Having a hobby that can make you money sounds good, right? Being able to still perform that hobby at college and making money at it? Even better.
Adam “Chewy” Chouinard is running a business out of his dorm room tricking out students’ sneakers and shoes into literal works of art.
“Growing up I was always into sneakers, art, and design,” said Chouinard, who started college at Burlington College, a school smaller than most high schools.
It was there Chouinard met a lot of people who influenced him in pursuing his love of art. Spurred on even further by shoe painters he found on social media, Chouinard decided to start doing it himself.
“I put two and two together – my love for sneakers and art, and started working with it,” he said.
He has put all sorts of artwork on shoes, from loafers with tigers and snakes to leopard print Nike Airs.
And his major, graphic design, is helping his goal of being an entrepreneur when he gets out of college, maybe even starting his own large-scale design company. And he already gets the word out about his company using skills he has learned through classes.
“Being a graphic design major I’ve had the opportunity to learn Photoshop and other programs that have allowed me to make my own advertisements,” he said.
His go-to mode of advertising these days, however, is Instagram. Most college-aged students have an Instagram account, so it is a very effective way to market, he said.
“I use Instagram as sort of my main way of posting my work and getting feedback,” Chouinard said. “I get a lot of love and a lot of inquiries through Instagram, and recently I just made my own Facebook strictly for my custom shoe business.”
Castleton students are well aware of his shoe painting expertise. Elizabeth Boutin had a pair of shoes she was thinking about throwing away, then decided to let Chouinard do his magic on them.
Chouinard took an old pair of Boutin’s beat up Nike Roshes, cleaned them up and gave them a starry night look with a black background and white stars.
“I gave him a pair of sneakers and told him to make them cool. He went above and beyond exceeding my expectations. It’s awesome to see someone that uses his interests and talents in a unique way. As someone who loves sneakers, it was awesome to add something a little different to my collection without breaking the bank,” Boutin said.
Chouinard does all of his painstaking shoe art by hand.
“With leather, you have to take off the normal finish that comes from the factory, so you use an acetone base to break down the finish and make a porous surface, kind of like a canvas,” he said.
After using a specific type of paint, the finish, which is similar to the factory finish, has to be put back on to protect the art.
“It’s nice to know that there’s someone in Castleton that could fix up a pair of old shoes or just switch up the style of a pair of shoes I have,” said senior shoe guru Rohin Saini.
Saini can always be seen sporting a new looking, fresh, clean pair of shoes.
“Sometimes I get sick of wearing a pair of shoes and I want something different, so knowing that someone can add some style to a pair of shoes I’ve had for a while is awesome,” he said.
Student Mary Cate Franks is another happy customer.
“What he made for me was far more beautiful than I imagined, he even added thistles, which are the national flower of Scotland, a country whose nationality my bloodline shares,” she said. “Without a doubt I will come to him again for some great designs.”
And while the work is intricate and time consuming, the price really doesn’t reflect that.
“I usually charge 50 bucks,” Chouinard said. “That’s kind of my flat rate. Depending on the intricacy of the design, you know, if someone wants a portrait or something really intense on the shoe, obviously I gotta charge a little bit more because it takes more time.
“I know my audience and my customer base here at Castleton and back home is mostly younger kids who don’t have the money to pay for $150 dollar customization on shoes that they already paid 100 bucks for.”
Chouinard can be reached from on Instagram at @chewcustoms, or on his Chew Customs Facebook page.