The path to greatness is different for every artist. Influence, inspiration, and circumstance play a heavy role in one’s passion for and pursuit of the creative arts. Steve Cedre Jr. aka Sole Junkie is no exception, and has perhaps one of the more freakish stories behind his entry into the world of sneaker customization. The story goes that SOLE got into customizing kicks after a freak accident where his son landed on his head, causing him to go to the emergency room with two bulging discs in his neck. Having to stay at home to recuperate from the accident, one of Sole’s brothers made him aware of a new art style of sneaker customization coming out of Harlem. So Sole took his brush to his kicks and Sole Junkie the custom sneaker aficionado was born. While the accident itself doesn’t play a big role in his current and future designs, it does stay on his mind as a reminder,
“that life is a trip! It can steer you wrong or it can set you on a course you never dreamed of before. It will start it for you, but your hard work will continue it. It is also a reminder of not taking anything for granted or having too big of an ego. You can get it all taken away in a blink of an eye! I try to stay humble…I’m not perfect at it…but it’s a work in progress.”
Sole has reason not to be too humble. As some years, and many dope sneakers later, Sole is recognized as a top member of the sneaker community and has recently released his first book showcasing his art. The book is in stores now, and we caught up with Sole to talk about his art, both on sneakers and canvas, the importance or lack thereof of formal art education, Obama’s streetwear presence, and much more.
RubyHornet: So I just watched your video of you making some kicks for MC Serch, and rocking some Beatnuts music. Is that standard for the Sole Junkie lab, what else might we hear if we dropped in?
SOLE: Ah man…my little modest laboratory houses some really eclectic mixes…lol…I got Hip Hop…the new Ludacris is his best album ever btw! lol…I got old and new school Salsa music, Dancehall and Reggae with crazy mashups, along with stuff like Cold Play and White Stripes! lol…Whatever can make me bop my head and get me in the zone.
RubyHornet: You’re quoted as saying, “I use my Latin heritage, my love for Hip Hop and music, the use of colour, imagery, and imagination to make statements as well as challenge aesthetics.” Is there an overarching statement that comes through in all of your work?
SOLE: I guess the common denominator in that would be trying to make things that look really good, and challenging myself to do new things that haven’t been done before.
RubyHornet: Sticking with that theme, what do you see as the intersection between your love of Hip Hop music and sneaker culture? Is there a direct link?
SOLE: Yes there is a direct link…the love for sneakers goes hand in hand with the love for Hip Hop. Not that any other genre of music or culture cannot relate…it’s just that with Hip Hop…it’s almost a given. For me, back in the day I had some pretty busted pair of kicks, so growing up you had to have something to let you compete. With limited incomes I wasn’t the bummiest kid out the crew, but wasn’t at the top of my game. I vowed one day to have a nice collection or really rare joints….turns out I make them now!
RubyHornet: Is there a difference between your approach to painting on canvas vs. designing shoes?
SOLE: The approach for me is the same…but the limitations vary. For example, I can do more detailed work on a traditional canvas and use different techniques to create depth, space, atmosphere, etc…On the other hand on shoes I can add diamonds, solid colors broken up by panels and sections of the shoe, I can etch into the actual leather, have more of an emphasis on my portrait work than just color alone, etc…It’s a challenge either way to draw in the viewer and make him admire what you do.
RubyHornet: You went to school for Fine Arts, some argue that artistic talents are natural and can’t really be developed in school. How do you feel about that outlook? Was attending college crucial to your current position?
SOLE: Hmm tough call on that. I think inherent talent is a part of people, and can help them excel at a faster learning rate. So that has truth to it. But at the same time, I’ve seen some pretty weak artists bloom with training, dedication and time. These guys scare me the most. They humble you to the point that having a talent doesn’t automatically make you special. For me, art school was a great experience. I learned so much and still use some of the techniques I learned there on shoes. More importantly…they made me work hard and let me know there is more to art than just paint and pencil.
RubyHornet: Is there a custom sneaker community? Are there any other designers that you bounce ideas off of or respect as artists?
SOLE: There is a custom sneaker community. Mostly found on blogs and sneaker forums. I do have other artists I respect and look forward to seeing what they got next. As far as bouncing ideas off of other artists, I have only bounced a few things across people…but very few. Customizing is so competitive that it’s similar to rap. Artists and MC’s prepare themselves for battles. This being said, I find that very few share secrets or help one another. Tricks of the trade I guess. I like to share. But that’s me. I figure if I help someone out today, maybe tomorrow someone can help me.
