What’s the next best thing to do with your sneakers other than using them to work out? Why, using them to create art, of course.
UK-based designer Phil Robson aka Filfury has a serious sneaker fixation. Both his children have middle names inspired by sneakers and the designer confesses his shoe closet once accommodated 100 pairs of sneakers before he was compelled to donate most of them while moving home.
Thankfully the designer’s fascination with sneakers is not just limited to keeping up with the latest fads. As a director, designer and artist, Filfury’s mind is so wired to think divergently that when he comes face-to-face with his sneakers what he sees are not laces, stitching and mesh but the vague forms of bats, guns, butterflies, skulls and other assorted objects floating before his eyes.
Inspired by the hidden worlds within a pair of shoes, the artist salvages the sneaker parts digitally to create clever collages. His design process, he shares, involves, “Shoe + camera + coffee + sketchbook + Google image search + Photoshop.” And may we add – an imagination on the loose?
Answering what is perhaps an oft-repeated question – “Why sneakers of all the things?” Filfury responds emphatically, “Why not! I love sneakers.”
As a graphic designer, Filfury spends a fair amount of time in front of the computer screen manipulating images and it was only a matter of time before his work and shoe fetish collided on Photoshop. He admits as much, “I’m a graphic designer, so it was natural, playing with photography and digital manipulation.”
The artist first experimented with digital collages of sneakers a couple of years ago and was encouraged to continue creating as the process was enjoyable and the art paying. He says that the one-liner brief he gives himself when beginning work is, “Have fun. Create something you haven’t done yet.”
Despite his enormous collection of sneakers, Filfury manages to narrow his favourites down to a few saying, “I love Nike Air Max, and anything with a bubble. Although I’ve given my children sneaker-inspired middle names – Cortez and Blazer, so these sneakers too should be on the list.”
Speaking about his creative process he says, “I always start with the shoe. So it depends how I am inspired, whether I think – wouldn’t it be cool if I could turn this into (something), or if I see the shoe and think – this reminds me of (something).
In the case of his Beretta collage it was the shape of the gun that inspired him to cut up an Airmax sneaker digitally. The artist says, “I wanted to create that shape and form; that was the challenge.”
At other times, it is the unusual design of the sneaker that triggers his thinking. “My recent Manta Ray Tubular was based off me seeing the shoe and thinking that it reminded me of that creature,” he points out.
Irrespective of the design triggers, in the end all that matters is the aesthetic value of the collages and Filfury certainly does not disappoint on that count. His collages are really ingenious and turn creepy things like beetles, flying bats and skulls into cool art. In fact they even have you thinking of the possibility of these as 3D sculptures.
It’s a thought that hasn’t escaped the artist’s attention either. He says, “I have played with this (3D sculptures), and it’s nice stepping away from the computer. So 2015 should see some sculptural work come to life.”
It’s not clear if this means he will disembowel his beloved sneakers to bring his imagination to life, but it will be interesting to observe the process. ”Other things he foresees for himself in the near future include, “Being a full time artist…more adventurous creations, large format pieces, tactile sculptures and exhibitions.”
Though there is no specific artist who inspires his art, Filfury does go on to mention several artists whose work he admires. “I could list Ron English, Tinker Hatfield, Peter Saville, Ewen Spencer, Roger Dean, Dave White… all different artists in different fields,” he says.
Filfury’s art is playful, fresh and original and reminds us that there is beauty to be found everywhere, if only we choose to look.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Phil Robson