Author: Shea Gribbon
Occupation: Freelance artist
When and how did you get into cycling?
I started cycling about 6 years ago when I was 18 years old. My dad had started cycling 6 or 7 months prior to that. Initially I had little interest in the sport, but eventually I decided that it might be a good way to lose a bit of weight and get out of the house. Our neighbour, who had been a cyclist for years, had a spare bike in his garage. My dad asked him if we could borrow it for a while and that was how it all began. It was a 62cm frame, but at the time I just lowered the saddle and got on with it. I had never done any sport before I started cycling as I was more into gaming and art.
What did you enjoy most about it?
In the beginning it didn’t really feel like I was exercising. It was just cool to be out the house doing something a bit different, exploring all the back roads near to where we lived. Then as time went on, I started to notice that I was getting stronger. I was riding further and taking big chunks out of the time it took me to complete my usual 20-mile loop.
As far as I can remember nobody in my school cycled, so I was either going out with my dad or on my own. However, when I joined my local cycling club I started going on the club runs and meeting more people within the cycling community.
Eventually I took the plunge and entered my first race and since then I’ve never looked back. I always enjoyed the buzz of putting on a start number, the butterflies in your stomach on the start line and then the serious business of the actual race.
One of the best races that I’ve experienced is almost certainly ‘The Ras’. Although I never raced it, my dad did. I followed the race around for the 8 days with the team, staying in different hotels, and helping out where possible. When you watch a race on television you don’t really appreciate what goes on behind the scenes, and this for me was a real eye opener – it’s non-stop, but I loved every moment of it.
Unfortunately, when I started University, I had less time for cycling. However, I compensated for this by occasionally going to races, seeing the usual faces and staying involved with the cycling community. To this day cycling is a huge part of my life and I’m glad I decided to give it a go all those years ago. All you need is a bike and a helmet and you’re ready to go.
I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made and the amount of travelling that I’ve been able to do with the sport. I’ve met people from all over the world, been to training camps all over Europe, and watched my friends race in the National, European and World Championships.
How has cycling had an impact on what you’re doing presently?
I’ve always been a creative person. I can remember wanting to become a designer from a very young age. I pursued that ambition and completed a Master’s Degree in Product Design at Coventry University a few years ago.
As I mentioned, I was cycling for about a year before I went off to university, and I think it’s fair to say that this was a really formative year in my life. Whilst living in the university accommodation I rediscovered my love for painting when I accidentally stumbled across a niche style of coffee painting. I combined my love for coffee and cycling and started to paint pictures of iconic cyclists. I sent commissions of these paintings of famous cyclists off to all corners of the globe, and even got featured on GCN a couple of times.
After completing university, I took up a full-time job as designer at BLK BOX (gym equipment and facility design). Unfortunately, whilst I loved working for BLK, it didn't allow me the time I would have liked to have dedicated to my creative ambitions, and subsequently I stopped painting. I then moved on to start working for Specialist Joinery as a CAD designer. I loved my work there too, but it was actually whilst being furloughed for 10 weeks that I had the time to rediscover my love for painting once again.
Initially I got the idea for Shoe painting after seeing a few people online doing crazy custom designs on trainers. After speaking to a friend about it, I decided to give it a shot during my surprise stint away from normal working hours.
I ordered some paints and took to work on an old pair of Diadoras. I was surprised by how well they turned out, but the prospect of ruining an expensive pair of cycling shoes was still a little daunting.
After posting my first pair of cycling shoes on Instagram, I received lots of good feedback and new enquiries. Given that what I was doing is pretty niche, I would say that it was at this moment that the Shoe Dr was born.
I love everything about this work. It’s always extremely satisfying bringing an old pair of shoes back to life again. There’s also the artistic element. More often than not, people give me the freedom to do whatever comes to mind. It is now just over 1 year since I started this project. I’ve completed over 70 pairs of shoes and sent them to over 15 countries around the world.
During the lockdown my dad got a little workshop set up for me in our garage. Prior to this I had been doing all the work in my bedroom and I was starting to run out of space.
For the past year I have been working two jobs and spending every ounce of my spare time on the shoes. However, in two weeks’ time I’m leaving my full-time job to focus on the shoe painting, photography and freelance design.
Despite it all being a little daunting, I’m excited about the adventure that lies ahead.
Examples of work by the talented Shoe Dr, Shea Gribbon.