It’s hard to believe that this is the tenth issue of Refueled. This publication has definitely become my voice on the things I care deeply about. A few months back I was honored by TEDx Atlanta with a invitation to speak and share my ideas about Refueled and what has influenced and inspired myself as a publisher. While preparing my talk, I began really analyzing what the publication has come to stand for and what I’ve been told keeps folks coming back issue after issue. I believe that a massage of community, heritage and discovery rings loud and clear throughout Refueled. I feel being part of a community is important for any creative. Developing ideas, sharing and collaborating with others builds amazing relationships. When first contacted by TEDxAtlanta, I was introduced to a group of folks who would inform, guide and help shape my presentation. We all spent weeks on phone conferences, sent emails back and forth and collaborated on different angles and subject matters. When producing each issue of Refueled, I
go in with absolutely no preconceived notions. My work process is very organic and free flowing. I often sit back after a issue has been out for a week or two, look over it and am usually surprised that it makes any cohesive sense at all. I simply curate people, ideas and the American dream. To hear the take on Refueled and my work from the TEDxAtlanta folks was interesting and eye opening. Although It seemed that each one had a different view on what they take away from the publication, in the end they all saw curating as my craft. In closing my talk in Atlanta, I reminded the audience that keeping alive that 60’s counter-culture, do-it-yourself, rebel spirit is what we all need to remember. Whatever it is about Refueled that keeps you coming back with each new issue, my hope is that we all continue to build a strong creative community, keep our heritage alive and discover new ways to develop ideas, collaborate and share in each other’s American Dream. Peace & Love.
Publisher / Creative Director Chris Brown
A month earlier, when I found out I would be on tour with the bands Greylag and Augustana during the spring, we had made a plan to converge on this day, in this city. My longtime best friend, Amie Phillips, a talented Denver painter, had recently purchased a refurbished Schoolbus to use as her traveling studio. It was complete with a woodburning stove, vintage couch, succulents, and an amazing backend kitchen. She had been hosting intimate dinner parties in the bus over the short time she had owned it and
these were getting rave reviews. Inspired by what I had already seen and heard, I wanted to share in this magic! The plan was to gather a group of likeminded friends who had been disconnected due to various travel schedules and projects over the winter months. Being a freelancing artist, it is hard to find a moment when all my friends are in the same place at the same time. However, there are those magical singular days, or a week here or there when the stars align and all can gather to be together. This was such a day.
The morning of the meal, we loaded a table and chairs, loaves of homemade bread, and handmade wooden serving platters into the blue bus. From there the journey up into the mountains began. As we drove the bus through the city of Denver, my excitement for what we were creating began to escalate. With windows down, hair blowing, bouncing along on the floral vintage couch through the mountains, I could not have been more joyful! Arriving at the flatirons in Boulder, we found a spot to park the bus that
allowed us to cook the meal with a view. A worn dirt path led into the foothills and we carried dinnerware, blankets, and a long wooden tabletop that we set upon stones. As the sky turned pink, friends started to arrive with dishes of homemade ravioli, fresh vegetables, salads and a coconut carrot cake. Our party was one of many talents, including painters, chefs, musicians and photographers. The bus had brought us out into the mountains and under the stars to share stories of our
recent, current, and future travels. For this one night, we were all here together. It was calm, the food was filling, but mostly, it was an evening of rejuvenation, to rest and be fed, to share with others who understood the unpredictability of a career as an artist. How this kind of lifestyle can leave you feeling disconnected from a routine or place or people. This is why the bus felt so significant, familiar and like home.
After the food had disappeared, instruments appeared in its place. Voices chimed in and feet began to dance. Michael Gungor replaced guitar with the spoons, while Lisa did a jig by candlelight. The melodies were mesmerizing, sung a capella in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Later on that night, as we sat inside
the bus by the woodburning stove, sipping whiskey to banjo tunes and snacking on leftover cake, another bus pulled up in front of us. On the way to their next venue, the Greylag boys had driven to find us and join the conclusion of our meal. It was truly a joyful moment of reuniting with best friends, hearing
more travels of the road, more music, more love, more sharing. I will never cease to be amazed by the power of gathering to share oneself with others. The power of connection and the beauty of belonging, inspire me to keep creating, resting and moving, en route through the mountains.
