Humans at Work: Mason Hunt, Spoon-Maker

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Wanting to get in touch with somebody very different to feature for Humans at Work, I posted on Instagram reaching out for people wanting to tell their story. Mason liked the photo and after I looked at his feed I decided it would be wise to talk with him about his spoon making. After messaging back and forth, he seemed liked a very mature and professional individual. Then, he let me know that he was actually 15 and still in school! A 15 year old that makes spoons?! I figured he went to CCA, SFAI or the Academy of Art when he said he was in school, so that was definitely surprising. Came over to his house one rainy morning in San Francisco, and documented his spoon-making. 

 

How did you start making spoons?

It was probably about year ago, that I took a workshop at The Handcraft Studio in Emeryville. Windy Chien, teaches the spoon class there.

What all did you learn?

It was a pretty small class, maybe 15 people, we were each given a piece of roughed out piece of wood, all the necessary tools, a gouge, rasp, lots of sandpaper, and then she walked us through all the steps to make a spoon.

What made you want to take that class?

I think my parents and I heard about the studio through a friend, and that class really stood out as one that would be fun to take. I’ve always been pretty crafty, just working on little DIY projects, artistic ventures, but wood was something that I wanted to try out.

After the workshop, I felt a sort of “spoon high” where after having just created something, there was this amazing feeling of pure creative freedom and accomplishment. Being able to design and then actually execute it successfully was a great experience.

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What motivates you to make the spoons?

I think creating something that is really utilitarian, sensitive and beautifully designed is something I take a lot of pleasure in. Also knowing that what I make will last for years and be appreciated.

Lead us through the process of making the spoon.

There’s not really much planning that goes into making spoons. You can have an idea of what you want to make, and then once you start reading the wood, sketching out the spoon on the wood, then it’s really an organic process. I start by getting my piece of wood, right now I’m hooked on walnut wood, it’s a really deep rich color, plus it’s a hardwood. From there I sketch out the spoon, just drawing the general shape in pencil, and then I go in with a gouge and carve out the inside of the bowl. This is probably the most nuanced, finessed part of the process. You have to work on shaping out the bowl perfectly, getting it how you like. You can get very circular shapes, some shapes closer to ovals, really it’s up to you. From there I use a jigsaw and cut out the spoon being very careful around the head of it, being sure all the time I spent gouging it out doesn’t go to waste. From there I have a rouged out spoon: a general outline. From there I use a combination of rasps, files, and low grit sandpaper, and continue to rough out the spoon. Then I go in with 80 grit sandpaper and then I wet the spoon, let it dry, which raises the grain. Raising the grain prevents it from it becoming rough in the future, so when people are using it, it doesn’t become rough again. I go over it again with 120 grit, wet it, let it dry, 150, then work my way up to 320 and then finally 600.

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After you sand it is there anything else you do to finish the spoon?

I coat the freshly sanded spoon with a food-safe wax. I use a combination of beeswax and coconut oil, it has this great smell. I cover the entire spoon and then let it dry for at least 30 minutes before use.

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What influences your spoon-making?

Like I said, there’s not a lot of planning that goes into it, I sketch out rough ideas but then it’s the wood, speaking and saying what it wants to be, by the curve of the grain or knots in the wood. But it’s funny, through Instagram, I’ve connected with a small spoon community of woodworkers. There are some amazing artists who make other spoons, and that’s inspiring. They might use the same wood, same tools, but they always come out with different designs and their own style, and I think that’s really beautiful. So really seeing other’s work and being able to put my own twist on it, and my own personal aesthetic into it influences my spoon-making.

How about the cat spoon?

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It’s funny it was actually the first spoon that I made in the class was the cat spoon. Windy Chien was telling us we could design our spoons in anyway we liked. We could put notches into it, give it a zig-zag handle, any shape really. So I started to sketch and play around with what I could add to my spoon to make it more unique. She has spoons with little pointed corners, so it’ll be circular and then one edge will come to a point. With most spoons it can be difficult to get into the edges of a pot if your using it for stirring. Her pointed spoons allow you to get into all the edges of your pot. I wanted to design a spoon that was both playful and utilitarian.

