Soleheaven have been a customisers haven giving UK heads a forum to post up and contribute sneaker art to their online store and website. We featured Rob-L and his Puma customs a while back, and now Dale Parr, Soleheaven’s head honcho has discovered a bright star in the ‘casting’ with Jon Lawrence and his ceramic Nike Dunks. Dale was fortunate to sit down with the artist and crack open some tips on how to create perhaps the longest lasting sneaker in history!
Hey Jon, tell us about yourself... what’s your background?
I’m a freelance artist specializing in ceramics and pottery. I’ve been doing this for four years now, I’ve set up a business and I have a workspace in Leeds at Patrick Studios, www.esaweb.org.uk. My work is displayed and on sale in many galleries and art spaces across the U.K. Originally I was born in Leeds, U.K. and studied at Leeds College of Art. I then moved to Manchester to enrol on the three-dimensional design course where I got a taste for this kind of art and fully honed my skills.
When did you discover your passion for ceramics?
As we progress through life the memories of our youth are disturbed by our realisation of the troubled world we live in. My work challenges traditional ideas, habits and assumptions and also preserves childhood memories in three dimensional objects which are robust, tactile and purposefully imperfect. Art and Craft has been my only academic interest and ceramics has always played a big part in helping me express myself. For me, ceramics really took off when I was at Manchester, learning different techniques. I was shown how to slip cast and I quickly applied this process to unusual objects.
What inspired you to start casting sneakers?
Everybody knows the feeling of a brand new pair of sneakers and I wanted to make this feeling permanent. The aesthetic of trainers are preserved in Porcelain ready to last a lifetime.
Tell us a bit about the casting process and the timescales etc?
Casting a pair of trainers can take a whole day. I take great care when casting, as the plaster will recreate anything it touches. I use a special fine casting plaster which is good quality and easy to work with. I first make a mould from plaster which is then dried out for a week. I then fill this mould with a liquid clay called slip. The plaster absorbs water out of the clay which leaves a skin on the inside. I then pour out the remaining slip and leave to dry for another hour. The mould is then carefully taken apart to reveal a porcelain trainer. These are then fired in a kiln to allow glazes to be applied and then put back in the kiln and fired once more.
Are the sneakers still wearable after the casting?
They'll need a damn good wash first...they’re caked in clay inside and out!
We loved the Ghettoblaster you did...how did that come about?
The ‘Radio’ was one of my first pieces I made after I left Manchester. It was also much larger than anything I had done. I found the original at a car boot sale and I imagined it would be appropriate for my ‘urban’ range. I have made these into a much smaller edition and they come presented in a hand made ply wood box.
What’s up next for you?
I also make more conceptual work, which I would like to exhibit. I feel it is important to have a voice behind your work and I would like to communicate this. I will be working towards trade fairs and exhibitions. If you would like to know more please check my website www.jon-lawrence.co.uk
Has anything you've casted provoked an unexpected reaction from the public?
Yes, the public have made some great comments about my work, positive and negative, I really enjoy this. Most people just laugh and smile which always nice to see.
Your work appeals to many people in today’s urban lifestyle....have the more traditional art lovers embraced your work?
I get a lot of interest from twenty or thirty somethings who reminisce about great things from their youth, but at the same time my work has been acknowledged by the Royal College of Art, London and The Crafts Council. I’ve also won a Princes Trust award. SoleHeaven have been very excited about the ceramic sneakers and are keen to champion my work, but I have had several other magazines and publications writing editorials and features about various elements of my collections.
Fancy a pair of these dope Ceramic Dunks? Well hit up Soleheaven's product page here and choose from a variety of colours ranging from Green to Purple.
Stay tuned as Soleheaven has a lot up their sleeves for 2009 including Qustom Queen and her new series as well as sponsoring UK beatboxer called THePETEBOX.