Traveling America is exactly how I began to ﬁnd myself and is the reason I am who I am today. Back in the summer of 1997, when I was at the tender age of 15 my mother signed me up for the most amazing summer camp I have ever heard of or experienced. It wasn’t rooted in competitive team building skills or wilderness survival. It was an educational travel program rooted in the desire to go out and see the world, and it sparked a spirit inside of me that has only grown bigger! When I boarded the bus it went by the name “The Holbrook Tour”, now days it goes by the name “Holbrook Field Trips”. Over the years the structure has changed but it still remains a family owned and operated school field trip company. Founded in 1974 when John Holbrook lll, began taking 80 to 120 students from the
Carolinas on a five week summer excursion to the west coast every summer. It provided students the opportunity to discover America, and it gave me a taste for travel, one that has grown with me through the years. I’m lucky to have gotten the experience when I did because back in 1997, the summer I signed up, things were still running like they originally did, taking kids on a ﬁve week American road trip, that was dubbed the “Horseshoe of America”. To keep things affordable the director organized most of our night stays camping at national parks and hostels, and it remains my style of travel today. It was on that bus, looking out those greyhound windows, my eyes began to learn the colors of the American landscape and cultural diversity patch-worked from state to state.
So when I grew to the age of going to college and developing a career path, it’s not too surprising I was attracted to Textiles, a craft rooted in travel, trade, and cultural history. As I explored the subject I found myself gravitated to the Natural History and the stories of folklore. Like the discovery of Tyrian purple, better known as royal purple. Legend credits its discovery to Herakles, or rather to his dog, whose mouth was stained purple from chewing on snails along the Levantine coast. I got hooked on the oral history, and the rich dialog that surrounds it. I had an amazing time in college, not the quintessential keg party frat house type time, I went to art school instead. I made connections with
spirited folks like myself, built a community in the ﬁbers department, and explored who I was as an artist. My love for stories and dialog lead me to my love for natural dyes and quilting. I made the connection and found my medium, now what? Go get a job right! Right. So I stepped out into the real world dipping in and out of a slew of jobs, each time hating the last job less and loving the new job more. I was chasing my passions, and my goal was to love the work I was doing. My two favorite jobs post college were teaching preschool and working on organic farms, but even the jobs I didn’t enjoy played an important role in ﬁnding myself.
Last year my husband Chap and I untied our lives from Texas and drove North following the Mississippi river up to Wisconsin and over through the Appalachians. Our vehicle of choice being a 1970 VW camper van, we were no less than stylish young hippies sporting an iconic image, and everywhere we went folks waived and pointed as we passed them by honking and waving back. Traveling only back roads and hopping from small town to small town for a solid four months gave us time to think. The road taught me things, as it always does, and it gave me the space to think about who I am, who I was, and who I want to be. After all this thinking
and waiting; I began connecting the dots, and as I got closer to understanding I felt a sense of urgency and playfulness that felt absolutely bracing. Taking time off to travel made connecting the dots feel simpler, and more focused on passion. I began to see myself as the artist who ﬂed to the ﬁelds, and now I’m back. I felt the years I spent engrossed in agriculture was the germination to my future. It wasn’t enough for me to just read about the natural world I had to live and grow amongst it. I had visions of my future and it felt like Hallelujah I love this so!
