Home > Culture > Art & Design > Illustrator James Jarvis on designing for Nike’s Shek Lei Grind Court, made from 20,000 pairs of old sneakers
Illustrator James Jarvis on designing for Nike’s Shek Lei Grind Court, made from 20,000 pairs of old sneakers

Sustainability has long been a core element of Nike’s brand ethos, with their MOVE TO ZERO campaign championing the pursuit of a zero carbon and zero waste model to leave our world in better shape than we found it. It’s a difficult prospect for any consumer brand, let alone one that often trades in hype and newness among its loyal army of sneakerheads. Nevertheless, the Swoosh has continued to develop creative and resourceful ways to make the future look a little bit greener — while paying tribute to both sport and culture alike.

Since 1992, the Nike Grind programme has been turning trash into treasure. Combining worn athletic shoes, surplus scraps and plastic bottles, Nike has recycled old waste into new products including basketball courts and turf fields from San Sebastián to Shanghai. According to the company, over 130 million pounds of materials have been recycled into new products since the initiative began.

With their latest drop this past June, Nike unveiled the Shek Lei Grind Court, turning 20,000 pairs of old sneakers and other materials into a hooper’s paradise in the residential neighbourhood of Kwai Chung. (It’s the city’s first public Grind Court, but not the first Grind product to hit Hong Kong: Nike’s Harbour City flagship features a Grind-made statue of the brand’s namesake winged goddess herself.) In partnership with local sport-centric non-profit InspiringHK, the refurbished rooftop offers public access to basketball lovers of all ages, with two courts and four hoops conveniently positioned near the 14 nearby primary and secondary schools that inspired Nike’s choice of location.

photo of james jarvis art in shek o
Courtesy of Nike

If that’s not all, the brand tapped celebrated illustrator and Nike collaborator James Jarvis to lend his own unique artistic style to final product. Splayed across the surface are Jarvis’s signature spherical characters chasing their own hoop dreams on the court and nearby walls. It’s whimsical, it’s colourful, and in this day and age, it’s extremely photo-friendly — chalk up one more destination for locals looking to do it for the ‘Gram.

Lifestyle Asia reached out to Jarvis to get his thoughts on designing for Nike Grind, sustainability in the art world, and what his ultimate hopes are for the Shek Lei Grind Court.

What was your process for designing the Shek Lei Grind Court?

The inspiration comes from seeing how I can reference the way bodies move using my character. Taking human poses and putting them in a different context so we can see them in a new way. For this project, the movements are inspired by basketball players.

Are you a sneakerhead yourself? What’s your favourite shoe?

I designed some Nike Free SB shoes in 2015 and was sent several pairs so I still wear them a lot.

Do you prefer drawing by hand or digital?

I think using technology to make images makes it harder to decide when a piece of work is finished because editing is so easy. This is why I like drawing by hand: because it embraces and celebrates human error.

What does sustainability mean for James Jarvis?

For me it means less consumption. Learning to re-use what we already have and not make new things just for the sake of it.

There’s a lot of talk about energy consumption with regards to NFT art and the cryptocurrency space. How do you feel about the sustainability conversation in the art world?

I think we all have to move in a more sustainable way, I think this is a good thing. As an artist I am driven to make new things. The desire for new things helps drive an unsustainable consumer culture. Like this project, it’s difficult because fashion is traditionally associated with the new, but it is a positive thing to reflect on and appreciate what we have already.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your everyday life?

I use my bicycle or walk for transport. I recycle. I try to think about what I want and what I actually need. I try not to buy new things, or to buy second-hand. I pick up litter in my local area.

What’s your ultimate goal for the Shek Lei Grind Court?

My goal is to put a face to a court that allows people to connect with it. I hope the Shek Lei Grind Court brightens up their day! In a more thoughtful way, this artwork functions as part of the buildings and people living around it. It’s about all the people and being a part of their everyday lives.

Nathan Erickson


Born in Seoul and based in Hong Kong, Nathan has been writing about culture, style and food for some of the world's biggest publications for over a decade. He's loyal to tequila soda and Canon lenses, and still produces music in his spare time. (Charley is his Korean name.)

Sign up for our newsletters to have the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Yes, I agree to the Privacy Policy

Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.