What hobbies do you have outside of making spoons?

Well my parents have been great about encouraging any artistic ventures. I was really into watercoloring. I go through phases. I had a watercolor phase. When I was 6 or 7 I was really into knitting and crocheting, that was short-lived. Sewing has always stuck with me. This was how I came up with the name of my little company of sorts, Bobbin And Spool. I named it because the bobbin and the spool are two parts of a sewing machine, they come together at the needle and work in harmony to complete their task.

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Have you seen your style change much as you’ve been making spoons?

I think my style has stayed fairly consistent, I like the really minimal straight forward look. I’m influenced by mid-century/modern design, the really simple less-is-more approach. I’ve found that my style has changed in that it’s become more detail-oriented. I can make a bunch of spoons, all with the same shape, but there’s little details that change from spoon to spoon. It’s like Darwinism but for spoons. Like if I make a spoon and it has a slightly larger head than it’s

stem, and I like that, I’ll continue to repeat that process in the next spoon – the natural evolution of the spoon.

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Where do you see yourself 5-10 years down the line?

Oooh. Like I said, I kind of go from thing to thing when it comes to art or design, but I’ve really been stuck on spoons. I work at The Perish Trust on Saturdays, and they’re actually carrying some of my spoons right now. I’m still just developing my style, and my skills, so maybe once I become more proficient I’ll have a little side business. I don’t think it will become a main thing, but I’d always like to continue doing it.

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Anything you’d like to share with people following your work?

If anyone is interested in woodworking, and hasn’t pursued it or taken a class, I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s a good skill to have, especially with things becoming so digital and based online. Finding a healthy balance between work both tangible and intangible is important. I think I also gained a higher appreciation for other’s work after starting to carve, and that has become really valuable to me.

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Want one of Mason’s spoons? See them on his website at http://bobbinandspool.net/, and send him a direct message on Instagram: @bobbinandspool

Humans at Work: Mark-Jason Solafa, Barber

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I first met Mark when I moved to Berkeley in 2013, back when he was a one chair shop. I was badly in need of a haircut, and he started me off with a great one. Not quite as short or styled as I have it now, but its safe to say that he inspired me to clean up my mop of hair a bit more. His shop, his style and personality stuck with me, and when I was thinking of people to feature, he popped back in my head. Sat with him through a haircut and this is what came of it.

 

 

 

How did you get started cutting hair?

The inspiration behind it was going to a barbershop in my early 20’s back in New Zealand. Just seeing a similar set-up to this, just seeing two young men and the music that was playing, there was no TV, just the music, and you could just really see the enthusiasm in their faces. That’s what resonated with me, the passion they had, the dialogue they were having with their clients. And that’s what planted the seed for me, in my early 20s’s. Fast forward, 18 years later I get laid off by the mortgage industry and that memory has always resonated, “What is the next chapter for me after I get laid off? Where do I go, the bank, or do I seize the opportunity to do something different on my own, and become my own boss and live that American Dream, it’s now or never.” I looked up trade schools, on how to become a barber, then got myself into one of those schools.

 

Give me a rundown of your education and work history, what experiences led you to running your shop?

So my degree is in Business Administration, I got my bachelors. I got that in 1991. I went right into working in the insurance industry. My dad was in sales, for as long as I can remember, from our days back in New Zealand, worked door-to-door sales, vacuums and those kind of products,  and then he got into insurance. And that’s how I got into insurance all those years later. And then I got into retail banking, and the last one was in mortgage banking here in California when I moved out here. And then I got laid off in 2008 when the housing market crashed. So that was when I started looking into the next stage. Initially I had always had the hopes of becoming a barber, so I was in such a rush to get started that I didn’t do the research on the differences between the licenses, from a barbers to a cosmetologists license. The barber’s license primarily lets you use a straight blade, focuses more on how to cut men’s hair. So I ended up at a beauty school, and they told me it was all one in the same, so I signed up and a quarter way through I realized it was a totally different thing, but I felt that since I was already in there it was to my advantage to finish it off, with the understanding that I would be a more diverse barber. Because I would understand different tools like scissors and how when you cut hair it reacts and lays different ways. So that allowed me to understand the business side of the industry at an early stage. I got to work at some hair shows, met some prominent figures in the industry. Then after that I went to barber school which was a two month crossover program since I had already got my license as a cosmetologist. And then they had an extension certificate to become a barber instructor, and legally the state of California doesn’t require you to have a certification anymore to be an instructor, but I wanted the extras hours. So I invested in the 600 extra hours saying on paper that I could teach.

