Sneakers are a work of art in their right own right, but Matthew Senna has taken the beauty of a shoe and transformed it into his life’s work. The 31-year-old artist’s muse is the Air Jordan. Senna, who creates sculptures of shoes from gold, bronze, and resin, is putting on an exhibit in Los Angeles today called STUDY001 at 3125C The Void from 5 to 10 p.m., where he’ll be releasing three pairs of resin Air Jordan 1s and giving away a gold Air Jordan 1 to one lucky person. His work, though, goes deeper than just making sneakers out of expensive materials.

His gold sculptures are worth upwards of $10,000, giving Senna some cachet with a celebrity clientele. He’s worked with Drake, Usher, Jadakiss, T.I., Common, Post Malone, and Edison Chen, to name a few. But it’s the stories behind the shoes and the connections his clients have with them that inspires Senna, who’s been working on shoe-based art for the past two years.

We had the chance to talk to Senna about his upcoming show, why he does this work, his experiences working with big-name artists, and what’s next in his career.

How did you get started making shoes?
I’ve been an artist my whole life with different mediums. I had my grandfather’s shoes. When he passed away, my uncle kept his shoes. They mean a lot to me, and they sit in my house. I was looking at them one day and said, “What can I do that means this much to other people?” I started thinking, and for me, it would be Jordans, because I grew up studying the brand, wearing a ton of the Jordan, being inspired by the brand, and watching games. I really dug deep into the brand, and I thought, “What can I do with Jordan that makes it as meaningful as my grandfather’s shoes?” And I started working on these.

How long does it take to finish a sneaker?
It all depends on the process, but it’s anywhere from a week to eight weeks.

Is the Air Jordan 1 your favorite sneaker to make?
I think the Jordan 1 is the foundation of everything that came after it. Design wise, the II started to break the mold, but the 1 is so iconic in terms of everything that that came after it. Before I started doing this, I never owned a pair of 1s. Then I did the 1s in gold and it started to grow on me as a shoe, and it started to grow on me as far as what it means to other people. To give a rookie his own shoe, it was a genius marketing move by Nike. What it turned into nowadays, no one could have predicted.

How much does it cost to make each one?
It all depends on the process I use, but it’s not cheap. It’s one of the toughest things I’m doing, in terms of the cost of the goods. But, it ranges based on the materials and the process I decide to use. I base the process on what I’m trying to get in terms of what I want as a result. Bronze is used for certain ones, I’m casting certaines ones, I’m plating others. I came from a mixed-media background, so it’s all about deciding what my outcome should be to tell the story I want, and then finding a process that answers that.

Does the price of making these ever worry you?
100 percent. The first one, I was like, “This cost me a lot of money,” so I was kind of worried. My friend told me, “This is crazy, you need to figure this out.” It sat in my house for a few months, and he said, “You need to do an interview with me, you better be ready,” because he wrote for The Hundreds’ blog. From there it took off. There was a time when I had to do a complete 1-XX3 set, and I was super hyped to do it, then I realized I really need to sell them.

Do you want to make work that’s priced for average folks?
That’s one of the reasons I’m doing the resin pieces. They’re single shoes, not pairs, so they’re a little more accessible. They’re limited to 23 pairs. I wanted to do something for people who can’t afford the metals, but it’s hard. The raw materials are so expensive. I have smaller pieces that will let people have access to the art. There are a lot of people who contact me and say, “I love your art but I can’t afford it,” but that’s where I come from. When I started this, I couldn’t afford it. So I’m trying to bridge this gap.

What was it like working with Usher?
One of my favorite stories is working with Usher. He was one of the first people to buy a piece of work from me. He didn’t want to see the piece at first, he wanted me to sit down and talk with him and [hear me] tell him what I do and explain the art. We sat there for 40 minutes. He wanted to know about my process, why I do it, and the stories behind everything. After telling him that, he said, ”OK, I’m ready to see it.” Then I took them out of a bag and showed him, and that was really cool, rather than just shipping to a celebrity. All of the celebrities have been open and welcoming of my work, but that was a really eye-opening experience.

How about Drake?
That was a process that took a long time, because we were both out of town. We kept playing phone tag, and trying to make that delivery took a while. He’s into shoes and Jordans, so he was super excited about them. He was happy about the final outcome.

Did he give you a pair of OVO Air Jordans?
No, I actually don’t have many Jordans. I only four pairs right now. I love them, but I’m not the biggest collector. The stories behind them are more important. Right now, I wear Air Jordans and Air Max on my day to day. I want to try and design a pair of shoes.

You worked with Common, too, right?
Common got a pair before he won the Oscar, and it came part of the story of him winning that. Jimmy Kimmel talked about it, and I met him at his birthday party a week later. He was like Usher in the way that he wanted to talk about the art and why the sneakers mean so much to him.

You worked with Jadakiss on the cover art for his Top 5 Dead or Alive album.
That’s something that I had pitched four years prior, before I was doing any of this. I had pitched it to his manager, and the album got pushed a few times, and then they were like, “Hey, are you ready?” We had him come out here, and we started the process. He was amazing throughout it and helpful. When I delivered it to him, he had a listening party at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and he looked at it and said, “Damn!” He had a scar on his eyebrow, and he said, “Damn, you even got the scar from when I fell as a kid. This is crazy. This is crazy.” It got a lot of people talking about the album in the Def Jam building, because there was a lot of people who didn’t want us to do it, and we had to fight for it. We fought for it as much as we could. He’s definitely the homie. When I go to New York I’ll run into him and go to the studio sometimes. I’m good friends with his manager. We’re definitely cool.

Do you have a relationship with Nike?
I did Air Max Day with Nike this year. I have a relationship with them. I’m in no way affiliated with them. I do it because I love the product and stories they’ve done. When I’ve worked with them, it’s been a great experience. I have an advertising background, so they were really good to work with.

You’ve got this event coming up. How’s it going to go?
I’m really excited, it’s been a lot of work. I drove cross country, with the gold Jordan, in preparation for it. I’m ready for the event. It will allow people to experience my work and the story behind. It’s not an art show, but an event that allows you to experience the stories behind the work I’ve been creating.

Do you have anything special planned for this event?
This event, I will be releasing three resin pieces: red, white, and black. Those will be available for pre-order at this event. I wanted to do something that’s a little more fun and less serious than the metal stuff I’ve been doing. I’m going to put together a bigger gallery show after this, that would be the goal.