This September my wife Beks and I left our home in down explore a few countries in Europe. We were gone for 3 weeks and visited London, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and finally dipped into Switzerland before heading back. Our trip started exactly 1 year late. It was a trip that we had planned for our second wedding anniversary, in the autumn of 2011. We had been pinching our pennies for months, and were finally able to sit down and start planning the trip. In the midst of that conversation I casually mentioned to her that I wanted to learn about great furniture designers while we were gone because I wanted to start making furniture when we got back. She was surprised to say the least. Not really at the idea of me trying my hand as a maker, but more so at interest in this new category. I had been a maker for years. Seven years earlier I traveled south from Edmonton, Alberta Canada with my friend Steve Dubbeldam to try our hand at making jeans in Los Angeles. After 6 years filled with learning the ropes of design and production in east LA and over the course of 3 different ventures, Steve and I learned the value of good partnerships and hard work ethic. My wife (Beks) and I had always thought about working together but never had the opportunity. She looked at me with a combination of fear and excitement (a combination that is familiar to anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur), and said “Let’s do it.” Those words hold a lot of meaning to
me, as I have said those words in the past and know that they drastically change the course of your life. I agreed. Let’s do it. That year we collected our travel budget and used it to create the Inheritance Collection. My goal in forming this collection was to simplify the design of seating down to its barest bones. A light weight frame made from tube steel, interwoven webbing and leather belts that could bear weight, and military upholstered soft foam seats that allow someone to sink in for hours. After some trial and error, it worked and we were pleased. We began telling the story of how this collection was made to a few friends, word spread to Tom Aiello and Dan Chestnut who were in the beginning stages of a new media company called the Process Creative. They loved the story and were determined to tell it as only they can. After one long day of shooting (and I’m sure hours of masterful editing), I got to watch my process laid out before me. Seeing the locations, faces and hands that go into making the product I had dreamed up was an emotional experience for me, and I felt the value of this story that came so naturally to me. It only reaffirmed my belief that it really matters where products are made, and those involved should be recognized and credited.
THE INHERITANCE COLLECTION
Composed of steel welded frames with a marbled brown finish, custom webbing belts, smooth leather straps and repurposed WWII military fabric. The design is simple, comfortable, and conducive to conversation.
Process has become fascinating to me. It’s unavoidably interwoven into everything that we do. The difference between good stories and marginal stories are found in the details of the journey. With regards to product, the journey an object takes and the hands it passes through makes all the difference. To me, an obvious step from there is the strong belief that people matter. They matter more than anything else. An object without human touch is oftentimes foreign; it’s mysterious and uncomfortable. When the craftsman behind an object and their process is shown, their character and attention to detail is revealed. We connect. When you
know the love and care that has been put into making something you can’t help but love it too. We become caretakers of it. This is my favorite part. Some of the most meaningful relationships I have are due to the commonality of a love for interesting objects, a mutual appreciation for an aesthetic, or a fascination with materials. It’s in this final stage of the process that I find it’s all worth it. Being a maker is not often easy, but I have found a deep joy and many lasting relationships through the process. It’s my every intention to continue along this path for a lifetime.
(Left to Right) Logan Caldbeck & Colt Miller
Colt, where did you grow up? When and how did you get involved in the time-honored heritage of boot making? Colt: I grew up in Borden County, a ranching community that is one of the least populated counties in the country. My family has been ranching there since 1900 and I am a fifth-generation cowboy. I grew up wearing cowboy boots, but making them never crossed my mind until my granddad showed me a pair that he had made for him by the bootmaker who had just moved to town. I was blown away, and so I went to town to talk to the bootmaker and he later took me on as his apprentice. That was in the fall of 2004. I had just graduated from Texas Tech, and I was looking for a flexible job so that I could continue to tour with my band, Thrift Store Cowboys. Mostly I helped out around the shop, but he let me build a couple pairs on my own. It was so exciting to picture a pair of boots in your head and know that you could make them. I apprenticed for seven months before taking out a loan and hunting down my own equipment. It wasn’t that hard. I was able to find everything I needed within 150 miles of my house. Logan, you studied art history and photography in Montreal. How did you and Colt meet and become a couple? Logan: I was still going to school in Montreal when I went down to Lubbock for a summer to stay with some family friends. I’m both Canadian and American but I hadn’t spent any time in West Texas before. When I got to Lubbock I didn’t know anyone and was pretty bored to tell you the truth. I went out to a day show in front of city hall and Colt’s band was playing. I’m normally shy, but I guess I was so starved for friends I went up to talk to them after the show. Colt and I hit it off right away. Over the next few weeks I became friends with Colt and we started dating. When I left to go back to school in Canada I thought I wouldn’t see him again, but a month later he flew up to see me. It was clear to both of us that we wouldn’t let the distance get in the way. Colt would make a pair of boots in Texas for a month, then
