Teenage Artist Hand Paints Sneakers to Create Custom Fashion

As we all know, TikTok became all the rage during the last year bringing forth new talent and trends from sports to music, and dance to the latest thing in pop culture. One of the hot trends of 2021 is painting basic tennis shoes. There are all kind of DIY videos on the subject, but there are also a lot of young artists making a name for themselves by doing just that.

Locally, 16-year-old artist Laiyas Thorpe hand paints and sells tennis and other types of shoes with custom designs. Starting with her own shoes, then painting them for friends and family, she has started displaying her talent at local festivals. Recently she shared a booth with her mother at Juneteenth in downtown Franklin.

Thorpe, who is 16, began exploring art when she was younger, beginning with drawing on paper. A few years ago, she saw someone painting shoes on YouTube, and decided to give it a try. She has been painting predominately leather tennis shoes ever since.

“I currently paint custom to order,” said Thorpe, but you will have to provide your own shoes. Right now, that is all I do, but I want to expand to other things.”

According to the empressofdirt.com website, acrylic paint can be used on canvas, leather, mesh, and vinyl surfaces. Any type of shoe material can be painted except soles and jellies. Shoe soles should be taped off with painter’s tape before prep work begins.

All shoes need to have a primer coat. Canvas and mesh need one kind of primer; leather needs a de-glazer, and vinyl and other man-made materials need to have their surface roughed up with sandpaper and then be sprayed with a primer that helps with adhesion. Once shoes have been prepared to take paint, then a design can be drawn onto the shoe, it can be painted, and then detail work can be done over the paint with permanent markers, like Sharpies.

But for those who have neither the time nor talent to create one-of-a-kind tennis shoes, there are artists like Laiyas Thorpe. Thorpe also works on canvas and sketchbooks.

“I want to expand my brand and also do other types of art,” said Thorpe. “I’ve been painting shoes for over a year. I am currently in the Arts and Communication Academy at my high school which helps me learn different types of art.”

She also paints a lot of popular culture characters on shoes and can draw just about anything. Her work was getting a lot of attention at Juneteenth, and she hopes that she will get more commissions by sharing a booth with her mother at other events in the future. She can be contacted through Instagram @laiyapaintedthat or through her mother’s email at [email protected]