April 27, 2010

Student Artist Spotlight:

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While En Hao ’13 may not strike you immediately as a shoe designer, this business oriented Michigan native actually has a website on which you can order and customize shoes that he creates himself. The Sun sat down with En to talk about his shoes, where he gets his ideas, and his future in art.

Sun: How did you first get involved with art and more specifically painting shoes?

En Hao: I started when I was five through this private teacher. I did watercolor, starting off, and have pretty much done that my whole life. I got into painting shoes senior year of high school. I got into it by watching people on youtube and you know, since I was painting for a long time, I figured I would try it and see what happens.

Sun: Did you experiment with any other mediums before you went to shoes?

En Hao: No, it went straight to shoes.

Sun: Were you a shoe junkie beforehand?

En Hao: [Laughs] Yeah … especially basketball shoes. I started off painting Nikes, but it seems like the whole canvas shoe thing is more in now and I’ve been expanding to that.

Sun: That’s really cool. What tools do you use when designing your shoes?

En Hao: For the leather shoes it comes with this factory finish that you have to take off with acetone […] But for canvas shoes, it’s easier because you can just paint right on them. I use a leather-specific paint, so it’s meant to bind to the leather or canvas in this case [shows a pair of Iron Man themed sneakers], and it can bend with the shoe so it doesn’t chip.

Sun: Wow, this is actually a really scientific process. I thought it would just involve painting right on the shoe.

En Hao: [Laughs] Yeah, I found it all on YouTube.

Sun: Do a lot of people you know from home do this as well or is this your own project?

En Hao: No, I guess I don’t really know anyone else who does this in my area. I’ve seen people on the Internet but that’s the extent of it.

Sun: So I hear you’re not actually an art major at all.

En Hao: Yeah that’s right. I’m sort of looking into business now. I think painting and art is something I want to do on the side, for the rest of my life though for sure.

Sun: Do you still take art classes?

En Hao: I haven’t taken classes in four years or something. But the last two years, I’ve been teaching a watercolor class for kids. And that’s been going year round, so I’ve had a full two years teaching on weekends. But I haven’t taken any classes for a while.

Sun: How do you come up with your designs?

En Hao: Some of it I just Google Image something for a basic idea. When people want me to do a particular face or logo or something I have to go out and see it. Otherwise I usually just pull up something I’m thinking of. You know, this pattern will look good here, and this color will look cool here. My customers give me a lot of freedom so I just see what looks good and do it.

Sun: Do you design shoes for other people?

En Hao: Yeah, everything I do is totally custom. I don’t paint a shoe and then sell it. What I do is people get in touch with me through e-mail and they tell me what they want, ideas, colors, themes and I just incorporate it all. People for the most part are kind of just like: “These are some things I would like to include, do what you want to it.” So I’ve been given a lot of freedom to do stuff like this.

Sun: Has anyone at Cornell ordered them?

En Hao: [Laughs] Just the great Justin Hawkins. A few friends and other people have ordered them as well so they’re floating around Cornell somewhere.

Sun: What’s your favorite shoe that you designed?

En Hao: I like the Food Network ones because I had to diligently draw a lot of faces and I’m pretty proud of it. But these ones [pointing to elegantly painted boat shoes] are my favorite for one reason: They’re mine [laughs]. The theme of this shoe was traditional Chinese brush painting […] all these subjects on the shoe, like bamboo and cherry blossoms, are very traditional images. I took years of Chinese brush painting classes. […] This part right here [showing part of the shoe] is my stamp. After you do a Chinese brush painting, you write a little something and then you stamp it. So this is a stamp made for me in China.

Sun: Do you ever plan to go public and sell your shoes in a store or do you want to keep this as a hobby?

En Hao: […] I’m a college student so I can’t devote my whole life to it at this moment but this summer I’m going to be trying to do as many projects as I can. […] You know if there are any opportunities through corporations or other organizations I’ll always be looking for that. Gotta dream big.

Check out En’s website, http://enhaokicks.weebly.com, where you can order one of En’s creations or see more of his shoes.

Original Author: Matt Becker