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Meet The Artists Behind 'My Cause, My Cleats'
Inspiration can be drawn from many things. For players in the NFL, it can come from the diverse lives they’ve traveled to get to where they are in the league to friends, family, life-changing experiences, tragedy and so on. In the world of art, artists find inspiration from these same things along with anything you can imagine.
For the second year in a row, the NFL has initiated their “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign, a popular effort that allows players to wear customized cleats designed in collaboration with artists that reflect their commitment to charitable causes. Nearly 500 players across the league participated in the campaign last season for causes ranging from battling diseases and illnesses to non-profit organizations they support.
In 2017, the amount of players across the league joining the campaign has risen significantly, especially in the Seattle Seahawks locker room where roughly 31 players customized their gameday kicks for Sunday’s Week 13 primetime matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. This year the majority of Seahawks players worked on their cleat designs with three Seattle-based artists, Kate Neckel, Weirdo and CuS The Artist. Players also used Alexander Codd (Doug Baldwin), British Customs (C.J. Prosise), Shanna Duncan (Tyler Ott), Christina Pappion (Duane Brown), adidas (Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett), Possi (Jordan Roos) and Soles By Sir (Nazair Jones and Michael Wilhoite). Coach Carroll and John Schneider had their gameday shoes customized by Ames Bros and Possi.
As odd as it may seem, these artists and professional football players share things in common. Besides drawing on inspiration and using it as fuel for their careers, as people, they have unique minds and ways of expressing their creativity. Consider the brain power each of them have. It takes a lot to come up with a concept design for some of the world’s biggest projects, and there’s a lot of preparation and vision to know what it actually takes to be able to intercept a quarterback. Artists and football players live different lives, but retain a lot of similar qualities that help them make their marks.
To achieve the level of success they have, artists and athletes get into the zone in their own dojos. Athletes make the stadiums they play in — both home and away — their area of comfort and relaxation so they can perform at the highest level. For Kate Neckel, Weirdo and CuS The Artist, it’s the comfort of their own homes where they make their dreams come true.
With a clearshot view of Mount Rainier from her third floor balcony beside her studio, the southside of Seattle is where you can find Neckel drawing and designing some of the best work the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Last year, she moved to Seattle after 17 years in New York City and has created drawings for books, brands, magazines, restaurants and even beehives (yes).
“I was never really the art student in school growing up,” Neckel shared. “It wasn’t until I went to Paris during my junior year of college. I was inspired so much and so blown away by what I was experiencing that I was like ‘I have to make art.’ I can’t study it, I have to go for it. I came back from that semester in Paris and changed my major to art studio and started making art and it’s been nonstop ever since.”
Neckel designed cleats for athletes for the first time in her career. She worked to support the various causes of the cleats made for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, rookie defensive back Delano Hill and kicker Blair Walsh. Wilson’s cleats represent his foundation, the Why Not You Foundation, which inspires and empowers today’s youth. Hill’s cleats are dedicated to the non-profit organization, Detroit PAL, which creates safe and supportive places for kids to play. Walsh’s are to help prevent bullying.
As a Seattle native based in Eastlake near the coast of Lake Union, Weirdo has been indulged in the city’s art for years having lived in Washington his entire life. He went through ups and downs while living in his hometown, being forced to drop out of college after just one year at The Art Institute of Seattle. That made his transition to the art world quick with him beginning to sell pieces instantly in order for him to make due.
“I’ve always had a very very strong hustle mentality, hustle game,” he said. This was also Weirdo’s first experience working with athletes to create custom cleats. He has primarily worked as a spray paint artist, an area where he has almost 20 years of experience.
“I just started going for it practicing my skills … learning the tool (the spray can). But then in my free time and other times I would practice with it.
“The things I draw inspiration from are movies, music, obviously other imagery, art history. I like technology, I’m a gadget kind of guy, I just can’t help it. Being from Seattle I’ve always been surrounded with technology since the get (beginning). There’s a lot of technological influence.”
Much like Neckel, Weirdo has worked on large-scale projects such as a painting that is located in the London office of Facebook. For My Cause, My Cleats, he worked with a handful of Seahawks players for their respective charities such as Luke Willson (Canadian Tire Jumpstart), Tyler Lockett (Light It Up Foundation), Shaquill Griffin (St. Pete Nitro Youth Track) and Oday Aboushi (UNICEF).
Marcus “CuS” Williams is another native of Seattle and as an experienced shoe designer, he has already made cleats for Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. In 2016, Avril’s cleats were designed to increase the awareness of Type 2 diabetes in youth and encourage healthy living and also to support Haiti. This year he not only did just Avril’s, but created custom designs for the organizations of Avril’s teammates like Michael Bennett (National League of POW/MIA Families), Frank Clark (American Cancer Society), Amara Darboh (Schools for Salone) and Bradley McDougald (Make-A-Wish).
All three artists are different, but their dedication and commitment to helping players promote their causes stays the same. Every player has a message and story to be told, and My Cause, My Cleats is the platform for it. Read