use the money to live with me in Montreal for a month. We kept going like that until I graduated and could move down to Texas to be with him. Describe your move to Marfa and what the town means to you both personally. Logan: I had wanted to live in Marfa and intern at the Chinati Foundation for a long time before I actually did. The Chinati Foundation is museum in Marfa that was founded by the artist Donald Judd. While I was going to school I would always try to steer my art history papers into an excuse for studying Judd and other artists in Chinati’s collection like Dan Flavin. After I graduated I was accepted into Chinati’s internship program and when that ended I was given a staff position at the museum. That was a dream job for me in a number of ways, but after awhile I realized I would be happier if I was making things with my hands and working for myself. Colt and I had daydreamed for awhile about one day opening a shop and working on boots together and after living in Marfa it seemed like that could be a real possibility. Marfa has a magic combination of being rural and an art and culture magnet. Those are qualities I’m really drawn to personally and also make it possible for us to run our small business here. We have a lot of tourists that keep us busy with orders and I doubt we would have ever been able to get the business on it’s feet without Marfa’s supportive community. Colt: I remember Logan was just about to complete her internship at Chinati and I was getting certified to work on wind turbines, because we were planning on moving to California, when she called to tell me she was offered a job at the museum. We moved to Marfa together, but we were only able to bring a couple of sewing machines at first. I’d build boot tops, and then take them back to the ranch to finish them. I’m so relieved we came to Marfa; I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be building boots if were living anywhere else. I love that Marfa is about the same size as my hometown and jam-packed with artists, musicians and writers.
You have a love for great vintage equipment. Can you talk a bit about what you use to produce your boots and how those old machines affect the product? Colt: We have a Landis 12 sole stitcher that was built in 1921, a Singer 31-15 top stitcher that was built in 1939, and an old Sutton Finisher. These are pretty much the same machines that I learned on as an apprentice, and they are the same ones that you’ll find in any small custom bootmaker’s shop. Alongside some really great old hand tools, they are all you really need to make boots on a small scale. Our lasts (wooden forms) come from an era that produced my favorite cowboy boots. I love the narrow square toe of the 1940s-50s that you might find on a pair of Stewart-Romeros, the Los Angeles company that made boots for western movie stars. I feel like they play the biggest role in giving our boots their look. What was the inspiration for the South Highland boot? Logan: Our boots have West Texas ranching roots, but are also contemporary. They’re not a traditional cowboy boot even though they’re built like one; they’re something else. All in all I think you could say that their design really represents our experience of living in West Texas where you are surrounded by both the old and the new. Colt: We would go on hikes in the Davis Mountains and talk about the boots we wanted to make. We both hiked in our cowboy boots but knew we were an anomaly on the trail… We wanted to make a short leather-soled boot that you could hike or work in but wasn’t a typical cowboy boot. Over the years of making custom boots, I found things I really liked and wanted to include in the South Highland’s design. The square toe and last shape was really important to me. What folks seem to be wearing your boots? Artist? Musicians? Cowboys? Colt: All sorts of folks are wearing our boots—we’ve sold them to people from the east and west coasts and even Europe who’ve told us that they wouldn’t normally wear a pair of cowboy boots. We’ve also had old cowboys come in and order them, because they remind them of the boots that the “old timers” were wearing when they themselves were young men.
How important do you feel handmade in the U.S.A. is? Colt: I think we are very fortunate to be making handmade boots in a time when people are paying more attention to how and where things are made. I’ve seen first hand how it can make a big difference in small communities. Post, Texas, the town where I did my apprenticeship, used to have a textile mill that employed close to 250 people, but it closed in the mid 80s, and that really hurt the local economy. We have a long history of making beautiful handmade goods in the US and ifeels amazing to be a small part of that resurgence. I love that people are interested in US manufacturing and also supporting small “mom and pop” stores. What inspires you? Colt: I find a great deal of inspiration in my dad, who is a rancher, sculptor, painter, wood and metal worker, and musician. He has always encouraged my two older brothers and me to pursue creative interests. Also, it’s really easy to be inspired living amongst so many talented people in Marfa. Logan: The outdoors. I’m happiest when I’m outside. When I need to figure something out, usually the best solution is to go for a hike. History inspires me too. I’m a big non-fiction reader and right now I am trying to find out everything I can about Enid Justin. She started the Nocona Boot Company in the 1920’s, built it into a hugely successful business and ran it well into her 80’s. I love vintage Nocona boots anyway, but knowing her story makes it all the more inspiring. Colt found our sole stitcher near Nocona, so it could be from Enid’s factory - I like to think it gives us good luck. Bigger expanding plans for Cobra Rock? Logan: Our biggest problem we have is the two of us can’t keep up with the demand for our boots. We’d love to hire some people to help us. That would allow us to make more boots and add more styles. My parents were both mountaineers in British Columbia the 1970’s and 80’s and I’d love to design some boots that are inspired by and pay tribute to them and our shared love of the mountains.
