Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
As a little child living in China, I stumbled across an abandoned shoe factory near the outskirts of Guangzhou. I remember uncovering dusty boxes filled with defective sneakers and high heels. I can still smell the unworn rubber sole of the Li-Ning sneakers and feel the stitched leather of the off brand high heels. Immediately, I took off my Teletubbies sandals and stuck my petite feet into the enormous sneakers. “Ooouuu,” I admired the rubber sneakers. Unfortunately, I could not bring back the shoes to my house because my grandparents would question me about it and the shoes did not fit me either. From that day on, I became fascinated by footwear and the history behind it.
Prior to returning to America, my grandmother gave me a present that turned out to be a history book of footwear. I read that book several times and learned something new each time. I would have to say the consistency and popularity a certain type of shoe can maintain is surprising. The sandal that Jesus wore in biblical times is widely known as “Jesus sandal” and its popularity is at an all time high with beach lovers and white girls in particular. The different basketball sneakers that Michael Jordan wore in the 1990s is now a multi-billionaire brand that controls the majority of the shoe production and continues to increase each year. Pretty interesting, right?
Fast forward to my freshman year of high school, which is when I discovered the distracting, yet informative creature known as YouTube. I watched a tutorial video that showed the process of a shoe customization. The owner of the YouTube channel demonstrated how to remove the factory paint of the shoes using acetone, and then created a vivid landscape painting upon the shoes. At first, I thought he was some kind of magician because his painting seemed so real on the white pair of Vans and there was no way he painted that fast. But then I learned about the fast-forwarding video effects and how professional artists could replicate any type of image with their skills. Soon, I was drawn into the world of YouTube and my life changed as I developed my artistic skills and knowledge of shoe customization.
As I practiced my painting skills and my ability to replicate an image, I started to use shoes as my canvas. I taught myself how to use a paintbrush to paint pictures on shoes and I also used my math skills to determine how much ratio of paint I should mix to create a certain color. Occasionally, I would lose inspiration to paint shoes, so I take a walk in my neighborhood or start doodling sketches on notebook paper. A lot of the knowledge I gained was from mistakes I made before, and from the expansive searches on Google. To this day, Google and YouTube are my top two websites to visit whenever I have a question or if I want to learn more about the history of shoes and shoe customization process.