What do competitive athletes and makers have in common?
Blood, sweat and tears!
Growing up as a competitive gymnast, Dallas Stevens has always been very motivated and goal oriented. From a young age, athletes learn to juggle a number of priorities, meet deadlines and find ways to overcome obstacles on a daily basis. They are innately ingrained with determination and perseverance. All traits that being a successful maker and entrepreneur require!
I had a blast with Dallas during his time with us in the studio and wanted to share some of his positive and inspiring energy with the world! To read more about his transition from performing with Cirque Du Soleil to starting up a custom shoemaking and leather goods company... Keep reading!
Dallas Stevens behind the scenes at Cirque Du Soleil wearing his handmade ostrich vest and custom sneakers
Tell us a little about yourself ...
Picture it, Sicily, 1927…
Hi, I’m Dallas Stevens, 41 years old and originally from Vancouver BC. Having grown up doing competitive trampoline and tumbling, I joined Cirque Du Soleil at 19 as a performer with the show, La Nouba, in Orlando Florida. After 12 amazing years with an amazing group of people, I decided to move to the company’s touring division for another 2 years performing with the show OvO. At this point in my acrobatic career, I decided to retire from the stage and spent the next year in Australia and south east Asia with my husband before rejoining another touring show, Kurios, as a Customer Service Supervisor managing the VIP. The North American tour of Kurios finished its run in 2018, so I joined my husband on his tour and started to explore the idea of opening my own business. Currently I’m touring with my husband and making shoes out of a (somewhat) transportable studio in our hotel room.
If you were a shoe what type of shoe would you be?
Definitely a limited-edition sneaker. The entire concept of the sneaker is always evolving, from being an everyday item to a coveted high-end luxury product. They combine style and athleticism effortlessly and are constantly being reinvented.
Decon Recon project made by Dallas during his 5 Day Studio Intensive
What inspired you to take classes at Art and Sole?
I’ve always wanted to customize shoes but am not a painter. After taking a sneaker deconstruction/reconstruction class, I knew I was completely hooked. Once back home I started a couple of sneakers on my own but was lacking some of the necessary equipment. I also learned only the basic process and so I wanted to expand my knowledge of techniques. I booked a 5 day Studio Intensive with Jennifer to finish up the shoes I’d already started as well as to make a reversible ostrich and silver leather holster vest.
Reversible overlay vest detailed in ostrich and silver metallic leather made by Dallas during his 5 Day Studio Intensive
Have you continued to practice the craft?
Yes! I’ve since worked on a bunch of different shoes and have finished four more pairs of sneakers, one of which was entered in American Tanning’s maker competition. I’ve also started a business for customized sneakers and plan on expanding into handmade leather goods. My online store will hopefully be open in the near future, if you’re interested in custom work now please email me at info@UnknownxD.com
Entry for the American Tanning’s maker competition
Lasting work in progress shot
What type of materials do you like to work with and why?
I really enjoy working with new and different materials, part of the fun for me is in the experimentation. I really enjoy leather for its tactile qualities and durability, and also exotics for the look and challenge. I’d really like to get a piece of the tanned leaf leather made from elephant ear plant, there’s a few vegans in my life I’d love to be able to surprise with shoes and accessories.
Pictured Above: Dallas has another project in the works!
What does being a maker mean to you?
Everything! It took me a long time to realize that I was, at my core, a maker.
I’ve been a part of creating a Cirque du Soleil show. I’ve always had projects, always had to have something artistic. For example, I built a backyard recycling stream to a fountain. My garage became a Tiki bar arcade. I created a cabaret show for our cast, crew and local staff with one of my best friends.
For me, the switch to thinking of myself as a maker flipped when I started making shoes. I suddenly wanted to take my making professional and to me, that validated my work. I’ve always been a maker, I just wish I could’ve realized it earlier.
How does being a maker affect your relationship with shopping and retail?
I’ve always had an appreciation for well made pieces as my parents taught me from an early age that something that will last you years has far more value than a cheaply made product. Because of this, I’ve always tended to purchase higher end classic use items. That’s not to say I can’t get caught up in the hype of sneakers lol. The more I learn to make, the more I appreciate true craftsmanship and have found I tend to buy products meant to last a lifetime. Quality and craftsmanship take time, death to fast fashion.
Where there is a will there is a way! Dallas transforms his hotel room into a shoemaking studio while travelling on the road with Cirque Du Soleil
What other makers or brands do you admire and/or turn to for inspiration?
Takashi Murakami’s art is a constant inspiration. Superflat, his term for the mix of high and low, influences most of my work.
I really admire a lot of the smaller luxury goods producers like Atelier Peter Nitz (insta: atelierpeternitz) , Boo’s Leather (insta: boosleather) and K&M leather (insta: knm.leather) as well as the opposite end of scale, people who make things from anything like Helen Kirkum (insta: helenkirkumstudio) and Studio Hagel (insta: studiohagel).
I’ve told her this before, but Jennifer from @artandsoleacademy is also a continuing source of inspiration for me. During our intensive, we talked a lot about, well, everything. Knowing there are people doing what they love
and helping others to create will always inspire me.
What’s next for you!?!
I’m currently working on a couple of custom shoe orders as well as patterns and samples for some of the new leather goods for my website. Everything will be made to order and customizable at UnknownxD.com
How can we follow along with your next steps?
Please follow me on Instagram @unknown_by_d or visit my web site at UnknownxD.com
If you’d like more information on a custom project or a collaboration, please email info@UnknownxD.com