“Even if I did make a lot of money I would still want to create more art and spread the love by giving the people something to make them smile.”
Within the world of sneakers there’s always been that crossroad where art meets commerce, from the artistic inspiration that gives birth to the silhouettes we’ve grown to love, to the money machines that gets behind it and sells them en masse.
It was at this very same crossroad that twenty two year old Helen Hale found herself three years ago. When the recent Norwich University, Fine Art and Advertising graduate, begun her degree, she posed the question of commercialism vs. art and added her passion for sneakers in to the mix. This led her to create an array of sneaker inspired pieces of art throughout her time at the university such as her striking ‘Aluminum Air Max 90’ footprints, lace inspired graphic art or her life size ‘Air Max 90 Candles’.
So in anticipation of her forthcoming pieces, we decided to catch up with Helen to find out more about her and the thoughts behind some of her sneaker themed art collection.
CJ: When did you discover your love for the arts?
Helen: “Well from a really early age I’ve been drawing. I grew up in a caravan for a few years while my parents built their house and since that point I’ve been addicted to creating. I think watching them build something is what made me want to do it myself and that ideal carried on through school, college and right up to university where I took my combination of Art and advertisement.”
CJ: Where did your passion for trainers come from?
Helen: “I think it came from my love of hip-hop and the fashion that surrounds it.”
CJ: What brand of trainer were you in to initially?
Helen: “Puma’s mainly back then but it was also a random collection of what I could afford.”
CJ: How did the idea to base your artwork around your passion for trainers come about?
Helen: “It came to me in my second year of university, I studied fine art which allows you to choose what you will specialise in. So when I started the induction in metal work and screen printing the first idea that would come to my head is ‘Oh I’ll just base it on a sneaker for now’. It just ended up merging in to my artwork, however people would then look at me as more of a graphic designer, because I was using a commodity, to which I would say I would say ‘Hang on a minute is this not still art?’ So my question at this point was where is the line between art, advertisement and graphic design? This idea started in my second year of university and carried on until now.”
“Where is the line between art, advertisement and graphic design?”
CJ: Was it a conscious decision to base your entire art collection around sneakers?
Helen: “That happened in my third year of university, I would say there was just a point where I felt to keep it simple and stick to sneakers, and when your sitting at home wanting to draw, but you don’t know what to draw, my sneakers would be in front of me, so I just decided to constantly use them as my inspiration.”
CJ: Take us through your creative process for your laces sculpture.
Helen: “That piece came from the idea of the growth of the sneaker scene in the UK, which has been strong over the past couple of years. So I thought about the idea of showing this growth, then the idea of growing shoelaces or growing trainers came to me, if they could be in a field how would they grow? That’s where the bronze piece came from.”
CJ: What’s the concept behind your air max metal footprint?
Helen: “The idea of the aluminium soles is family, I started working on the idea of the growth of the laces and at that point I found out that my granddad used to be a steel worker, he used to make the manhole covers around town and I noticed that the texture you get on those covers is the same as the texture that you get on your shoes and I thought in a weird way that idea would make my granddad proud and I can do something that he did but in a very modern way with the soles of footprint and I thought that they could represent the footprint of my history and my granddad.”
CJ: How did the idea for the Air Max candles come about?
Helen: “Me and my mate were at the pub and we were talking about random stuff, I think we were having a pint by the candle light at that point I thought ‘How comes you never see sneaker candles?’ As that would be something people would like to have in their house. I was so deep in to my metal casting at the time I learned that you have to mould the wax and then burn it out. That process led me to the decision to make a sculpture out of wax… It was essentially a drunken sneaker head conversation.”
CJ: What’s your affinity with the Air Max 90?
Helen: “I chose the air max 90 purely because I was a 90’s baby and I felt that the sole on that model really has a nice profile as well as that leather like texture that comes out in the cast, but essentially I chose it for its iconic profile.”
“The liquid silver Air Max, they’re more of an art piece then a shoe you could walk around in.”
CJ: Some people say that where the money starts the art ends do agree with that?
Helen: “Not if your born a creator and you love creating. That’s what I will be doing until the day I die, whether I don’t have a penny to my name or I have a million pounds creating is something I will always do.”
CJ: From an artistic perspective what trainers do you really appreciate?
Helen: “Its got to be the custom work that I’ve been seeing lately, some of its really amazing, other then that the liquid silver Air Max they’re more of an art piece then a shoe you could walk around in when you see them.”
CJ: Going forward would you say you want to see your work lean towards more art based pieces or more product based pieces?
Helen: “At the moment I am very much on the line of ‘Am I an artist or am I a commodity maker?’ and right now that’s interesting to me because in the future I would definitely like to follow the path of an artist but that’s an expensive road to follow. So currently I want to build myself up on the commodity side and then go the artistic route.”
CJ: What other art pieces can we expect from you in the near future?
Helen: “You can expect more aluminium footprints, I’m working on a series at the moment so you can expect some Adidas footprints other Nike footprints, anything I can get my hands on really as I’m focusing more on my metal work at the moment.”
CJ: What is your stance on the whole commercialism vs. art concept?
Helen: “I see a struggle for fine artists in the sense that you either make it or you don’t, which is sad because you need to make money to be successful, but then you need to be commercial to have success which is sad. My personal point of view on art is if it makes you happy do it, because I believe that art stands for authentic raw talent, and I try to remain true to that. Even if I did make a lot of money I would still want to create more art and spread the love by giving the people something to make them smile.”
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