How long have you been customising sneakers?
It’s been about three years since I doodled on those pumps. But I turned my attention to leather and started the Brass Monki blog in July 2009.
Were you always a massive sneaker head?
Huge! Since I turned 16 and got a job, I haven’t stopped buying shoes.
How many pairs do you own?
I’d say about 40 sneakers and around 25 plain white Nike Dunks ready to paint!
The site says you also re-stuff tongues and colour the stitching, how much have you learned about sneakers over the years?
I’ve learned a lot, but all the information’s out there. Everything I know is from the Internet, little written guides and YouTube.
Do you work exclusively on Nike Dunks?
I’ll work on anything. I suggest Nike Dunks because they’re popular, I can get them in plain white and they have a large leather surface without too many lumps and bumps. But I can customise any shoe, any surface.
Have you done any weird concept art or do you like to keep them wearable?
I try to keep them wearable but I did customise the sole of a shoe once. I kept telling the customer that it wouldn’t work and would just chip off, but he didn’t care. He told me he was just going to hang them on his wall anyway.
I was wondering, do you have to get legal permission to reproduce all the artwork or do you just wing it?
A nude picture of a porn star on the side of the sneaker. They were serious, but I couldn’t take that job on with my mum knocking around the house.
Have you ever turned down a request you didn’t like?
See above, ha ha… But yeah, I’ve turned down a few. Sometimes people ask for a theme, which is easy because I get to be creative. It’s when people get specific that it gets tricky. "So you want a maroon background with a logo that’s lime green and dark orange, then you want the stitching in yellow, with royal blue laces?" You have to turn down requests like that or it’ll look like someone ate highlighter pens and puked on a pair of sneakers.
Favourite design so far?
Daft Punks (above). I’m still working on a pair for myself but I’m too busy.
Most expensive pair sold?
Daft Punks, £750.
How do you do it? What’s the process?
First I remove the wax coating so the paint will stick properly. Then I mask off the areas I don’t want to get paint on. Next I bust out the airbrush and do the background colour. Then I hand paint the details with a fine brush – sometimes I use a marker for tiny details. Finally, I seal it with clear acrylic.
How long does it take you to make a pair, usually?
On average, 16-19 hours per pair – from removing the wax coating to putting them in their box.
Is it just you working on them?
Yes, it’s just me. To be honest, it’s becoming a lot to handle. Running the website, keeping new designs posted, responding to emails, running the Brass Monki Facebook and painting sneakers!
Do you make them to order or do you have a whole range of sizes ready to go?
No, I make them to order. I doubt it would ever be viable for me to build up stock.
Where do you get the blank sneakers from?
I have a guy who knows a guy who works in Beaverton (Nike HQ).
What else do you do besides sneakers? I see you’ve added t-shirts to the site?
I’m trying to start a Brass Monki line; some sort of merchandise, key rings, stickers and things. I’m trying to build a brand. Also, maybe some canvases – if I ever get the time to do my own artwork.
Okay… You’re also a pop culture junkie, top five movies of all time?
I could give you a list of ten awesome films? Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, American Psycho, Inception, the Godfather series, Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, City of God, Usual Suspects and Atonement (a guilty pleasure).
Video game characters?
Solid Snake, Cloud, Link, Mario and Master Chief
How about sneaker websites and blogs?
I don’t visit many sneaker blogs anymore. I used to but I found I ended up copying other people’s work. Instead, I use StumbleUpon for inspiration.
Are you digging the current Adidas Star Wars Originals range?
I like a couple, but I think they could have been done better. The Stormtroopers are top notch though.
Favourite fellow sneaker artists?
Jacob Patterson. He’s a top man. It’s been reported that we’ve had ‘beef’ in the past, because of a few words taken the wrong way. But we’re cool.
Does the name mean you’re a Beastie Boys fan?
Certainly does! I do love a Brass Monkey though. Have you had one? Tasty!
Nope. Lastly, what would be your dream request?
A Liverpool FC pair! Maybe one day Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher will commission a pair.
For more info and to order your dream pair, head over to brassmonki.com.