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Tell me about your first mentor.

Probably the biggest and most influential person I didn’t meet until 3 years into my journey. It was a small, two chair shop in Pleasanton. Barber Dan is his name. He’s been cutting hair for 40 plus years. It was his fourth shop that he had owned. He showed me the essence of barbering, before it became popular. He’s seen the trends come and go. So it was there that I learned everything I do in here, gentleman’s etiquette, the etiquette of traditional barbering, a lot of the classic techniques. It was under him that I… I credit a lot to him, for being the person who steered me in this direction. I knew I wanted to be a barber, but at the time I hadn’t defined one type of barber that I really wanted to be until I worked with him. His style embodied the type of movies that I liked, what type of music that I listened to. All those things resonated through my experience with him.

 

So that led you to a more traditional approach to barbering rather than a more modern or urban approach?

I mean, barbering is barbering, but the essence of what I learned from him, gentleman’s traditional barbering, is the service aspect of it. Really focusing in on being the counselor, the therapist, the style coach, and all those other things, given my great experience the haircut annd shave being secondary to that. Really building those relationships with your clients.

 

What influences your barbering? 

Right now, with barbering being so trendy and popular, because of social media, there’s a tendency for everyone to be pigeonholed to just one style, like the side parts, which are classic, beautiful and timeless, but at some point it may change into something else because trends come and go. But I have a preference to stay within this genre, of what’s timeless, so it’s still the classic movies like your James Dean, and your Frank Sinatra, and that timeline still, from the 30s 40s 50s to the 60s. I like to stay within that because I feel the haircuts will still stay true, they will stand the test of time, the classic man’s haircut. It’s a haircut you’re guaranteed to go into an interview with and it will always be top-notch. It won’t be “Whoa, what’s going on with this fusion mohawk thing?” hahaha! So I have a preference to say, and I talk about the timeline… Barbering has been around for centuries. If you think about a parallel line, a flat horizontal line, it may go up a little bit, but it won’t deviate like a wave. At some point when trends do come and go, like this, it will have to cross this plane, of traditional styles. As long as you can adapt a little bit, you should have a long prosperous career.

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There was a point in barbering when it died down, when the Beatles came about in the 60s, because barbers couldn’t adapt to the longer styles. So traditional barbering pretty much died and in replacement came the salons. Barbers were kind of the ones killing it too, for one they didn’t stay up to date with the trends, so they could stay relevant, but at the same time there weren’t enough mentors to say, “Let me hand down traditions, the information, and how it should be done,” so that it will sustain for several more centuries. So through Barber Dan, he showed me “This is how you teach a client, this is how you do these haircuts, this is how you service, this is how you run your business.”

 

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Why do you cut hair? 

