UVU student gains recognition for handcrafted shoes

Reading Time: 3 minutes Sky Norton, a student at UVU, designs and handcrafts custom athletic shoes. His work has gained the attention of the Smithsonian and the office of Governor Cox.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sky Norton, a graphic design student at Utah Valley University, is gaining notoriety due to his stunning handcrafted shoes. His recent projects include two monumental achievements: a pair of Air Jordan 1 Highs commissioned by BonCom and another pair fashioned after the Utah state flag being presented to Governor Spencer Cox on April 10. 

In an interview with the Review, Norton spoke on how he has come a long way in his artistic endeavors. Being someone who loves shoes, he began painting them back in high school. After returning from serving an LDS mission, he stated, “I was trying to find any creative outlet that I could.” He came across a pair of old Jordans and thought, “I bet I could rip these up and then rebuild them.” So, he did. 

This endeavor led Norton to delve deeper into shoe design and construction. Lacking prior sewing experience, he had to teach himself from the ground up, breaking his mom’s sewing machine needle multiple times in the process. He was too stubborn to let that deter him and invested in an industrial sewing machine. 

After initially pursuing studies in interior and graphic design at Utah State University, Norton transferred to UVU upon meeting his wife. Reflecting on his decision, Norton expressed satisfaction with UVU’s graphic design program, praising the professors and their teachings. 

Four years after embarking on this journey, Norton’s diligence is yielding fruit. His proudest achievement to date is his commission by BonCom based off the new visual identity off the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, currently on display in Salt Lake City; the right shoe is air-themed, and the left one is space-themed. 

Air and spaced-themed Air Jordan 1 Highs.

Additionally, Norton drew the attention of Davis Smith, founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, a popular outdoor clothing and equipment store in Utah. Expressing his love for the material and style of the brand, he utilized a Cotopaxi bag to fashion a colorful pair of shoes. Smith got word of it, loved what he saw, and commissioned a pair for himself. Subsequently, Smith posted about the shoes on LinkedIn, leading Governor Cox’s secretary to request a pair for the Governor as a surprise. 

Making shoes by hand is a labor-intensive process, with each pair taking around 30 hours to complete. Sometimes that can take much longer depending on whether Norton is working with a new, unfamiliar design. For instance, when he was commissioned to craft a pair for the company Bucked Up, he had to go through four different attempts before he felt the product was up to his standards. 

Norton cites fashion designer Virgil Abloh, known for creating the Italian luxury fashion house Off-White, as a significant inspiration. Being a perfectionist at heart, Norton explained how he is always attempting to improve. Sometimes he can be a little too hard on himself, and at those times he must take a step back and recognize how far he has come. “If you can remind yourself that at one point you wanted to be where you are, I think you’re golden,” he advised artists struggling with feelings of inadequacy. “10-year-old you would be so excited with where you are at right now.” 

Looking ahead post-graduation, Norton envisions a future where shoemaking becomes a full-time pursuit, either independently or with a company. For now, it remains a passion he dedicates his free time to, but if his current trajectory is any indication, then he is certain to realize his dream soon. 

Follow Sky Norton and his incredible artistic journey on Instagram, @skycraft_studios.