Blake Barash's background in street art & skate
Sneaker customizer with a background in graffiti, Blake Barash helps people to express deep, personal stuff about themselves through exclusive shoes. And he hopes to do even more with that. With a talented team behind the brand, all of the custom sneakers by Blake Barash are hand-painted by skilled artists that bring ideas to life. A new life to already incomparable kicks.
STREET ART HAS BEEN IN BLAKE'S VEINS SINCE EVER. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, being both a skateboarder and a graffiti artist — which inevitably turned him into a spray expert. He has been painting custom kicks for almost 10 years now and has made pieces for brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Steve Madden.
After quitting a boring job, he started at the most freeing professional area he could imagine: sneakers customization. Going from an underwriter at a commercial bank to working to customizing shoes for Jimmy Choo VIP customers.
"One of the best parts of customizing shoes is talking to people about the stories behind the designs."
By hand-painting leather and suede silhouettes as a blank canvas, he created countless possibilities for those high-quality OGs people just know they're gonna keep forever.
Read our exclusive interview with Blake Barash to discover more about the exclusivity of his pieces and the artsy background of the brand.
Blake Barash in one tweet:
Blake Barash @bstreetshoes is the California Sneaker artist who has been making custom shoes for all the celebrities and athletes you've been seeing this past decade.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area as a skateboarder and went to college near Portland, OR. After college, I moved to Orange County, CA, and found a good-paying job as an underwriter at a commercial bank. I sat in a cubicle and looked at spreadsheets all day. I worked there for 4 years and I hated it. It wasn't me or what I was supposed to be doing in life. One day I walked into my boss's office and I quit. I decided to give a full-time art career everything I got. Fortunately, it all worked out. My friend from Los Angeles had seen I was doing customs and told me TOMS shoes was looking for an artist to paint live at events. I applied and got the gig. It allowed me to paint hundreds of custom shoes in front of people. I started posting my custom shoes online and people started buying them. It didn't take long for people to start asking me for Jordans and Yeezys. Being located in California has helped a lot with painting shoes in a LIVE setting. I've done sneaker activations with Adidas, Reebok, Jimmy Choo, TOMS, Steve Madden, and even Budweiser, all in the Los Angeles area. Most of my work and communication is done online, which has helped me reduce travels, especially in the time of Covid.
In all my work, positivity is a common theme. I don't take custom jobs that have any negativity attached to it. When it comes to the artwork, I like using a lot of contrast in my work and letting the colors speak for themselves. I'm known for intricate designs that always have a clean feel. Thinking outside the box is something I pride myself on and that usually means doing something creative like bringing the Nike Swoosh to life and making it part of the design.
Street art culture vs. sneaker culture
Having a background in street art has helped me in so many ways. Having experience with a spray can made the transition into using an airbrush on sneakers very easy. Often when I am painting a mural out in the streets, I'm trying to figure out how to use elements of the wall like windows, bushes, or pipes into the design. This has carried over into sneakers and using the entire shoe as the design.
Since I have been painting custom shoes for almost 10 years, I've earned a lot of trust from clients. A lot of times they will tell me what they like and are thinking for design, but will let me put my twist on it. I always guarantee that I will make it look good. If I felt I wasn't able to make a certain pair look good, I probably wouldn't have taken the job to paint that pair of shoes. One of the best parts of customizing shoes is talking to people about the stories behind the designs. Three years ago I began working with the LA Chargers painting custom cleats for My Cause My Cleats campaign. This is where the NFL relaxes the dress code and allows the players to wear custom cleats to bring attention to a cause they support and raise money for a particular foundation. When discussing designs with the players they opened up to me about things in their lives that caused them to support a particular foundation. I've had NFL players in my Shoedio telling me about their mom having pancreatic cancer which is why they want custom cleats dedicated to her and raise money for Project Purple, a non-profit that donates money to pancreatic cancer research. Geremy Davis, wide receiver for the LA Chargers (now Detroit Lions) told me a story about how he found a baby turtle walking across the street when he was a kid, so he went outside and rescued it. He raised it and now he loves turtles. When it came the time to paint his custom cleats, we did a really cool turtle themed pair and donated the money to Ocean Conservancy.
There have been a few turning points in my career. A small thing that turned out to be pretty big was I got contacted by the VP of Jimmy Choo and asked if I could paint some of their VIP clients custom shoes. That turned into a 3-year project of me flying around the world meeting VIP clients and discussing custom designs with them. Being featured in the New York Times was a big day for me and I still get emails about that article 4 years later.
I'm currently working on a few really cool projects with some major brands, but I'm unable to talk about them at this time. A personal project that I'm excited about is I'm painting a mural on a 3-story high wall on a K-9 training center here in Orange County and I get to paint a picture of a huge 15 ft dog. That one is going to be fun. Other projects: brands have reached out to me to create artwork to print on Covid Masks, so you may be seeing my artwork on people's faces now instead of shoes.
All of my identities outside of sneakers affect my artwork on sneakers. I love street art, skateboarding, surfing, animals, taking care of the environment and it can all be seen in my artwork.
Complete this sentence: One day I will...
One day I will teach a free class to underprivileged kids about how to custom paint sneakers and how to make a living as a professional artist.
The brand brings personalization to a deeper level of quality and detail.
Blake Barash's shoes are sold exclusively online and shipped out of his Shoedio in Costa Mesa, California.
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