We care deeply about craft at HELM, and we're always looking for unique ways to showcase the act of small batch creation or bring other aspects of craft into our own world of footwear. When unlikely worlds collide it can be so fulfilling, allowing someone else's view to alter something of your own, using their own talents and vision.
Two themes of craft often recur at HELM: manifestation and transformation. Manifestation oftentimes accompanies design inception, during the early stages of an idea; what something will become and the elements that impact its outcome. That in itself can be transformative, but when it comes to transformation, we find ourselves most excited and vulnerable at the end of a project or product's lifecycles because we have the opportunity to examine transformation in its most powerful format: rejuvenation.
How would our product look through the lens of another, as a blank canvas?
For the evolution of The Xander Bone into The JEB1 (JebOne, for those of you interested in wordplay), we examined this odyssey, partnerning with two talented artists: Creative Director Jeben Berg and Rapper Norman Sann.
In this story:
Jeben Berg guides you through the design process of The JEB1
Norman Sann joins Jeben in his art warehouse to make a music video
Jeben shares some limited edition prints he's produced for HELM
The JEB1 is the Xander Bone, evolved into a wearable work of art. Learn more.
Table of Contents
Behind The Process: Making The JEB1
This is the shoe of an artist who has been working with intention on something. There is dripped chrome paint on the toe and overspray from productions and pieces they have painted, and murals they have completed. What has happened to each JEB1 is like the beautiful cutting room floor after the act of creation. The pairs follow a similar artistic framework, but no two are alike.
Using The Xander Bone sneakers as a base, each shoe received a heavy dusting of six different colors of spray paint, and they have phrases and messages that are written on them by the artist in ink that is usually meant for whiting out. Chrome drops have been intentionally applied by the artist to drip in the way that an artist would be holding a can or brush, falling off the left-side of the left shoe, or right side of the right one. The ink used in the drops is some of the strongest, shiniest, most reflective ink available.
"What has happened to each JEB1 mirrors the beautiful cutting room floor after the act of creation."
The Artist's Odyssey: When Ink and Music Collide
When we challenged Artist and Creative Director Jeben Berg to transform several dozen sneakers into works of art, he challenged us to make the process itself art. Popular rapper Norman Sann is in Louisville, where Berg is based, and we came up with the idea to make the transformation of The JEB1 into a music video, with the concept of blending two artistic mediums into one space. Norm.exe was selected as the track due for the end of its chorus, when Norman declares, "I ain't never been no punk." We saw that as a worthy nod to both rap and graffiti, both of which involve supremely talented artists who sometimes get overlooked because of the overstated stereotype that their craft is full of misfits.
Shop the JEB1 by Artist Jeben Berg
Limited Edition Prints by Artist Jeben Berg
For this release, Jeben Berg has made available a limited run of three of his prints, each signed and numbered by the artist. You can learn more about each of them below. Prints that are available are printed-to-order, and ship in one-to-two weeks after an order is placed.
This piece was originally made for a group show that celebrated the lives of two living legends, Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg. The background is a blue bandana pattern, which is an item near and dear to both of these icons' hearts.
This print is from a large original painted installation created for a residential space in my city which is an Arbor City, where trees are celebrated. The concept is that inside of each tree is a bright and limitless potential for uplift and renewal. The truth of the trees.
Alphabets, the building blocks of communication, rendered as objects of art.
Tips to perfect your footwear journey
How to Care for the JEB1
"With this particular project, the challenges are that it's already a well-treated, cured leather. It already has the resistance to taking another layer on it, so I had to tinker with the first couple to explore the adhesion. Spray paint is more like a wet plastic that gets propelled into the air, so how does that stick to the shoe? I had to find out, and explore the creasing and the bend, and how that would hold up."
Because we've used these sneakers as a canvas for the artist, the leather care routine is vastly different. We advise very gentle brushing off of debris with a HELM shoe brush, and very light dabbing with a shop rag. Exposure to water could further alter the paint, since it's been applied to a leather surface that was treated by waxes and oils when the sneaker was made. Typical leather care products and techniques should not be used on these, unless the wearer is not concerned with disrupting the art that's been applied to them. While we caution the use of products, these sneakers are meant to be lived in, and the artist himself described his desire for transformation past what he's created in this phase of the sneakers.
"Everything to me has the platform to be improved upon, by fractional pivots," said Berg. "The JEB1 was almost like a little time travel, because we did a bit of the work" that the wearer typically would. It's not that the shoe is broken in, since it hasn't been warn, Berg explained, but this shoe would be in its perfect state the moment you take it and you make it remarkable, and you allow it to be everything that is possible for it to be on your foot. It might not change the world--that's not the expectation--but it has the ability to improve, in increments, the world around you.
About Artist & Creative Director Jeben Berg
Artist Jeben Berg was always interested in examples of visual expression, from a very early stage in his life. He wanted to decipher them, and understand how they were related; the craftsmanship behind them; techniques; the tools; and the materials.
As an artist, Berg has explored art in phases, shifting his focus between tools, technique, and execution. Currently, he's in a state where it's conceptually more important to him to develop specific types of themes that he can translate into products and touchpoints where people actually have that piece of expression that is apparent in their life, whether that's a product or something that's on their wall; something they engage with or see all the time. Clothing, and footwear in particular, are frequently showcased as an expression of one's own style or personality.
At this point in Creative Director and Artist Jeben Berg's career, he runs an agency called Palace Laundry, which he co-founded, where the intent is to find very bespoke projects he and his co-founder can work on, and take an existing product, place, or IP, and give it an improvement that will help level it up, and provide it with a more desirable or intoxicating element.