RubyHornet: Your custom sneaker career came from a very bad accident, beyond an interesting story, does that actually play a role in your designs to this day?
SOLE: The accident doesn’t play a role, but more of a reminder to me that life is a trip! It can steer you wrong or it can set you on a course you never dreamed of before. It will start it for you, but your hard work will continue it. It is also a reminder of not taking anything for granted or having too big of an ego. You can get it all taken away in a blink of an eye! I try to stay humble…I’m not perfect at it…but it’s a work in progress.
RubyHornet: How has your style and skill evolved since you began, is there one or two small things you’ve learned along the way that have made a big difference?
SOLE: Style: I think I’m still working on improving it…trying to make one definite mark that others can call my own! I can call it what I want…but if it’s not recognized by my peers or other professionals…then its just me talking s**t! lol…Skill: I think my skill level with a brush has come leaps and bounds from when I first started. I just call it practice. I can add detail that at first was thought to be impossible for myself. I still amaze myself every now and then…keeps me smiling and motivated.
RubyHornet: What is your favorite type of shoe to work with? Beyond customization, do you have a go to brand of kicks to rock?
SOLE: To work with…Dunki Hi’s, AF1’s and Stan Smiths to me are the best. I have a bunch of shoes I like…Nikes, New Balance 574’s, Timberlands for the winter, I rock a few Adidas..Forum Hi’s are my choice. Still a fan of a bunch of other brands as well.
RubyHornet: Do you have an all-time favorite shoe?
SOLE: My favorite shoe has to be the Dunk Hi Nikes and AF1’s. They are classic, stylish, can be customized for a 100 years and still not get boring.
RubyHornet: At what point did you have the idea for the book? And what was the process like to go from the idea to the tangible product?
SOLE: The book wasn’t my idea. It started as a commission for shoes. The guy who ordered the shoe is a small publisher/ graphic designer/ art lover. He was like. ‘hey would you be interested in a book about yourself and your shoes. I think I gave it 1 second to compose myself to not blurt out, “F**K YEAH!” lol… I was amazed he was interested. I know the trouble a lot of people have trying to get published and here I am getting asked! WOW! The process was difficult…me and the publisher, Transit Creative owned by Michael Long, worked hand in hand for a lot of things. He would ask me what I thought of the layout, what to put in, what to omit. Photography was done by him, Tim Mantoani and a few other talented contributors. Finding a printer was an ordeal. Writing companies for permission to use some of the comic book sneakers I did…like Superman, Transformers, Spawn, etc…
They all said, “NO!” BTW…all of you SUCK! You didn’t break the book. Can’t believe with all the money they got, they were worried about my artwork! HAHA…Contacting stores, boutiques, distributors…It’s more work than people can ever imagine. And the book is only $25! Should be at least $100! lol…
RubyHornet: What is your hope for the book? What does success look like?
SOLE: My hope for the book is that people can see the work that went into it, appreciate the art, for it to sell out and demand more. Success is everything mentioned before, and being able to live completely off of my artwork. To have doors opened by my art to me and for me to open doors for others. Success is having my kids be proud of their old man for chasing a dream of being a respected artist and giving them the courage to dream.
RubyHornet: What outlets do you look to for inspiration, or to keep up with what’s going on?
SOLE: I am always online…I swear if I could have a modem installed in my head I probably would! lol…But I look for inspiration everywhere! Books, fashion, blogs, galleries, the streets, graffti, tatoo artists, music…the list is endless.
RubyHornet: My first question centered on Obama shoes, now that Obama is in office, do you think his appearance on street wear will change? Do you think his overall image has changed being that he is no longer a presidential hopeful, but has been elected and is now president?
SOLE: I think that he will make several more appearances on t-shirts and such, he is inspirational…but this will only last until he messes up! lol…Then that will come to a screeching halt and he will then appear in all the political satire outlets you can think of.
RubyHornet: Lastly, for many of our readers this may be their introduction to you. Before they go check out the book or more of your work, what are three things you’d like them to know about you?
SOLE: Thats a tough question…
-That I am an artist. I am an artist not only seeks to make a career of his work, but set the tone for others as well.
-I came from beyond a modest background without much help and made something out of nothing…this shouldn’t be taken as a sad story, but it should serve as a reminder that you can get through hard times.
-And lastly, I’m a damn good father! lol…
Thank you guys for reaching out to me and if you need anything else…feel free to contact me…you got a new friend.
Also feel free to use any images on my site, blogs, myspace or youtube.