I think it goes all the way back to when I was a kid, I used to draw a lot. I used to doodle and I wanted to be a cartoonist for Marvel. So I went to college originally in the late 80s for a fine art degree, but I had only taken one drawing class as a senior in high school, so I didn’t know the mediums, I didn’t know anything but pencil and paper. So when I got to college, I got intimidated when I saw everyone else walking around with portfolios of painting and photography. So I switched to business. But I always had that artistic side of me which I was never really able to tap into doing corporate work. So at that crossroads when I got laid off and was thinking about barbering, and sitting at my desk doing that brainstorming thing where you circle everything and that one intersecting point, barbering, included art and music and style and fashion. That’s why barbering seemed like the ideal direction for me to go, because I would be happy doing things that I enjoy. So the artistic side of haircutting I love it because it allows me to be creative and technical at the same time. It allows me the immediate gratification of being able to see my work build and develop and it’s there. Within an hour’s time this is the finished product. It’s like molding clay, that’s the canvas, hair is the canvas. To be able to see the finished product is rewarding. The greater reward is the dialogue and relationship that you create with the client, especially for the first time, and for us to be friends now from the experience you had just from you coming to get your haircut from me a few years ago, and here we can have this relationship outside of a barbershop. That’s the greatest reward for me in terms of cutting hair, is that the cutting hair part of it and the barbering is the medium that allows me to cross into someone else’s life, and get to know them, and their families, and their vacations, and their trials and tribulations, and challenges and successes, and to celebrate all these things with them. I think that’s where I look at barbering differently from most barbers. I look at the haircut and shaving part as the tool to get me into that, because that to me is the greater reward. Whereas most barbers just look at it for an exchange of this haircut for cash. “I’ll chitchat with you but really I’m just looking for you to give me cash at the end of this haircut.” But for me, I want to build a relationship past the haircut.

 

How do you go about cutting someone’s hair?

I base it on what the client is looking for. If he or she already has an idea of what they’re looking for, sometimes they have pictures or a haircut they already like that’s existing. If they don’t understand yet what they want, I’ll ask them general questions based on lifestyle, I’ll look at what they’re wearing at the time before I put the cape over them. So I can determine what hairstyle works for them. Ask them how much effort they’re willing to invest in product, styling at all, if they just want something easy and then I’ll go from there. And then in my mind from experience I have a template in my mind of how I start every haircut so that it’s systematic and it’s… a flow. Versus jumping around and then going, “Oh I’ll come back to this later. Let me start here and come back. ” This allows me to be efficient with my time, so that within that 45 minutes I’m happy with the product.

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Have you seen your style change?

I haven’t. I think a lot of it is because I’ve found in the last three years of being in business, going into my fourth now, that a lot of what I do in here is an extension of who I am as a person. The music I listen to, the photos on the wall, how I dress and style. It’s stayed the same.

What do you see 5-10 years down the line? 

Ideally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few other locations open up. Maybe try and franchise it. And a school. Definitely would like to open a school of my own.

 

You seem very interested in the education side of things.

I really am! Probably because going through the schools myself I felt that there was a real void in the education part. It was pretty much students teaching other students, and you’re paying premium dollars to go to a place where you’re expecting someone with a lot more experience to teach you the ins and outs of the industry you’re about to get into.

I do teaching on the side, under my own name and brand, teaching how to do haircuts, some business type stuff in the industry. I’ve done some stuff in the past for American Crew, currently doing some stuff now for the Baxter School of California. I definitely enjoy educating.

I want to do the same in the education realm of barbering that I’ve done as a mentor, in hopes of the previous generations will appreciate the craft, the way that it was meant to be. To provide a good life for somebody, and to do it the right way.

Barbering now, a lot of people approach it with a hustler’s mentality. With hustling the connotation is quick easy money. Right? It shouldn’t be. Supposed to still treat it like a career, a job.

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Do you rather see yourself expanding this space, or opening more places? 

I would love maybe two other shops but expanding in here sounds more appealing. I like the idea of small intimate spaces, so two or three chairs, four chairs maximum. I would love to stay down here if I can, thinking along the lines “This is where it all started.”

 You’ll build a culture over time!

I’m hoping! That’s where a lot of my efforts in social media realm is, that if I can build this place I can spend less time cutting hair, and more time branding, marketing, and building it up. So that it does provide opportunity for other barbers to come in. Like now I’ve been fortunate that in the little time I’ve been doing this, and thanks to the reviews on Yelp, my work on social media, it’s allowed me to network with a lot of the premiere barbers around the world, not just here in California. To get my name out there too. It’s a small scale, but when barbers come in here, they get to ride off of that wave. When Michael and Al came on board, they came from another shop with few to no clients, and have both been busy since their first day because of what I had built. So this is the goal, when people come here, they’ll be busy. It won’t be like other barber shops, sitting around waiting for clients to walk in.