You’re creating in Los Angeles which is not always the first city that comes to mind when you think of craft. I’d say the story is less about creating something and more about exposing something that already exists. LA is really a magical place for makers because there are so many opportunities here to get things made locally, often within a few miles of where you are designing. This city has a rich history of making; making anything you can imagine, more so than any other city I’ve lived or worked in. Los Angeles has a broad network of craftsmen who have been at what they do for ten, twenty, and thirty years, and they’re great to work with. There are foundries, powder-coaters, welders, leather goods makers, and the list goes on and on. This city is a place where its true that if you can dream it you can get it made here. There’s really no place like it. You’re going to see that as the makers movement
grows, it’s growing to grow here because it is able to grow here. If we at WoodSmithe can expose our community to those individuals and makers it’s only going to draw more and more creative people to this city to design, build and dream. This will set the tone for where the makers movement is going to go. How did WoodSmithe come about? I was a carpenter from the Midwest who wandered to the west coast, looking for a more creative outlet for my skills. When I first starting building creatively here I was working with my friend Sean Carasso from Falling Whistles. We were were dreaming about how to better communicate the brand message of Falling Whistles, and how to sell some of their product in a unique way. We decided to start by throwing a party here in LA. For the party I built a big installation and it was a huge success. That installation
began the journey of both Falling Whistles and myself exploring creative building mixed with branding, and communication and retail. We did that together for six months and at the end of the six months we did one of our most successful installations: a walking window at the Fred Segal store in Santa Monica. Darrylynn Kaun (of Fred Segel) was kind enough to let us come in and build a museum-style installation that told the story of Falling Whistles and also displayed the whistles they were selling to support their cause. We built a beautiful installation that really stood out in that environment. The opening party was a huge success. My friend Garett from TOMS Shoes was there and was quite impressed with the installation. He said that wanted to work with me. That conversation led to my first job with TOMS. It wasn’t easy because I didn’t have a shop and I hardly had any tools. In short, I didn’t have a lot to work with, but I made it work the best I could. I did a
project for them, which led to another and another, and then all of a sudden it seemed this idea I had had when I moved to Los Angeles, this idea of creative building, had turned into a reality. A little under a year later from that first Falling Whistles party I was able to hire my first employee, Nina Hans. She quickly realized I needed some serious help if this was going to be a real business. She had come from a non-profit background and had a lot of success in that world, and had a lot creative talent to offer as well. We were a great duo for the next year, learning the business and establishing where we wanted to go. Since then
we have transitioned from a single person maker into a company that employs 7 people and works in a large space in downtown Los Angeles. We have both design and production capabilities, as well as expertise in understanding what brands are all about and envisioning ways that we can help them communicate through a physical build. What part does graphic branding play in your design builds? Graphic branding is an integral piece into everything we do. We make communication touch points. We’re
constantly seeking new ways to implement graphics in unique, thoughtful, and sometimes experimental ways. We have access to an incredible network of vendors are capable of creating almost anything we want to make, whether it be digitally printing on wood, engraving, laser etching, debossing, or hand painting things. The opportunities are as wide as our abilities to imagine them, which wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t here in Los Angeles. It’s an area in which we want to continually explore and expand.
