Justin Fenwick of East Peoria has taken two of his passions – art and shoes – and molded them together into a unique venture.

Fenwick, 36, creates art out of tennis shoes, mostly the Nike Air Force 1 brand. He starts by removing the Nike emblem with a razor and then the sky’s the limit. He may dye material, paint, change the tongue, sole, shoe laces or stitching or even add crystals. He adds his signature to the tongue of the shoe.

Currently, Fenwick is working on a military-themed set of shoes. He is doing one set each for American, Russia and China. He said these shoes, which he calls the Laced Nation Collection, are for the Peoria Art Guild where he is planning to have a show.

Showing the American model at his work space in his home, he said, “This is the actual camo that was used in the first Desert Storm.”

Fenwick hand-painted the camouflage on the leather shoe. He even changed the sole and tongue on the shoes to match the camouflage theme. He added netting to the side of the shoe. Where the Nike emblem once was, he will add guns that are printed on leather – an M16 on the American version and an Ak47 on the Russian version.

Another pair of shoes Fenwick is working on are for XXL magazine, which is geared to those who like hip hop. That set of shoes he calls “The Deal” has Swarovski crystals and spikes added to them. He explained that rappers wear jewelry so he wanted to add jewels to the shoes. Fenwick even made a shoebox out of Plexiglass that the shoes will be showcased in. The inside of the box lights up on the bottom.

“You’re only limited to what your imagination is,” Fenwick said.

Fenwick’s imagination seems to run the gamut as he said his next idea for shoes will have a Sasquatch theme.

“I’ve never see that,” he said.

From an early age, Fenwick remembers being into art. In high school, Fenwick took a lot of art classes.

When Fenwick was in seventh grade, the first Air Jordan Nikes came out and he was in love.

“It just kind of caught my eye,” he said.

Then Fenwick sought a more unique pair of shoes; he wanted multi-colored ones he saw in a magazine. Since he could not find them, he decided to make his own.

“I thought I wonder if I could dye these,” he said.

In 2004, he designed his first pair and wore them to Northwoods Mall. His friend saw them and wanted a pair. Fenwick had his first customer.

“It kind of took off from there,” he said.

Over the years, Fenwick’s customers have included professional basketball star Shaun Livingston, hip hop artists Bun B, Nelly, Kanye West and professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. West wore his custom shoes to the BET Awards in 2006, Fenwick said.

Fenwick explained he got some of these high-profile clients from his business card “floating around.”

Fenwick has sold his shoes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The price range of his shoes is between $200 and $1,500.

Today, Fenwick said he mostly sells his shoes on consignment. He is currently working on deals in Vegas and Miami. He prefers consignment so he can do his own designs rather than ideas someone else wants. Recently, someone called Fenwick with an order and he turned it down.

“I don’t really do it for money anymore. I try to take what I do and go further each time,” he said. “I just love the challenge of trying to impress myself. At the end of the day, it’s not really about money, it’s about mastering my art.”

Locally, Fenwick’s shoes were at The Hott Spot, 1800 N. Knoxville, in Peoria. He said they will likely be there again after Christmas.

Although he has designed more than 700 pairs of shoes, Fenwick describes his shoe fetish as a hobby. His main job is at UPS.

Within the past couple of months, Fenwick has become involved with the local art scene in Peoria. Fenwick and three other artists are planning a show at the Art Guild in the spring.

Many local artists would likely agree with Fenwick’s stance on art.

“Art’s really whatever you make it into. It doesn’t have to be a painting,” he said.

Future goals for Fenwick include having his shoes in a music video and to work with Nike.

“Those are things left on the journey,” he said.

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