 Any closing thoughts?

I’ve been very fortunate to find a career that I love doing, working alongside people whose company I truly enjoy, while being able to make an honest living that provides for my daughter and I. That’s a blessing I never take for granted. But tomorrow is never guaranteed to any of us, and it’s possible all of this could end tomorrow. So I strive to enjoy everyday for what it brings while I’m still able to do this.  If anyone was to take anything away from my “process”, it would be to trust in your own process, trust in your journey, but most importantly, enjoy the process and the journey as it happens.  Be present in the moments of life and live with intent and purpose, because one day you won’t be able to anymore, and since we only get one shot at life, we might as well live it and love it all at the same time, one day at at time, as best as we can each day.

If you’re looking to get a sweet new haircut, go over to Mark’s website at https://mjsolofa.com/services/ and book an appointment!

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Humans at Work: Nick Poufard, Guitar Maker

 

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I heard about what Nick was doing with Prisma Guitars through Charlie, the painter in my previous post. Needless to say, I was stunned to hear what he was doing. These things are beautiful, and you should hit up Nick for one ASAP. 

 

How did Prisma Guitars come to be?

It started a year ago, as a real business, but we’ve been doing it since 2010, as a hobby.

No one knew we were doing it, and we were making furniture and all sorts of stuff, like skate ramps and stuff, and would occasionally make a guitar. Then people started finding out about it, and then we took it to the next level last year. It started in San Diego too. I made my first guitar in high school, and got into woodworking because I got hurt skating, and I needed to do something while I healed.

 

 Did you take classes for it?

No I taught myself from Youtube, and Michael took a class and showed me stuff, and I signed up as an apprentice at this guitar guy’s thing. I did construction for a little bit too when I moved here, but only for like 3 months. It was all good to see how it was done, to see what tools those guys use, and try and get the same.

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What woodworking education did you have prior to making guitars and where did you get it?

I actually took one woodshop class in high school, I didn’t do that much though, I made a cutting board and the class was over. Which is nothing.

I moved schools after that semester, and there was no way for me to use the shop at that school. Woodworking didn’t really strike a chord with me then, I took that class and thought, “Oh this is cool.” But I didn’t care enough to make it a full time hobby. But then when I got hurt, I have no idea what came over me to pick it up again. We were making skate ramps, I guess that was kinda like working with stuff, but it wasn’t like making a thing. It’s different to make a skate ramp than to make a thing, cuz a skate ramp is kinda like, “fuck it! Yeah, alright, it works.”

 

What did you guys make?

We made a whole skatepark in San Diego. It was pretty famous actually, to the point that I had people come from Sweden and they said “Oh my god I’ve seen this on the internet!”.

 

A diy?

I guess, it was really just in my backyard where I had a big concrete area with a basketball hoop. Because I didn’t play basketball, I decided to just turn it into a skatepark. It was so insane dude! We had a fire hydrant we accumulated somehow. My trampoline broke and I turned the pieces of it into polejams. All sorts of stuff. I also got three ramps that were torn down in San Diego. The whole thing was almost free. We probably had $20,000 in wood and materials, but most of the stuff was donated.

It was pretty insane how big it got, an full basketball court size of skatepark, that flowed better than any skatepark in San Diego. It was private, there was music, there were barbecues, it was cool.

 

Tell me about how you make the guitars. 

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We get the boards from skateshops and skaters, other board recycling people.

We start with de-gripping. The number of boards we use changes. Sometimes its 4, sometimes its 10. Sometimes even 50. It depends on what we’re trying to do.

