Six years ago, a class project led school teacher Zac Vine to doodle on some used footwear. Years later, Vine is now designing custom sneakers in Sooke for celebrities like The Weeknd, Drake and Logic.

Vine began painting shoes while working with inner city youth in Toronto.

“I saw how into sneakers they were and not only that but incidents around sneakers were literally causing kids their lives,” he recalled.

After a violent sneaker incident involving one of his students, Vine started to research shoe and sneaker culture.

He asked students to bring in their sneakers and began repairing them to look brand new. One of his students then gave him a pair of old shoes asking him if he wanted to draw on them.

“I've always been a doodler,” said Vine. “So I started doodling away and they were like ‘Mr. Vine these are awesome. You gotta put these on social media.’”

Vine posted his artwork on Instagram, which caught the eye of MLB pitcher Aroldis Chapman. The superstar closer invited Vine down to meet in Cincinnati.

“They treated me like I was a celebrity,” said a baffled Vine. “I’m hanging out in the dugout and their coming up to me and wanting to meet me.“

Things exploded from there. Nike took notice and offered Vine work with their sponsored athletes. Vine, burnt out from his work in Toronto, started his new career painting stylish shoes under the name Zeevy Customs.

Vine decided to set up shop selling his one of a kind sneakers on the west coast. He sells most of his kicks to people ordering them from California with prices ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

However, his new career was a lonely one.

“My closest friends were the deer that wander through the property,” said Vine. “You don’t see that many people. You don’t talk to that many people. And the only interaction you do have are through social media and emails. I really missed actually mentoring and talking with people and helping them.”

He then started teaching again as a substitute at Journey Middle School. After going full time, he combined the two interests and created the Fresh SOLES program, where students are able to paint their own sneakers.

“They get out of it what I get out of it,” said Vine. “Which is just a peace of mind. A time when you can escape everything and focus in on your craft.”

Now he’s back to connecting with kids over the same thing that started his painting career: sneakers.