Early this spring, San Francisco-based kids’ shoe brand Plae rolled out the first style in its latest Art of Plae collaboration series, which features the work of artist Oliver Black.
In a recent conversation with FN, Black said that collaborating with footwear brand Plae was a chance to recapture a bit of his childhood.
“[With the shoes], I wanted to tap into the lightness and silliness of children,” said the San Francisco native, whose work has been showcased around the world on everything from street murals to restaurant walls.
As the second artist to be featured in the Art of Plae series, Black created four limited-edition designs, the first of which — the Roan sneaker — debuted in April. The remaining three styles — the Chloe Mary Jane, Max high-top and Thandi boot — will be released this fall.
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Retailing from $50 to $90, the shoes are decorated with Black’s playful, hand-drawn animal characters and other motifs. The artist said he embraced the process of designing for a young audience, drawing inspiration from kids’ magical sense of curiosity and creativity.
“As an adult, your critical mind kicks in and tells you that some ideas would be ridiculous. But when you’re young, the imagination has no rules,” he explained. “It’s fun to draw that way — everything doesn’t have to be so serious.”
Here, Black illustrates a few of the other things that inspire him:
Artist who has most influenced me: “I had the opportunity to travel to India with my friend and his father, the late, great classical maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Watching a master musician teach his son the family’s trade was a pivotal moment.”
Go-to pair of shoes: “Right now, the Onitsuka Tigers I got in Tokyo. They are so comfortable I want 10 more pairs.”
Best food in San Francisco: “Golden Boy Pizza. I’ve been going there as long as I can remember.”
If I wasn’t an artist, I’d be: “When I was a kid, I wanted to play professional baseball or be in a weird band.”
Favorite comic strip as a kid: “ ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’ Bill Watterson was so good. He was an amazing storyteller and nailed every frame.”
Music I work to: “I’m a ’90s kid, so I’m sentimental about rock like Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Tom Petty played a part in the design of one of the elephants on the Thandi boot [for Plae].”
App I can’t live without: “I’m a total baseball nerd, so probably my MLB app. I gotta know how my Giants are doing.”
Best way to unwind after a long day: “I like to hang at home with my wife, Erin, and dog, Lady, and fiddle around with my ukulele.”