HINGHAM, Mass. — What began as an experiment for a Hull teenager about a year ago has turned into a full-time business this summer.
Christian Fuda, 17, damaged a pair of his white shoes last summer at the beach and decided he would try to paint his shoes to restore them. After experimenting with new techniques, he opened his own business – Fuda Customs – where he sells the shoes he designs and paints.
He showcased his shoe work, as well as a few drawings and paintings, at the Hull Artists’ Open Studios Art Tour earlier this month in Hingham.
“It was kind of a fluke really,” he said. “After I painted my own shoes, I put them on Instagram and the Internet and they got a huge response. I found out there was a sort of underground culture of people interested in shoes.”
His business has more than 13,000 Instagram followers and has drawn interest from athletes. Fuda has painted four pairs of shoes for Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino.
“I was hesitant at first,” Fuda said. “I thought, ‘It could be him, but it could also be some stranger.’ ”
Fuda said Victorino contacted him directly through his website and gave him some creative freedom with a few pairs.
“He ended up just sending me four pairs of his own shoes and said, ‘I want one pair with a Boston Strong theme, but the other ones, you can just go to town,” Fuda said. “Usually people have an idea of ‘this is what I want,’ so I don’t get to get fully creative with them and do the whole art piece.”
One of the pairs he painted for Victorino was a portrait of Victorino’s grand slam at Fenway Park with the Boston Strong logo in center field from game six of the American League Championship Series last October.
Fuda said the art he does is something you don’t see a lot in this area.
“People will say, ‘Oh, you’re the shoe guy,’ ” he said. “There are people that do it, but not around here really, so it’s a unique and cool story to explain.”
Fuda is going to North Carolina State University in the fall for industrial design. Rather than taking orders from customers, he said he hopes to buy shoes and paint them on his own time to sell on his website, FudaCustoms.com, to continue his business while in college.
In the future, Fuda said he doesn’t know if he will still be painting shoes, but he plans to still be doing art and designing.
He has a plan for a company he would like to call Perplex, a clothing store where you could buy his shoes. But rather than painting the shoes, he said he hopes to eventually have shoes created using the designs he draws up.
For now, Fuda plans to spend about six hours each day painting shoes and interacting with customers through his website. He said he often gets more than 30 inquiries each day.
“It’s different having to manage my own time because you don’t have to punch in, but I have to make myself sit down and get it done,” he said. “I enjoy doing it, though, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working.”
He has sold about 50 pairs of shoes since he started his business last year.