Trainer artist Stella Stockbridge says the craft has helped her mental health

Stella Stockbridge with her trainerStella Stockbridge

A teenager who transforms old footwear into street art pieces said her art has “made such a difference” to her mental health.

Stella Stockbridge, 20, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, began by redesigning an old Jordan trainer before her art went viral on social media.

This year it has grabbed the attention of global footwear brands and her Instagram followers have “skyrocketed”.

She said it had been “an incredible experience in terms of my confidence”.

Ms Stockbridge began painting trainers after she picked up an old pair of Adidas Superstars five years ago. She practised on her family’s old trainers before posting her work – which incorporates both paint work and sculpting – on social media.

She has now turned it into a full-time job.

Stella Stockbridge's design of rap group, NWA's first concert in Compton, California, US

Stella Stockbridge/PA Media

This year, one of her viral pieces saw her split in half a pair of TN Air Max Nikes and recreate a miniature version of a Footlocker store within the shoe, in collaboration with the brand.

She has also painted portraits of members of the rap group NWA and recreated the doors of group’s first concert at Skateland, in Compton, California.

She said her online following had “gone crazy” in the last six months.

“It was a piece I did based on the rap group, NWA, back in January or February and I got some really great views on that,” she said.

“It skyrocketed my account on Instagram at least from around 15,000 to 100,000, which is crazy and overwhelming, but it was great to see.”

Stella Stockbridge split in half a pair of TN Air Max Nikes and recreate a miniature version of a Footlocker store within the shoe

Stella Stockbridge

She said the reaction to her work had positively impacted her mental health.

“I was always someone who was really anxious, especially at school,” she said, “so finding this vocation has just been an incredible experience in terms of my confidence and my opinion of myself and the work that I’m making.”

The shoe design created by Stella Stockbridge which shows graffiti painted onto a trainer

Stella Stockbridge

The artist said she initially felt “imposter syndrome” after quickly gaining a large online following, but saving screenshots of direct messages praising her artwork made her feel “validated”.

“I’m going to get some nasty messages every now and again, but just overwhelmingly the amount of supportive messages and people that send me DMs about how much they love the work or how inspired they are, it really validates it for me,” she said.

“I keep a little folder on my phone of screenshots of all the messages that people send because any time I’m having a bad day or I’m second-guessing… I’ll just read through all the good ones, which usually gets me going again.

“I feel so lucky that I’ve managed to find a passion that’s working for me at such a young age and been able to pursue it. It just means the world.”

A close up of the trainer including a working lamp post and bottle of spray paint

Stella Stockbridge

She is currently working on a project based on the Netflix series Stranger Things and would like her own art exhibition in the future.

The artist also wants to encourage other artists to pursue their passions.

“I’d say just keep going, find your thing, and just stick to it,” she said.

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