We work as a team helping each other achieve whatever needs to be achieved. The value is real at our most internal level and it continues as we move outside the walls of our studio as we connect with friends, designers, furniture makers, you name it we look at our vendors as our extended community. They are a part of the WoodSmithe family. We also have a family of fellow makers here in the city. We are able to sit with guys like Stephen Kenn and dream aloud about furniture and design, as well as men like Rann Parton and Brendan Ravenhill, who are designing in different fields. There’s something that happens when you are surrounded by these sort of guys it has an effect of you and your thinking. We as a family at WoodSmithe are surrounded by these individuals. We love talking with our friends at Handsome Coffee who are pushing the boundaries of speciality coffee and who are devoted to their craft, or Tyler Stonebreaker at Creative Space, Sean Carasso of Falling Whistles, or the guys at Sew Creative. These friends and neighbors stretch our thinking. It’s the greater WoodSmithe community and we love to see it continue to grow. Your motto is Together We Build, pretty simple but strong. What are your plans for WoodSmithe and
how do you plan to carry out this message? Together We Build is a potent statement for us. It captures our core values and how they play out in our process with clients. We believe that we are leaders in what we do; and one quality of leadership is listening. It’s the reason why we start our process with clients by listening. We also work together collaboratively with our clients, which is what Together We Build is all about. It’s saying let’s dream out loud, show us your napkin sketch, let’s talk about why you drew what you drew. Let’s talk about how we can make it better. Let’s talk about how your project can have the most impact. You’re talking and we’re listening, and then We Build It. We believe this is a timeless strategy for our company. We believe the future is bright for individuals who are willing to take the time to listen and create the most thoughtful products possible no matter what industry you are in. Our commitment to that is going to be the thing that carries us forward into the future. It’s been an amazing thing to see this idea I had about quality and collaboration grown into a full office of individuals committed to the same vision. I never could have dreamed we would be a company of seven and so I’m doubly excited about expanding our thinking,
challenging what we think is possible and looking to the future, knowing the potential that there is. Can you describe the process from first meeting, concept through fruition? WoodSmithe is known for doing two things: Designing and Building. Those two two things are distilled into three steps. Step one: Guidelines. Guidelines is a process were we learn what your brand is about and decide what that should look like and what it materials it should be made from. We also design digital concepts in this phase. Step two is our plans phase. We utilize this step for environments like retail spaces and hospitality design basically projects that require a greater level of depth so we can produce blueprints for the project. Step 3 is components. This is when we get our hands dirty by taking the digital concepts and turning them into reality. Rather it’s a volume merchandising or a single space design we we can prototype and produce. The final step is installation. If you have a project that requires on site work like a retail or hospitality location we will follow the project all the way through the installation. We will be on site to make sure that no detail get overlooked.
Basic kid stuff with a creative mom and dad. Little sisters. Family from down state coming up. Mom wove the most beautiful baskets and dad outfitted our old house with intricate oak moulding that he extracted out of Detroit ruins. Central Lake, Michigan. Small town stuff. Not much else to do than play sports, and I gave it a try, and eventually turned my back on organized sports, and turned to the dark side: Skateboarding and snowboarding and punk rock music. You know, the good shit! We moved to Traverse City when I was 13, and a whole new world opened up to me. Art, music and thinking for yourself. We skated all summer long and when the snow came, snowboarding filled our winters. Out of high school buddies started moving to Colorado. I almost went, but chose to stay behind a earn an Associates Degree at the
local community college. When it was our turn, we saved our loot all summer and split. August of 1993. The world opened up yet again. I was 19, dumb and with my buddies in Oregon. It was fucking amazing. I learned the basics with my Associates Degree and once I got out west, didnâ€™t have access to computers. Painting and drawing is all I had and I pushed my illustration as far as I could, landing a couple snowboard graphics! Solid snowboards gave me my first shot, and Iâ€™ll forever be thankful to those guys. Got my first computer in 1996, and shit took off. I had my tools and havenâ€™t looked back since. I washed dishes for give months in Alaska to get that machine. I earned that fucker. Still proud of that one.
