.'

"It's for this 9-year-old girl who was once sat at the door the boot scraper scene," Lemmens clarified.

"She died in 2015 sadly.

She said her daughter never stopped dreaming about another planet when I spoke to Tia 's mother.

She was thinking about riding a sand horse.

I produced this scene of the little girl riding on the sea accompanied by other children in her boot scraper.

I was motivated by the tale that this girl had the freedom to build her own dream environment in her head.

Building in miniature is something Lemmens has been doing since childhood.

"With Lego, I still practiced.

I'd get a bakery put together, but then mold croissants and cakes and bread and paint them out of clay, "she said.

"Then I began to create balsa wood because carving is simple.

I agree that my dad's hobby carpenter helps me feel handy.

The boot scraper project would certainly arouse interest in the next couple of months in Antwerp, where people don't get far away and remain away from anyone.

Some can feel like an adventure by a quick evening stroll.

"Later, a walking chart will be given for people to locate these scenes for boot scrapers," said Lemmen.