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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Sneakers as art
Madison designer paints 'em up
on

Like a lot of people from the hip-hop generation, Logan Nelson has always had a thing for sneakers. "It's been an obsession since I was a kid," says Nelson, 26, "but luckily for me, as I've grown up, so has the shoe game." Sneakers have transcended their origins as cheap sport shoes to become boutique fashion items and, for the true enthusiast, objects of art.

Nelson, a lifelong Madisonian, has spent the past six years perfecting the craft of custom sneakers. He has built a loyal fan base here in Madison, and now he has customers across the country. Nelson, who works under the name NuBuX, posts photos of his shoes to online sneaker forums like customsnkr.com. Along with magazines like Sole Collector, Kicksclusive and SneakerFreaker, these feed the appetites of the shoe-crazed worldwide.

It was on one of these sites where Nelson's work was spotted recently by the marketing team for designer Alexander Morse, who asked Nelson to design six custom pairs. These shoes were to have been part of a display for the Magic Market Convention in Las Vegas, one of the largest and most influential commercial fashion events in the country.

Last month Nelson showed up at the Wynn Las Vegas resort, only to find that the Morse display had been canceled. But Nelson made the most of it, wandering the convention with shoes slung around his neck. "I was handing out business cards," he says.

Nelson began experimenting with custom shoes in high school. After graduating from MATC with a degree in graphic design, he went to work for the Sun Prairie company Sign-1-1.

When the clothing boutique Cook opened last year at 322 W. Gorham St., Nelson jumped. "Working here is perfect for me," he says, "because I spend all my time around fashion and music." Nelson's shoes are available for purchase for $300-$350 at Cook; for $175, he will customize shoes customers bring him.

Each pair takes 15 to 20 hours of work. "I use a lot of acrylics and spray paints," he says, "all of which are specially made to work on leather." Nelson augments the paints with charcoal and fabrics - plus a few secret weapons. "Let's just say in a market as competitive as this one, you have to stay innovative."

Not that it stops people from asking. Forum posters at www.customsnkr.com often heckle Nelson about his technique and materials. Nelson takes it as a compliment.

He also receives numerous requests to re-create certain pairs. "I always say no to that," he says. "For me, each one is a unique work, not something to be mass produced."

Nelson has a loyal clientele. Just ask Madisonian Charles Sims, one of his best customers. "I got my first pair while he was still practicing," says Sims. Since then, Nelson's shoes have become a family affair at the Sims house. "I got two pairs for my kids, two for my girl, and of course I need to look good," he says. "I can come to Bux even if I don't have an idea, and he always delivers something incredible."

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