Angelus Direct: Where are you from originally?
Shme: I’m from Pennsylvania, I moved to Portland about four or five years ago.
AD: How did you start doing customs?
S: My brother and I used to draw on our shoes with Sharpie. I saw someone painting shoes online at some point and was like ‘oh what a good idea.’ So I just got some crappy paint at Michael’s and started painting on my shoes and wearing them to field hockey tournaments. I used to play field hockey back in the day and people would ask me about my shoes and where I got them. It kind of started this idea of maybe I could actually do this for other people as well. So I started taking shoes for people here and there, nothing too serious. When I went to college I didn’t really have time to customize, then my senior year I wasn’t playing a sport anymore so I had a lot of free time and I started customizing again.
I got an internship out in Portland and then moved home after that. That’s when I really started picking up with painting again and taking the time to turn it into a business.
AD: How long have you been doing customs?
S: Off and on for around ten years.
AD: Where do you get most your ideas or inspiration from?
S: I’m just inspired by other artists. It’s interesting to see what other people are doing in the world of customization.
But in tandem with that, just other artists in all different types of forms, like painting or airbrushing.
Another thing I like to do is just think outside the lines of what the shoe gives you. Back in the day customizing was really refined to changing swoosh colors or just doing colorway mockups and silhouettes, but I think now where it’s gone is people aren’t feeling restricted by the guidelines of what the shoes have given you. I think it’s opened up a lot of new things for customizers.
AD: You got your BFA in Fine Art and studied with master painter Joel Carson Jones. What made you decide to study Fine Art?
S: I think at the time I really didn’t know what else I was going to do. I knew I wanted to pursue something in art, I actually wanted to major in graphic design, but I was told that with my sports schedule and the classes I would have to take to obtain that degree that I wouldn’t be able to make it work. It was suggested to me that I should pursue a fine art career and if I wanted to pursue graphic design in the future I could go to grad school or take classes on the side.
So I ended up getting my BFA in Fine Art and just really honing in on those basic skills that you can use in any sort of background job.
AD: How do you feel like studying Fine Art changed the custom work that you do?
S: I think it changed it a lot. With Fine Art I think it’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of learning curves, a lot of patience and practice and I think applying all of those those experiences into my customs is a huge testament to the successes that I think I’ve been able to have.
There are a lot of frustrating aspects in the world of customs. It’s definitely a different form of art and sneakers are definitely challenging to work with. The whole trial and error portion and patience plays a really big role in getting me where I am today.
AD: Was there any project that was the most fun for you to work on?
S: The most fun I’ve had is the Monarch project. It’s just kind of one of those projects that I haven’t had to take too seriously. I think it’s showing the kind of work that I’m putting out. I’m having a good time with it and I think people are responding it really well.
The most memorable project that I’ve done were shoes for Thomas Rhett, he’s a country singer, he actually ended up wearing a pair on stage during the last show of his tour. It’s just kind of cool to know that someone appreciated your work enough to wear them for something like that.
AD: What part does social media play in getting your work out there?
S: I would be absolutely nowhere without social media. Instragram, and I’m sure every customizer will say the same thing, Instagram has absolutely changed the way in which we can get our work out to the masses. When I first started taking the customs thing seriously and really trying to turn it into something more than just a hobby it was one of the first place that I went. It’s just been an amazing platform to share your work.
You instantly know whether something you’ve done is being responded to well or not. You could post something and people might love it or people might hate it. Then you as an artist can take that information and move forward.
AD: You were the first female customizer to be invited to participate in Sneakercon's Ace of Customs Competition. What’s it like to often be one of the few girls in the room since customs is a male dominated field?
S: It’s pretty interesting, often times when people think of customizers they don’t even think that women do it. Most of the time when people comment on my Instagram it’s always ‘Bro these customs are awesome’ or ‘Dude they’re sick.’ I’m not going to respond to every single one, but sometimes it’s like ‘I’m actually a girl.’
It’s an interesting time with the Women’s Day playing a big role in our culture. It’s a really good thing for younger women to see women moving into those industries where it is generally male. To be able to be in this industry as a female and be relatively successful at it I think is huge testament not only to myself as a female, but kind of giving other girls this idea that we can do anything we put our minds to.
AD: What inspired your design for the Monarch giveaway?
S: I’ve always been really obsessed with Monarchs. My dad would wear them all the time and I would make fun of him. I played sports growing up and all our dads wore Monarchs, so it was a running joke through college. My friends and I would take pictures of Monarchs we would see and send them to each other. It’s been this lingering joke that probably nobody else finds funny, but we thought was hilarious.
I had no idea that Monarchs came in my size, I always assumed they were just stereotypical dad sizes. This Halloween I dressed up as an old man and I had to get some Monarchs to really tie it together. I was just going to get the smallest size and then wear fifteen pairs socks so they stay on my feet. I went online and noticed they actually came in my size.
Ever since then I wanted to see if I could paint Monarchs and turn them into something cool. The more I’ve worked on the project the more it’s developed into this idea that any sneaker silhouette can be anything if you apply the right colorway and story to it.
The Monarchs have had this stigma of being the dad shoe, the anti-cool kids shoe because of the colorways and the people that have worn it, but if you look at the Monarch and are able to reimagine it in different ways, thinking outside the lines of the shoe you can give it a completely new life form. That’s what’s really been inspiring me during the project. To me Monarchs have always been great, but I want people to take a second look and say ‘oh my gosh that’s a Monarch, I would have never guessed.’
AD: Is there any Angelus product that’s your favorite?
S: I don’t really have a favorite, I love it all! I have a hundred bottles of paint. I love that there’s so many colors and varieties of colors to choose from. It makes my life easier to not have to mix so many colors. I also really enjoy the pearlescence and the different finishes on paints. It just gives us a lot of options as customizers to something different.