We’ll prep them all, and glue them, and then we use our special techniques to make the boards usable as material, and once that happens we pretty much have just a block of wood. Then the process is just the same as any other guitar. So we’’ll take the blocks of skateboards and just start going at it, cut the shape out and then rout it, all the cavities you know, drill all the holes you need, sand it a bunch, forever, and then you can finish it. Then you wet sand it, you spray the finish on, the finish has these little bubbles in it, it seems flat, but it’s really not, it’s close to being flat. Sometimes you spray it on so good that you can kind of see your face but it’s distorted, but when you wet sand it, it becomes a mirror. Then I can see my face in it perfectly. And that’s how most guitars are finished, with lacquer and wet sanding. So we spray lacquer, we let it sit for a few days and then we wet sand it, and then buff it, and then it’s a mirror finish. and then we put it together and make sure everything is good, and then that’s pretty much it. that whole process takes about 30 hours per guitar. Yeah (haha) and we do it all here.

 

Why do you make these guitars?

I don’t know! I made them for myself, because I thought they were cool, and they meant a lot to me because of skateboarding and I play guitar too. But why I make them now is just because the longest time I didn’t know people liked the idea of it, and then all of a sudden I started getting a lot of love for it, “Oh people are into this!”. It’s kind of cool to get emails from all over the world, and I’ve met big people at big companies for no reason other than just doing this. I’ve gotten at least 10 emails from people who are willing to move to SF to be an apprentice of mine, and I say, “Dude I don’t think you understand, this is in a garage, this is not like a legit thing.” It is legit, but it’s not that legit (laughs). I don’t want to disappoint you when you move 5000 miles here. Or people have emailed us to just say that we inspired them to start woodworking or something like that, and that’s stuff cool. It’s pretty fun to do this every day. Me and him were friends before we did this, so it’s awesome. I graduated college a few months ago, and I feel like I haven’t really done anything but I’ve been doing so much!

 

Sometimes a step of the process can take so long it’s frustrating, but once it’s all put together and it’s out of the shop, and you see it next to an amp, or someone’s playing it, you think “Yeah that was definitely worth it.”

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Michael: I thought one of the most gratifying was that Anchor Steam show, watching people play them.

Nick: Yeah we did a show with Anchor Steam last week, and had two bands playing all our guitars. Man, we spent like two months making all those guitars by hand, and then we watched those professional musicians just going at it, and they sound super good. That was for sure super rewarding.

 

What influences the making of your guitars? 

I get inspired by really random things.

Michael: Stevie Ray Vaughn.

(laughs)

I get inspired by really random things, that make me think of guitars or woodshop or furniture. If we’re out somewhere and there’s a cool piece of furniture it might make me think of the process of finishing or the type of wood.

Michael: I think you’re the most distracted person I know, but you’re constantly in a weird way focused and distracted from everything else but extremely focused on creating.

Nick: He tells me something, and I’m listening to him, but he’ll say one word that makes me think completely irrelevant to what he’s saying. One word he says makes me think of guitars, and then “Oh my god, I just thought of something, we should do this!”

Michael: I like it when he does that.

Nick: He hates it, but it’s really where most of our ideas come from, out of nowhere. That’s why I don’t really know what inspires it. But definitely shape wise, I just picked shapes that I really liked and changed them a bit to pay homage to them.

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Name a couple. 

They’re all kind of Fender style, some are Gibson style, but we’ll take them and I’ll draft it out and stretch it so it’s our own shape. When I see the colors come out for the first time, that’s our way of deciding what kind of guitar it should be. It’s hard to explain, but we can decided exactly everything we want to do with it, “Ok, lets put mahogany in it, some alder, the back should be blue. This is kind of a rock’n’roll style guitar so we should put these pickups in it.”

The pattern that emerges is what allows us to decide it’s fate.

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What other hobbies and activities do you do outside of this? 

Skate, play guitar. Really, this is my life, it’s all overlapping. I like going out with friends. Everybody likes that. I like drinking a lot.

I’m really into industrial design and business marketing. So it’s kind of perfect for this.

 

You like business marketing?

hahaha I don’t like business marketing, but I’m really good at it.

Industrial design is pretty cool, sometimes I can apply it to guitars, sometimes I can’t.

Messing around with stuff like that is super fun. For the longest time, I was 3-D printing shit for fun. I tried to make a volume knob for a guitar, but I wasn’t happy with the outcome.