After five winters out in Oregon, and four summers in + and earned a monster degree from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design. I gave up the shred world, and moved back to the city. It was incredible, and I loved Minneapolis. Still sore about leaving the place, a decade later! I did two years there and got my first job, as the Art Director for Snowboarder magazine way the hell down in Perfectville, Southern California. I couldn’t pass up the gig, graduated and started in with Snowboarder in April of 2000. Southern California and I didn’t agree on too much. I loved the guys I worked with and the mag, but couldn’t stomach the fast pace, nose jobs and overpriced cost of living. I did two winters and got rescued up to Portland, Oregon to the Cinco Design Office. Such a cool design shop. Moved back to Oregon, and started working on Nixon and Gravis projects. Loved it! Was back in Oregon, working on cool stuff with talented folks. After a couple good years at Cinco, I went out on my own. I saved up some loot, paid off my credit cards and got to work. That would’ve been 2004, and shit’s been amazing ever since. I’ve been hard at work for damn near a decade on my own. So proud of the last eight years. What influences you? It’s quite a list. Function over fashion. Mom and dad. My nephew Oliver. Fall foliage. Old logos. Thick lines. Crappy promotional items. America. Freedom. Hard work. Roadtrips. Records. Martin guitars. Telecasters. 501 jeans. Taking my pants off. Documentaries. Carhartt jackets. Feed-n-seed memo books. Impko stickers. Spectrums. The Flaming Lips. American flags. Cold Cokes. Filson bags. Arrows. Old signs. Legos. Wiener dogs. Ugly stuff. Wood. Bullet pencils. Old patches. Farmer seed hats. But when I think about it, you what influences me the most? Not making the most of these years with my design. Now’s the time. Striking while the iron is hot. Doing as much work as I can, saving loot, traveling and telling my story and trying to pull it all off. Long hours? Of course. Why Helvetica? There’s a beautiful sense of order to Helvetica. Beautiful geometry and form. Europe’s decimation at the hands of World War II left so many cultures and lands lost and I’ve always thought Helvetica was another little way of bringing legibility and order to their society. It follows rules and is democratic. Everyone can use Helvetica. I remember how
it felt “special” to me when I was little. Felt modern, smart and elevated. I like the idea of the design of things not competing with the information at hand. Helvetica allows the forms to breathe. What’s your process in developing a logo or packaging? It all starts with sketching in my Field Notes. Notes on angles to take, sketches, mellow analysis on the best path to solving the thing. After some sketching separate the different versions in separate camps, which are refined into different directions. Then I organize those directions from mellow to wild, which acts as a volume knob of sorts for the first round presentation. Showing multiple directions allows the client to pick what they dig, and then we hone in on that. It’s pretty collaborative. I like the idea of offering stuff they can attach to, and help morph along the way. Instant ownership. In the end, the idea is that we both love it, and both helped it along. Sometimes I hit it right out of the gate, and other times, it takes some pretty serious battling. I’m down with both! How did Field Notes come about? What was the thought process? After years of collecting old dead memo books from junk drawers, antique malls and flea markets, I decided to make my very own. With my own type, language and bold, unapologetic type. This was 2004 or something. I screen printed my first 200 and gave ‘em to friends. Then I did 2000 of them for $2000 bucks, gave a stack to Jim Coudal and that man made the thing explode. Thank you, Coudal Partners. Forever. The idea was to make something that was completely mine. And now, completely ours. For me and you, with slow steps and simple materials. All the while, celebrating the beautiful, forgotten ways of “writing things down” and “sketching stuff” and “doodling.” We’re losing that stuff. iPhones and iPads are changing everything and of course, I love ‘em, but still want simple stuff to write on. I keep my Field Notes on me at all times. All times. Describe your sickness/passion for old shit - fonts, packaging, vintage Americana? I love what the old guys did with limited form, techniques and materials. There were limitations back then. Shit, we’ve got a million fonts these days, a million colors and shit’s spit out of some half-ass digital printer. Smarter? Sure. Warm? Nope. Design wasn’t such a “cake decoration” kind of thing like it is today. It was more functional. A trade. Pure communication, you know? I’m inspired by that straightforward-
But just know, sure, the design of 1960 was beautiful, but man, that was a messed up time. I just want to make that clear. Sure, I’m a sentimental sumbitch, but it’s only for the design of things. Not the old ways of society that thankfully have died off, as America refines itself. What is the importance of preserving that heritage? If any.
shit gets smarter, we shed old ways. And sadly, we’re losing beautiful stuff along the way. Pacing, restraint, humor, subtlety. You have to look for it, but it’s out there. Shit’s just so predictable these days, and that bums me out. So I’m looking back at simpler things, to mine simpler ways out of them. I’ve been doing that my whole career. I’ve seen the “cool” pursuits, and that shit’s just fashion.
