I first got into sneaker customization in late 2002. During that time I was working a day job at a pharmaceutical company in Philly. I spent a few years honing my craft before taking orders for shoes and once I felt confident in my skills & doing sneakers for others, I then started promoting my work on Myspace, which was the big thing at the time, as well as putting together a website. My site at the time was really cheap looking and rinky dink but what can I say, I was just starting out (btw, I was not customizing under the Ecentrik Artistry name at that time).
Fast forward to 2007. By that time, I was still customizing sneakers but honestly wasn't putting the passion and effort into it that I should have been as I had fallen deep into a comfort zone at my corporate day job long before that year. Well, my department got the news in 2006 that our jobs were being outsourced overseas (translation: we were going to be getting laid off). So after the company outsourced our department, we collected our last remaining paychecks for those last few weeks and later got our severance packages. Mine was pretty nice looking considering I put in a lot of years with the company. I think back now with all that time I had off during 2007 how I could've been focusing on my art, but admittedly had gotten lazy and was slacking heavily on my work.....something that would come back to bite me later.
In comes the year 2008....that severance was almost gone and reality smacked me in the face like a ton of bricks. There was no more collecting unemployment (which I was getting on top of having that comfy package) and I needed to do something. I tried looking for work but the responses from companies weren't necessarily pouring in despite my work experience. Frustration and anxiety was starting to build and I started worrying if I would be able to take care of basic necessities like bills and rent. My financial situation was crumbling and things felt like they weren't working out at all. I did manage to land a part time gig but it paid so little that 95% of what I made was going to just paying my rent while my other bills were piling up. At times my mom, who knew what I was going through, would help and while I definitely appreciated whatever help she gave me, I still felt bad because I was always so used to being independent and able to do for myself and wasn't comfortable with the idea of being a grown man and still needing financial help from mom. I've had a utility get cut off because I didn't have enough to cover payment and times where I had like maybe 2-3 things in the fridge having to live off the same meal every night because I was so broke. I hated dealing with everyday life for most of that year and was only really at peace during bedtime because that was the only time I didn't have to stress over everyday bs....in fact, I dreaded when daytime came and wished I could just stay in bed for days. There were moments when I truly felt like life hated me and I remember having nights where I sat in my apartment by myself literally crying because I felt like things would never get better.
And on top of all the misery of trying to find work and get back on my feet, early that summer, my best friend lost his wife about a week and a half after having their first child (my goddaughter). Her passing hit me hard because she was like family to me and we would always spend great times hanging out together over the years and both of them were among the people who were by my side during those tough times (me & my best friend are still tight to this day and he's doing a great job as a dad). I remembered being in his wedding when they got married and them asking me to be the godfather before the child was born. Her passing was the icing on the cake for what had been a dreadful year.
I found myself needing to get away and clear my head frequently. During that summer I would just get out of the house, go hang out downtown (was still living in Philly during this time), and just go for walks around the city and sit in the park with my headphones on (something I still do frequently today.....I sometimes like to drift off into my own world as it personally helps me creatively). Downtown Philly is close to an area of the city called Old City, which has a number of art galleries. On my walks, I would visit those galleries to check out the art. The art just had a relaxing feeling on me that at the time I couldn't quite explain....now I realize it was probably because it took me back to what I've always loved, which is creating, and was probably a sign that I should get back into what has always been a part of my life since childhood.....art.
Soon on those trips to the city & the park, I would bring along my sketchpad and doodle in it regularly. I would sketch random scenery, comics, etc....kinda trying to get my mojo back so to speak. That plus one of those trips to a gallery (may have been a show opening) sparked my desire to get back into sneaker customization again (I was also buying a lot of art magazines during this time so that definitely played a huge part as well). I started messing around with sneakers again and not only did that energy and passion start creeping back in, but I also wanted to do it better than I had before. I wanted to kinda re-brand myself and later come up with a name that represented my style that I was developing. Eventually I came up with the name Ecentrik Shoe Artistry (I later dropped "shoe" because I thought it was too long and kept the doors open to the possibility of incorporating other things as well). Also, on one of those gallery trips, A gallery owner saw me with a sketch pad in my hand and asked me "Are you an artist too?" I told him that I was and that right now I just do it for fun. He responded with something to the effect of "There's no money in art. If you're thinking about doing it I suggest sticking to your day job". I just nodded and said "Okay", left, and never set foot in his gallery again. Now I was even more motivated.
Eventually I landed a full time job a month later at a well known cable company's corporate HQ in the city (about September/early October). It was a job through a temp agency and at first I had that "I landed a cushy job" mentality again, which could've led to me falling back into that old comfort zone. After being there for a while I realized it definitely wasn't what I wanted to do for any real length of time....was happy to be making decent pay again but the job itself wasn't where I wanted to be at all (met some cool people there but hated the stuffy atmosphere). I guess that was a good thing that it went that way because it made me keep my eyes on the prize and stay focused on building my brand and moving on.
I was there for about 1-2 years before my assignment ended...by that time I had put in more work building Ecentrik Artistry and had developed more of a fan base. My assignment ended with the company and I saw it as an opportunity to move on. I got offered an opportunity to fill out for a full time spot in the company but turned it down, which was a risk on my part. But sometimes, when you really want something, you have to take the risk and just go for it.
Fast forward to 2015: In the past couple years, I've gotten opportunities to show my work in art shows, sneaker events, had multiple website features, domestic and international clientele, as well as relocating to New York. Yet I still feel like there's so much more to do and that i've barely scratched the surface.
Now, onto the shoes!
I called them 2008 because it was a year where I went through adversity and managed to survive. It was a year despite it being a dark point in my life, I managed to create something beautiful that would bring me out of it and that has brought forth many different opportunities today.
With this shoe, the colors on the shoes aren't just colors to make them look good, each of the colors actually represent something..
The black represents the rock bottom period that I, and other people, have experienced at one time or another in life. Notice how the black transitions into a charcoal grey then into a light grey....that symbolizes how if we make the effort, we can begin to dig ourselves out of that black hole and find light at the end of the tunnel. The shades of green represent the greener pastures that are out there for us. The green is not dominant on the shoe for a reason: it's because when we're in that dark place, we don't always see those greener pastures and sometimes tend to think they're not there but they're all around us if we look hard enough.
It's funny how what was the worst year of my life is responsible for me regaining my passion....a passion which I get to share with the rest of the world. Never did I think I would have people show me so much love for my work. Never did I think that I would get messages from young upcoming artists telling me how much my work inspires them and having upcoming sneaker artists actually tell me that my work is what made them want to get into customizing. It's great getting respect from up and comers as well as veteran artists who've been around for a while with their crafts. To know that you're making a positive impact, especially when at one time you almost thought of giving up, is an amazing feeling. Am I exactly where I want to be? No, not yet, but the progress made has been astounding.
A lot of times when I put out new work, I hope to get some website features and social network mentions.....this project wasn't done for that. If this particular project doesn't get one blog mention or any type of promo outside of my own, it's okay. I just wanted to tell my story for anyone who may care, even if it's only one person.
I also wasn't even going to make these available to purchase, but after some thought, I am willing to make pairs for anyone who might be interested (ordering info is at the link below). At the moment i'm only planning to make 8 pairs (each would be numbered on the shoe). The t-shirt would be included as well. Again, whether this items sells out or doesn't sell at all, I just wanted to tell my story.