In 2006, things were looking grim for Jason Ehlers. It was in July of that year that he was sentenced to 26 months in prison on graffiti charges (his second trip behind bars after doing 11 months in 2002), attracting a good measure of media attention for the severity of punishment that had been handed down to him—even considering that "Caveman," his signature and nickname, had become one of the most prolific graffiti writers in the city.
These days, things are looking up. Less than two months after getting out of the clink, Ehlers/Caveman is living substance free, and concentrating his efforts on legally sanctioned forms of artistic expression—including, it turns out, fashion, and in particular, shoes.
Last month, at a party thrown by Juxtapoz magazine at Backspace, Caveman displayed a wild collection of women's shoes that included heavy iron spike heels and heeled slides and ankle-strapped numbers with animal hoof uppers. More sculptural than functional, they nonetheless offered a tantalizing glimpse of the bounds of Caveman's imagination and technical ability.
Most recently, Caveman became the first winner of a sneaker design contest held by a new locally based shoe company, RYZ (ryzwear.com). The unique concept behind RYZ is the brainchild of ex-Adidas executive Rob Langstaff. It works like this: A plain high-top sneaker acts as a palette for anyone who cares to try their hand at designing graphics to style it—you simply download a template, and when you're done, upload it on the company site, where it will be generated in a 3D preview. In cycling elections, members of the RYZ community are invited to vote for their favorite result. The winning shoe design then goes into production and is sold online. It has more in common with his graffiti art past than with the women's collection: A dense graphic collage in shaded black, white, and gray, it features owl feathers swirling around a human face, contorted arrows, spiraling spikes, and checkerboard, all piped together with a bright yellow trim and laces. Grab the original debut while you can, and hit up the site for design and voting purposes.
Off the computer and onto the streets: Two events to hit for discounted merch this weekend are the Mississippi Street Fair (Sat July 12, 10 am-7 pm, N Mississippi) and the annual sidewalk sale on NW 23rd (Fri-Sun July 11-13). In addition, longtime Pearl District shoe store Olive (404 NW 10th) is going exclusively online, with the storefront set to close by the end of this month. In celebration, they are having an in-store sale with steep (up to 70 percent off through July 15!) discounts on luxe lines like Georgina Goodman and Eileen Shields—now's the time to find that sandal or flat to bike around in for the rest of the summer!