If the Shoe Fits, Adorn It

Local teenager gets creative with high-top designs.


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Photo by Chris Duffey

Jordan Yu, 15, is a student at Alameda Community Learning Center and a budding artist. Her canvas of choice? Converse or Vans—the canvas fabric, framed by rubber soles and metal eyelets, makes the perfect space for colorful drawing, painting, stitchery, appliqué, and surprisingly sophisticated decoration. How cool are these?

She recently designed a pair of kicks for a bride, who asked for Jordan’s design, then bedazzled her high tops for a glam-bridal look. A pair of aqua Vans shows off Japanese woodblock-style waves and a koi. And her friends constantly bug Jordan to decorate pairs of Converse for them. The only drawback? They have to provide their shoes. Jordan is firm on that point.

The sophomore works in acrylics and markers on her shoes, as well as colorful embroidery stitches and felt appliqué. The shoes are a street-smart fashion accessory that are almost too nice to wear. Yu admits that she doesn’t wear her own creations that often for fear they’ll wear out or be damaged. But for a statement shoe, these are O.M.G.-worthy. She has used skateboards as a canvas, as well, favoring intricate Asiana such as traditional dragons for her subject.

“Ever since I was really little, I’ve been drawing a lot,” she said. Parents Peter Yu and Cindi Owyang-Yu are naturally proud, and Peter Yu built Jordan her own art studio in the backyard of their Alameda home, where she could design and work in privacy. “She loves art. She’ll put it on paper; she’ll put it on canvas. She paints, she draws.” Whatever the medium, “it’s a really good creative outlet,” said Cindi Owyang-Yu.

You may have seen some of Yu’s designs locally—the 2014 yearbook cover for ACLC was hers, for example. She also designed the ACLC mascot T-shirt (featuring the Honey Badger) two years ago and is looking forward to working on a proposed mural at school. She’s already done a mural in a friend’s room of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”

She draws photo-real pencil sketches, working from models or photos. She’s taken art classes at school but is mostly self-taught. Yu is thinking about heading to art college after high school, and eventually, to a career as a tattoo artist. An art show and an online store may also be in the works. Watch this young talent—she’s a shoe-in for success.

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