There’s an innocence there that we just can’t lose. As
What’s the message you tote through your speaking gigs? That bigger isn’t necessarily better. The big jobs out there are cool and all, but don’t forget the little jobs. Those mean something too. I show work that made me thousands of dollars, as well as work that didn’t make me a one damn red cent. What’s important is that I loved both, and worked equally hard on both ends of the spectrum. I’m proud of that and love telling people about it. I hope they dig my work, but more importantly, dig the spirit of “going for it” and “trying like hell” to do it right, as creatively as possible. Can we save America with design?
Man, that’s a hard one. A word I learned a couple years back was “Trending.” And right now, design is trending a path back to the basics. Be it graphics, language or a harkening back to simpler logos. I like that. Design is helping us savor stuff. The details. A beautiful pair of jeans. Sure, a lot of this shit comes with a steep price tag, but I see design reaching regular people every day. Things are getting smarter, slowly. I’d like to think design is helping America refine itself. Little steps, and they all all add up after awhile. People are demanding better government. Better health care. Better roads. Better food. And I’m happy that design’s got a role in all of those.
So imagine my surprise when I got a call from another motorcycle enthusiast asking if I wanted to take up an open seat in his truck that’s leaving last minute to the salt for Speedweek. I say ‘yes’ before really considering it, packed a quick bag, and jumped on my poorly-tuned motorbike to meet the truck. Of course I ran out of gas half way there and walked to the next fill up station. I’m still completely filled with anticipation as I get back on the road, putting my folly behind me and hoping for a problem free cruise into LA. I keep the technical hiccups to a minimum and make it there to be greeted by smiles. The guys and I turn into giddy children as we spill all of our hopes and dreams for the trip before a single mile is clocked. We throw a couple magazines, an empty cooler and some tools in the trailer with our bikes, and cross our fingers for light traffic leaving Los Angeles towards Vegas, and beyond to Bonneville.
Hot rodders, motorbikers, and the occasional jet fueled land rocket pilot come each year to test their ingenuity, their engineering and problem solving skills as they approach speeds that your average motorist would definitely cower at (myself included). 200mph is a mere stepping stone to some of these folks, who will attempt history and share a smile and a beer with you whether or not they make it. The same folks that set the land speed records in the 1970s are there running the inspections and the clocks, happy to share knowledge with an wide-eyed first timer that shows up. It is a big family with open chairs at the table. Our trip was an exercise in active spectating. From putting around the pits to wringing the throttle on the outside lanes, we soaked our motorbikes in salty slush, met garage-built legends and international record holders, finishing off by cracking a few celebratory beers in the name of speed and last minute road trips. 3 days, 1500 miles of driving, and somewhere around 25 lbs of souvenir salt in the trailer later...I’m back at the computer planning the next round of wanderings.
It’s about quality, the pursuit of, and fucking up. The journeys, getting lost again, making four left turns, breaking down, being fucked, and getting stoked. The destinations and realizing that all they are, are stops on that journey and that getting to them is the awesome part. It’s about being a multi dimensional human and not living a mono focused life that leaves you bored and crippled far to early. It’s about spontaneity, saying
yes, making it work, and changing your plan. It’s about leaving all you’ve worked for behind cause you figured out that you want something different and need to go figure out what that different is. It’s about LIVING MANY DIFFERENT LIVES in your lifetime. It’s about a belief that it will always work out. It’s popping wheelies and getting rad, breaking that back tire loose and jumping off cliffs. It’s about working your ass off for something, or
to do something right. Family, where ever you find it. Overcoming fears and discovering new ones. It’s about being nice, stoking out other people, and high fives. It’s about letting yourself constantly evolve cause you know that you’d have to be an asshole not to. It’s about being rad, and having that full chested feeling of a swollen heart everyday.
I+W DECKER JACKET
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