Benji Blunt x adidas Pro Model “Koi”
- MODEL: ADIDAS PRO MODEL
- DESIGNED BY: Benji Blunt
- MADE IN: UNITED KINGDOM
- MADE ON: --/12
- ART.NO: G49855 BB
Every time that a well-wrapped box with Benji Blunt’s name on it arrives at the eatmoreshoes HQ in London we get a tingling feeling in our toes because we know it’s gonna be something special to see. And with these new “Koi” Pro Model’s Benji tops himself again with no exception. While commissions pile up and the production level of his artistry climbs, it has become increasingly harder to pry the man from his paintbrushes, but luckily we snagged some time and got Mr. Blunt to drop a tale on us about his latest creation.
Hey Benji, let’s jump right in: where’d the inspiration for these shoes come from? Is there a story behind them?
I wanted to do something more illustrative on a slightly bigger base, incorporating some texture and reflective elements. The koi are symbolic in Japanese art, but there was no deep references about masculinity or luck or something being made here, just a love for Japanese art and the particular stylised illustrations of fish. I broke some rules in the representation of the koi, making the fish koi-like but not necessarily one particular type of koi fish.
And the colors? How did you dream up the palette?
The black was simply the base colour of the shoe, I always wanted to use a black shoe to help the image stand out. The deep reds of the stripes and the water pattern are metaphoric, as well as simply a colourway on a pair of shoes. Take what you want from it. The other colours on the fish are loosely based around Asagi koi, but again I bent the rules to suit the shoe.
Any special features or details that you’d like to explain?
After stripping the top coat on the painted areas I laid down a white undercoat of acrylic to sketch out the fish on to. I wanted them to be similar but not the same and so they have slight variations. I used a pyrographic hot wire tool to burn a scale pattern into the upper and then used a Dremel tool to even it out a bit before painting the fish with acrylic. The scales were then covered with a top coat of micro reflective beads and a high gloss varnish. For the water waves I tried to follow a rough pattern of interlocking circles, in keeping with the kind of stuff found in Japanese art, although I think if you look at water representations in Japanese art you can see it’s still quite different. I used a micro reflective bead top coat again on the scales of the snakeskin stripes. They have a grainy look to them and that hopefully doesn’t draw the eye too far from the fish with their more glossy scales. The stripes are fairly uniform and not necessarily a true snakeskin, but more of a pattern that holds similarities. I try never to recreate animal skin but use elements of pattern and colour to hint at it, as this gives you a bit more freedom.
Extremely detailed and delicate production Benji! What about the characters on the back… are these Kanji characters? What do they mean?
The characters mean ‘straight forward’, ‘bold and up front’, or ‘blunt’. It was a way of signing the shoes, without using my usual signature.
Quite clever. As always, what new techniques and challenges did you come across in the creation process of these new customs?
I always try something new on each shoe and I learn so much each time that I can take forward. On these I used different tools and mediums as well as little brushes for the detail. I made plenty of mistakes and encountered problems, but learned loads resolving them. I looked to some of the older players in the game to see how they resolve issues, with materials and paints. Unfortunately most customisers work on ‘other’ brands and so the advice is not always appropriate to the shoes I paint. The leather on these Pro Models is very soft and so the paint was applied in very thin layers to help bond it and strengthen it. But I have noticed the paint behaves differently on each shoe I have painted, each model using different leather and synthetic materials depending on the model and where and when they were made. Even the thread seems to vary, adidas doesn’t make it easy and I have had problems with the less ‘premium’ materials. I guess it is part and parcel of growing as a customiser. I think lots of customisers struggle to put shoes out that are as rugged and resilient as factory ones, but have to admit the limitations of the work and add caveats to their product statements. I think that in this case what you have is a delicate image and to retain the reflective qualities they would need to be taken care of.
What about the silhouette itself… is this the first Pro Model you’ve done?
Yes, it’s an unusual looking shoe and divides opinion, quite the ugly duckling in my opinion. I think it can look clumsy sometimes and majestic at others, depending on the series and colourways.
How would you say it’s different working on the Pro Model versus the Superstar?
Clearly there is a larger surface area on the Pro Model so it suits certain projects. But as I said it doesn’t always look as elegant. The Pro Model Vin and the David Beckham 80s are my favourite. I have pretty much lived in the croc-skin Lux’s this past year, because it’s cold and wet here most of the time!
What’s the POA on the tag mean?
Price on application. A common selling term in the Art world. If you don’t have a price in mind at the time of going to print then it gives you some flexibility. I’m still figuring out what different shoes are worth, balancing hours put in with a fair price in these austere times.
Where does your ‘Honour Before Victory’ slogan come from?
It’s an ancient motto and it’s about ‘realness’ and ‘not selling out’ or being corrupted by greed or avarice. But it also means I don’t work on *cough* Noike. Just a bit of fun, a silly play on the Greek word for victory.
You’re certainly the three stripes warrior Ben, and at this point it’s obvious you’ve an affinity with shell toes – whether Superstar or Pro Model – but can you tell us why?
When I was a kid the shell toe was an icon, represented in the graffiti I loved, in the films I saw and books I cherished. They were on the feet of the Rock Steady Crew along with Clyde’s. They were on flyers for Hip Hop events in the UK. But you couldn’t get them in the UK. I saw a few London breakers wearing them and maybe one or two kids at school who had relatives in the states. When Run DMC dropped their second LP it was all over. The yearning was immense. But I stuck to wearing the other adidas tennis shoes with foam tongues, until the late 90s when I rediscovered them, could find them and afford them!
I’m not a collector but an enthusiast, and painting them seems to bring home all the love for the Hip Hop culture I had back in those early 80s.
So can we expect to see you migrate to other models in the future?
Actually, I’ve done a couple of Stan Smith’s and a Forum for friends and family. I’ve even done a PUMA before! I don’t view them in quite the same way. I think I’d like to try something else sometime, but not in any mad rush.
But would you do another model if a customer comissioned it?
I am open to it and I have talked about it with people but it just hasn’t happened yet.
We understand these shoes were made to be sold… can you tell our readers how they can purchase them?
Yep, I guess anyone interested needs to know the size and fit: they’re a UK 10 Pro Model II. Keep checking my site (www.benjiblunt.com), when they are here and ready to ship, I’ll drop an article there and anyone interested can email me for a price and shipping quote.
And, of course, as always, how can people best get in touch with you if they want some custom work done?
Reach me through the website. I really enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth with people, especially when they have something a bit different in mind.
Cheers Benji, thanks for enduring this interrogation!
Always a pleasure to run my mouth Dylan.
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by errol