Interview by Tom Bradley
Produced by Liquidrice
Photos Astoria VIII
Define: Astoria VIII
Astoria VIII is dedicated to designing custom, unique sneaker art. We formed Astoria VIII with the ambition of creating unique works which allows the individual to differentiate themselves from the masses and as a tribute to sneaker design in general.
Interview continues below...
What led to custom painting footwear?
We’ve always had an interest in sneakers and had seen the growing trend of sneaker customizing becoming something of substance. Works by other customisers such as SBTG and Methamphibian were pieces that caught our eye initially [as I’m sure it did for many others] but what really got us started was a pair of adidas superstars we saw in the Melbourne basketball store KICKZ101. Basically, a city skyline had been drawn onto the side of the sneakers. The design was simple and eye catching.
Looking back it really caught our eye when we first came across them but in retrospect, they were quite primitive in terms of design and quality. We figured we could do something better and so we started customizing shortly thereafter.
Your style is certainly a departure from what is more commonly recognized as sneaker customization. How have you managed to stay so individual and maintain a distinct aesthetic?
Our goal when we started out was to do something different. We didn’t want to be boring and follow the trends.
Anyone can change the colourway of a sneaker. The camo design done by Meth & Sabotage is copied far too often and in most cases, nowhere near the same quality.
So when we first started we wanted to focus on a completely different direction than what the standard was and that is, we wanted to create works of such extreme detail that would really make people see that we were different and our works involved a lot of skill and effort.
What and/or who influence your art and design?
We are influenced and draw inspiration from literally anything and everything. We’ve never studied art/design so we try to focus on what we like and if we come across anything of interest, we try and make a note of that and incorporate it into our future works. Having said that, we are big fans of Pop Art and have been trying to work on creating a custom which reflects Pop Art in its highest form. But to be honest with you, we’ve been having trouble settling on choosing a sneaker for this project let alone a design. But we’ll get there eventually…..
Your work is somewhat of an elevation, some might deem it “fine art.” The idea that a sneaker can stand as a worthy canvas might be unsettling to some. What has been your experience so far concerning feedback from both the art world and the sneaker game?
Well firstly, we take it as a great compliment that anyone would potentially consider our work as “fine art”. As for the idea that a sneaker can stand as a worthy canvas, we haven’t had too much negative feedback regarding our work. The only instance we can recall is when our work was displayed in a local sneaker boutique in early 2004 and we were told that a few people who came into the store and saw the custom sneakers couldn’t really understand why anyone would want to paint their sneakers in the first place. I think you can take it even further and say there is also a general disbelief that still exists that anyone would have more than one pair of sneakers or keep a pair of sneakers “deadstock”. One other factor that may work against us is that we live in Australia. We are so far away from everyone else and sneaker customizing is not something that many people would have come across down here.
But having said that, the fact that the majority of people whom we come into contact with are either sneaker collectors or have interest in sneakers in general results in a very positive reaction and genuine interest in our work. Certainly our friends and family have taken a keen interest and have been very supportive of what we do.
How have you evolved stylistically from your first attempts to your most recent work?
I think our style is basically the same as when we first started customizing just over a year ago. One small difference though would be that we’ve learned not to cram as much as possible onto the sneaker. Sometimes less is more.
We’d like to start creating more simple customs which people will want to wear rather than keep on a display shelf. We’ve had a number of people tell us that they ended up displaying our customs rather than wearing them simply for the fact that they felt they would be doing an injustice by wearing the sneakers. Whilst we certainly take this as a very nice compliment, I think it also has a negative effect in that people see our work and decide that they’re very nice to look at but too detailed to wear.
But we were aware of this possibility when we first started and going back to our initial intention to create extremely detailed works to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, we think we’ve achieved that goal and we’ll always keep that as our modus opperandi simply for that fact that this is now what we’re known for and are comfortable with.
Do you intend on moving into other mediums of art or apparel?
That’s definitely something I think every sneaker customiser takes into consideration. We’ve already created a small line of apparel for members of the Astoria VIII family and there is obviously an infinite number of mediums which we could branch out to.
But sneaker customizing is essentially a part time hobby for us. DLV is still in High School so we’re only able to work on customizing sneakers in our spare time. We still haven’t decided if we will take this any further or simply keep it as something to do when we’re not doing anything else.
At the very least, we’ll always have the ability to create a pair of kicks for ourselves which no one else will have.....but we’ll see what happens and if the right opportunity presents itself, then who knows?
What will Spring/Summer 2006 bring for Astoria VIII?
We’ll be working on a few things here and there. As we mentioned previously, we’ll be aiming to create works with simpler themes but still have a few really detailed pieces mixed in between. Time will be at a premium as DLV is in his final year of High School so whilst I don’t think we’ll be producing a large quantity of works, we’ll definitely aim to produce works of high quality.
Freshness Gallery: DVL for Astoria VIII