Student builds business by customizing shoes with art


Morgeson’s shoe design above is based on Mandalas in black and white to provide contrast.

From Converse to Airforce 1’s, Pioneer student Ava Morgeson has dedicated much of her time to customizing these popular shoes, especially when they sit old and grungy in the bottom of someone’s closet.

It started out as a hobby and quickly turned into a business. Morgeson was never totally comfortable with her artistic abilities, but because of social media she was inspired to learn. “I could probably paint that,” she said when explaining how her love of fashion and watching others paint footwear caused her to fall in love with shoe customization.

The process of making someone’s ideas come to life is grueling, and customizing shoes is no exception. The paint she uses is permanent, and her customers are typically providing her with their often expensive shoes, making it a stressful process. “If you go in and mess it up you can’t fix it,” said Morgeson.

It starts with sketching a design and taping the shoe strategically to separate where paint will be placed and where it will be left blank. Then, when the paint has dried and the shoes are ready, she adds a finishing touch of protective coat that protects the design from being destroyed by water. In addition to adding a pop of color to plain white leather, she also remodels dirty shoes. Many people come to her looking for a way to alter the look of an aging pair of sneakers. Her color choices are always catering to what her customer wants and she has never received a complaint.

For a basic design, prices range from $20 to $30. For something much more intricate, it could cost up to $75. Instagram is mostly where she finds customers. “I like to post more videos than pictures because it gives people a real idea of my work and how the whole shoe looks, while photos can’t really have the same effect,” said Morgeson. Currently, she is working on creating a website, but the best way to contact her is through her Instagram account @shoe-sbyava. Not only has she customized sneakers, but she has also recently gotten into painting Birkenstocks.

It has taken dedication to make her business thrive. Most of her time is spent painting shoes. “Sometimes I find myself needing to choose shoes over homework,” she said with a smile. That smile says a lot about Morgeson’s pas-sion. Not many students would be willing to give up their precious homework time to expand a business venture, but Morgeson is up for the challenge. There are large companies that do the same thing as Morgeson and use social media in the same way to gain notoriety. One of these brands is Drip Creationz, which is very popular among sneaker lovers at Pioneer. Morgeson says she feels very different from them about the art. “My shoe customization style is more original,” she said. “I can do anything a customer asks for. You as a customer can really bring your own ideas into the shoe.”

According to Morgeson, shoes complete an outfit. “Shoes are universal,” she said. This is why Morgeson chose shoes. To her, clothing is complex and hard to customize, because there is such a wide variety. With the limited number of styles shoe companies offer, each pair presents a blank canvas for her creations.

Morgeson’s goal continues to be to customize and elevate something that could otherwise be very simple. A basic pair of shoes immediately becomes interesting when she adds color and a unique design that cannot be found in any stores.

“This is why I love to customize shoes. Why not make something boring that has to be worn everyday a little fun?”  she said.