In this series, we talk to a new wave of sneaker customizers coming out of Singapore. This week, we feature Kristal Melson, an artist whose work now includes custom sneakers.
An illustrator-artist who works full-time for Facebook, Kristal Melson recently started dabbling in painting sneakers. While she doesn’t see herself as a sneakerhead, Kristal acknowledges that she definitely has more sneakers than she should; her favorite pair being the Geoff McFetridge x Nike Vandal.
What made you interested in sneaker customization?
I’ve always explored different mediums,and experimented with different forms to paint on or with. Paper, canvas, toys, skatedecks, vinyl records, engraving on zippos and even furniture. Sneakers seemed like an obvious canvas to paint on. I think it’s important to constantly challenge oneself with new ideas and new mediums.
What type of designs do you specialize in?
My style is heavily illustrative and often rooted in abstract patterns. It’s a style that I’ve developed over years of painting and drawing. When I started experimenting on sneakers, the same interpretations translate themselves naturally. The patterns I work with, were created in an attempt to understand beauty in animal skins, or forms in botanics. Sometimes, I include kaleidoscopic forms that explore the surreal sensation of ﬂoating between dreaming and wakefulness. In a lot of ways, it is automatic drawing, which is expressing the subconscious – and more of a cathartic process.
Are there any notable designs that you have produced?
I worked on a series “Hypnopompic 2.0” for Sole Superior 2015 as a collaboration between myself and MadebyNB. My ultimate favorite customization was on a pair of Nike SB Janoskis made as a gift for my boyfriend’s birthday. He loves old-school sailor tattoos and swallows; the latter is a symbol for ensuring that sailors return home safely. You know how superstitious people say that you cannot give people shoes because they will walk away? The swallows on the sneakers are a symbolic way of bringing him back to me.
How long does it usually take to customize a pair of sneakers?
It varies, but excluding the prep stage, it can take from five hours to a couple of days.
Which sneaker brands and silhouettes do customers usually want customized?
I’ve received requests mostly for Janoskis, Air Force 1s or Air Max 90s.
Have you received any strange requests?
I don’t think I’ve been doing this for long enough to get strange requests. Now I’m looking forward to expecting some!
What’s the biggest challenge in customizing sneakers?
For me, unlike paper or canvas, it’s enforcing a sense of control to not go overboard with the drawing and keeping it classy.
What sort of customization jobs would you not accept?
I wouldn’t agree to commissions that are replica requests or copies of someone else’s art.
Is sneaker customization gaining popularity in Singapore? Why do you think so?
Yes. Sneakers are more readily available, so are the type of paints and materials, in stores or online. There are videos on YouTube that teach anyone who’s willing to try.
Check out Kristal’s other artistic work here, and shoot her an email if you want to commission a pair of customized kicks!