Under a bright light in his shed at home, 16-year-old Jamarious “Jay” Brown takes a plain pair of Air Force 1s and paints or designs whatever he can come up with.
Sometimes he freestyles, letting his imagination run free and other times he takes a picture or a request, using it to influence his work.
“I just speak my mind with a brush,” he said.
The Jackson Central-Merry sophomore did his first pair in February, only experimenting at first.
He’s always liked being creative with his clothes and shoes. He even thought about designing shirts for his wardrobe but decided he wanted to make a statement by doing something more unique.
Brown explored social media until a pair of shoes caught his eyes.
“I went in my closet, grabbed an old pair of white shoes, went outside and started playing around,” he said.
With a bucket of water and different spray paints, he dipped the shoes in the water and designed his first pair.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’” he said.
Even though he’s always been crafty, he hadn’t been interested in art before that moment.
Now he’s painting shoes and using thick rope for shoelaces while researching and learning how to draw as well.
Since starting two months ago, he’s sold five pair of shoes.
“That’s what motivated me to keep going,” Brown said.
So far one of his favorite and craziest designs has been a pair of Forces with shades of pink, red paint splattered on the shoe and red bottoms he did for his first customer.
“It just stands out,” he said. “There’s no way you can see someone else with it on.”
The simplest design, but also a favorite, is a white pair of Forces with large, pink rope laces.
With each customer he gets, he pushes himself to try different things, like making the red bottoms or painting all the sides.
“I like to be creative with it and do different things to catch people’s attention,” he said. “Even when I don’t have customers, I’ll go out in my shed and play around with shoes. Practice makes perfect.”
“What excites me more is knowing that the person is excited about what I’ve done for them,” he said. “That pushes me. It’s about what comes with it: the feelings and the happiness.”
But Brown also strives to make sure he’s proud of the work he’s doing.
Even when shoes don’t turn out like he wants, he doesn’t get discouraged.
Brown keeps the shoes. He puts them in a box and sets it to aside for the day when he’ll compare that shoe to an outrageous design he’s grown enough to do.
“One thing that really pushes me is knowing that I have the capability of doing it,” he said about when, not if his business will grow. “When I expand, I don’t want to just sell shoes and make a lot of money.”
He wants to be bigger, he said about one day making team shoes, doing pop-up shops and giving back to the community.
“I know where I want to be,” he said. “I know the plans I have, and I’m growing fast.”
He wants to be able to fill his trunk with different-sized shoes, go to shelters or similar places and give away shoes to people who need them but can’t afford it.
The honor student also wants to fill a bowl with names of less-fortunate kids from his school and choose a student to design a pair for.
“The best they can do is accept the gift,” Brown said about his vision. “I want to be able to make people happy. My whole life, I always liked to see other people happy.
“Seeing a smile on somebody else’s face puts a smile on my face.”
To support his work, inbox him on Facebook C Eo Jay.