Popular Culture and the 'Language' of Shoes Come Together in 'Mockups' New Art Toy Designed to Stimulate, Educate and Inspire

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Shoe-Inspired Art Toy Lets Kids 'Design' Themselves and Share Their Unique Style Via GetMockups.com Launching on October 24

“In a world where kids are bombarded with messages that tell them they should be like somebody else, Mockups encourage kids to explore their uniqueness." --Louie Gong, Founder of Mockups and Eighth Generation, LLC

Shoes have the power to define a generation. In the 1980s, many teens scribbled designs on their canvas tennis shoes to express their individual style. Run DMC did it with their signature Adidas shell tops. Nirvana's hand-scrawled Converse are unforgettable. What about Dorothy's red shoes or Cinderella's glass slipper? Even the shoe thrown at President George W. Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq in 2008 is significant. Over the last few decades, hand-decorated shoes have moved beyond the traditional iconic image of rebellion against mainstream culture to take on another significance--the universal symbol for movement and identity. Growing pains are ever-present in a world that struggles to understand and accept its rapidly growing complexity.

The journey to self-discovery was difficult for Louie Gong, a self-taught artist, educator and activist from the Pacific Northwest. Gong is Native American (Nooksack) as well as Chinese, French and Scottish. He has had a very personal experience with learning how to "design" and define himself as the world catches up with that growing complexity. Inspired by his passion for youth development and education, Gong is launching Mockups ($24.95 retail), a new shoe-inspired vinyl art toy and its interactive Web site http://www.getmockups.com on October 24.    

“Mockups are about deciding who you want to be,” said Louie Gong, artist and founder of Eighth Generation, LLC. “In a world where kids are bombarded with messages that tell them they should be like somebody else, Mockups encourage kids to explore their uniqueness. I’m excited to bring to market a values-based product built on real experience working with kids and the increasing role and importance of the Internet in education."

Gong vividly remembers his childhood when the idea of owning a pair of Van's seemed unattainable because of cost and the perception that he would be viewed strangely in the small community where he grew up. A lot has changed since 1984. Fashion has moved beyond the rebelliousness of disaffected youth to a tool for embracing multiculturalism in most everything we put on our bodies--from clothing to jewelry to shoes. At age 35, Gong finally purchased his first pair of Van's. When he couldn't find the design that suited his personality and tastes, Gong made his own designs on the shoes. That was the birth of his company Eighth Generation, LLC, and for the last three years he has created hundreds of custom shoes that merge traditional Native American (Coast Salish) art with influences from his mixed heritage and popular culture. The demand for his work, even at $300-$350 per pair, has significantly increased, especially after selling out at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Gong currently has a two-year waiting list for his original work.

So why are mockups cool? Reminiscent of other pop culture vinyl art toys, Mockups, which measure 6" tall and come in a colorful and appealing shoe box:

  •     Offer a one-of-a-kind engaging art-making experience.
  •     Cost less than a real pair of shoes.
  •     Take less time to customize than a real pair of shoes.
  •     Have a vinyl surface that accepts almost any medium--from crayons to markers to spray paint--so kids can use the art supplies they already have.
  •     Allows artwork to be easily removed if applied in pencil and several other mediums so kids can start over as many times as they want.

The best part of Mockups is the educational value. They are perfect for engaging kids in the classroom as well. Mockups has drawn from popular culture and the cross-cultural symbolism of shoes to create engaging lesson plans that are aligned with national learning standards.

Mockups are available for purchase on the site http://www.getmockups.com, which also provides information on retail. Budding shoe artists can also get design tips and watch how-to videos. Once people have finished their Mockups, they can also go on the Mockups site and upload photos to share their designs with the world. They can also browse and rate the designs of others. To be inspired by Mockups and meet Louie Gong, watch a brief teaser at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXFknBppMrk&sns=fb.

About Mockups and Eighth Generation, LLC:

Mockups were created by Louie Gong, founder of Seattle-based Eighth Generation, LLC. Gong is a self-taught artist, educator and activist who was raised in the Nooksack tribal community located in Whatcom County, Washington. He is widely known for using his custom shoe designs, which merge influences from his mixed heritage (Nooksack, Chinese, French and Scottish), to make powerful statements about identity. Gong created Mockups to make the experience of personalizing shoes less expensive and intimidating. Eighth Generation's mission is to make cool stuff with educational value. http://www.eighthgeneration.com

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