The Sculptor Proving Sneakers Aren't Just for Your Feet

Growing up in the diverse yet cohesive city of Coventry, Melicka Fouri decided that customizing sneakers wasn't enough. So, she took it a step, or five, further and began creating otherworldly sculptures out of her favorite kicks. From meticulously deconstructing sneakers into a three-story building or a neon green, moveable sneaker ambulance, Fouri's imagination runs deep; using footwear as her preferred medium.

But, she wasn't always chasing the life of an artist. Before her creative pursuits, she was studying economics at a London-based university. If it wasn't for her opportunity to customize sneakers for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and her close friends, she might not be on the path she is today. For the now artist and sculptor, the most important aspect of her work is the process.

In our latest installment of Baes with Kicks, we caught up with Fouri to chat about how sneakers and art first entered her life and her methodical making process, which includes intentional, creative thinking and following ideas through to the end.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

Name: Melicka Fouri

City: Coventry, U.K.

Occupation: Artist and Sneaker Sculptor

What's your favourite pair of sneakers in your collection at the moment?

It's interesting because I'm not a huge sneakerhead, but my favorites are a custom pair from a designer called Bald Boy that I bought from a friend. They're Air Force 1s, which I love and they match so many of my outfits by accident.  Most of the sneakers that I wear are custom, either by me or by someone else.

Another sneaker I really like is the Uptempo. They're so cool and comfortable and I just love any shoe that makes my foot look big and fun.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

When did you start customizing sneakers and creating these crazy sculptures?

I began customizing in 2020 during the lockdown because I wanted to raise money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. I held a raffle on my private Instagram for my friends and family to win a free pair of custom sneakers. From there, a couple of my friends asked, "can I have a pair?" and I was like, "yeah I'll do that!" Then I started posting them on social media and getting clients through DMs.

I got the idea to start making sculptures because my clients would tell me they didn't actually wear their customized sneakers. They'd put them on display or send me a picture of them in perfect condition. So, I figured if they weren't wearing it anyway, let's explore that. That's when I started experimenting with my own ideas to makeover art.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

What's your creative process? How do you come up with your ideas?

I've actually created a system because I used to find it hard to come up with creative ideas, especially growing up. I was so manufactured in what I was making because I always did realism drawings and I thought I didn't have it in me to be a creative person. Then I read something about how creativity can be exercised; with practice, you can strengthen that part of your brain. So, I began forcing myself to come up with ideas and I let go of the idea that I had to be spontaneously creative; instead, I became more methodical.

For example, with the "Ambulance" shoe, I was just looking at the shoe and I was like, it kind of just looks like a van. An Air Force 1 is a boxy shoe, it's all white and looks like a van. So, I was like, okay, I could turn this into a van, but I wanted something more interesting and recognisable and an ambulance was the first thing that came to mind.

Over time, I would come up with spontaneous ideas randomly. It's still rare, but it does happen. I used to think that if I had to plan it, then it wasn't creative, but I've let go of that completely. I think it's so creative to be able to just sit down and come up with an idea on the spot like that.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

What's the hardest sneaker sculpture you've ever created?

My brain sneaker "Mibraine" was so hard because that was the first time I made art about how I felt and it was so difficult to convey my thoughts because they kept changing. A few years later, I did a workshop with the kids at my old secondary school and the main concept was to teach them to come up with ideas because I think that's not talked about enough in the creative industry.

So, I was talking to them about the process of the "Mibraine" project, specifically with photos of how it started and ended and it's just me constantly figuring things out until it got to the final point. I think I kept overthinking how it looked to other people. Does it look cool? Am I being too literal? That was really difficult. Since then, I've repeated that kind of look and it's gotten a lot more streamlined because I've learned how to pursue my ideas rather than run away from them.

How many sneakers do you think you've customized over the years?

I have no idea, but I'm guessing it's over 200. On top of my one-off projects, I've done drops so, they can be pretty bulky orders. It feels like I've done so much, but at the same time, I feel like I haven't executed enough of my ideas yet.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

Talk to us about "Okki’s Planet," what is Okki and how does it comes into your work?

"Okki’s Planet" was born out of my journey from leaving university and pursuing being an artist and sculptor. I was on a car ride home when my brother picked me up from London and the song "Street Lights" by Ye came up and I was just tearing up. My brother wasn't looking at me, but in my mind, I was thinking this was so deep. I'm starting my life now. There's no three years of university to buffer it. That hit so hard.

That song is specifically about journeys, the difficulties and finally finding your direction. I wanted to show the journey through animation and that's when I created Okki, a little character I use in the animations and in my work. Okki didn't have a name at the time of the animations. It was just a character I used and now I use Okki in my sculptures to help convey storytelling. Okki gives context to the size and scale of things and they're also just really funny and cute.

You recently spent time in London with NoTwoWays. Could you talk to us about that experience, what did you learn?

I have known them for a few years and they're good friends of mine. It was nice working with other people for a change. It was difficult at first because I'm so used to my own opinions. I was working with Ed, the marketing manager, because I was helping them with content ideas and finding in-house artists. Working with them was so fun because they would pop in to see the process and they’d tell me what they thought.

Also, NoTwoWays is a newish brand and they really value quality. All of their values are really similar to mine. They've managed to make such a nice work environment for everyone and still create the best quality sneakers. It was really eye-opening and inspiring. I learned a lot about what it’s like to work for a company.

Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview
Melicka Fouri, sneakers, sculptors, UK, interview

What important lesson have you learned on your journey as an artist?

In general, being a freelance artist, I'm very grateful for being able to do it, because six months could be good and six months could be bad. There were so many times where I was ready to give up, but the only thing that would fuel me to keep going was that maybe the next project would be the one that attracts more clients or secure an exhibition. There's a thrill in wanting to keep going. I've also learned to celebrate my own successes. Sometimes I forget to do that because it just feels like this is what I want all the time, like it's not a big deal, but you should still celebrate them and never put them down.

Do you have any future projects coming soon that you can share?

My next project is going to be for Foot Locker, which I’m really excited about! I've wanted to work with them since I started. I remember that before being an artist, my dream was to make these sculptures specifically for Foot Locker. I wanted it in their store. I don't know if it will go in their store, but regardless, being on that roster is really exciting for me because it feels like a personal goal. Also, "Okki's Planet" is what I want to do a lot this year. It's already in the works in terms of animations and I'm working on "Okki's Closet," which is going to be a clothing line. Hopefully I’ll get my sneaker sculptures in stores to help inspire and bring people together in person.