 

A volume knob made of recycled skateboards and steel.

A volume knob made of recycled skateboards and steel.

So where do you see yourself 5-10 years down the line?

Michael: Maybe Tesla.

(laughs)

Nick: I’m hoping that we can have a real shop, with multiple employees, and just pump these things out. Not mass-producing, just up what we’re doing now. I think as far as brand-wise goes, that we can get people who have nothing to do with skating or guitar, but will still know about what we’re doing. Just having more recognition across the board.

It’s working, because we’re in unique magazines, like Inked this month, and Vogue Online once.

It’s kind of funny, because why would they give a shit?

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How did that shoot with Toyota happen?

I don’t know. They just emailed me. It’s super random, I have no idea how they hear about me, I guess just through other things. We’ve had a few other interviews, one for Hypebeast, Colossal. People are definitely finding out about us.

Bloomberg wanted to do something. They’re random right?? I just don’t understand, it’s cool though, I can’t complain.

I think that’s already a step in the right direction, because what I expected when I started doing this was to be all over the skate mags, and this and that. But honestly, they haven’t shown much interest. Even though this is super related.

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Have you seen your style change much when it comes to making these guitars?

The shapes are always changing a little bit, but style-wise we’ve kind of kept it the same forever, because early on I decided that it didn’t want it to be super focused on the skateboards. I know that it is, because that’s the business. I get a lot of emails saying, “Make skateboard knobs! Make skateboard this! Make skateboard that!” And I feel like you can do all that stuff, but you have to really think about it and do it as tastefully as possible, so it’s not like aesthetically busy, and in your face, literal. “This is skateboard!!” vs. “alright, the skateboards create a nice look and we’re gonna use it as our aesthetic.” Two different things. “This whole thing is made out of skateboards!” vs. “We use the skateboards to create our aesthetic.” We want the colors, certain effects, we try and stay true to guitar stuff as much as possible, so that it’s not in your face busy, so it makes more sense. So we’ve stayed with that since day one, and it’s working pretty good.

 

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Author’s Note:

Really though, email Nick at contact@prismaguitars.com to get one of these now. This is gonna be huge.

The Process of Charlie DiMascio

 

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I met Charlie one spring afternoon in 2013 at Balboa Skatepark in San Francisco. He was just shredding the bowl, with so much finesse. At some point, he shared his art with me, which complimented his style of skateboarding and music perfectly. Here’s a little about it.

What education and learning did you do prior to painting your art?

I started out in high school, taking art classes, just drawing and painting. In those classes early on, I was just doing representational work, just drawing with still lifes or photographs, and honed my skills on that. When I really started to paint, instead of wanting to replicate reality, I was having more fun experimenting with what the paint does, what you could do by experimenting with the medium.

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Why do you paint? What motivates and inspires you to paint?

Why do I paint? I’m not sure why. I think I paint for the same reason why I play music, and skateboard, because there’s just that freedom to be creative. What makes painting similar to music and skateboarding is that I’m reacting to what’s happening on the canvas, as with skateboarding, I’ll react to what’s on the street, and with music, I’m just trying to create something with sound by experimenting. It’s all based off of improvisation and it’s reactionary. I might have a plan to make this kind of composition, but I don’t know how it’s turning out until I see it forming on the canvas.   It’s always a conversation between what’s going on in my head, what I first intended to do, and then what the painting is turning out to be – All of which are subject to change.   Also, I paint because it’s physical, it’s all about motion.

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The movements required to create the paintings are very gestural. And that’s why I gravitated towards painting, because it feels like a physical thing that I’m interacting with, opposed to something tedious and repetitive. Painting is very spontaneous, just how music and skateboarding are to me.

How do you go about painting?

I make little sketches like this.

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I don’t have a sketchbook. All of my compositions in this series are pretty basic, so I’ll sketch it out on scrap pieces of paper just to get the idea out there. Maybe it will be something I want to bring to reality, or something I just trash. I’ll sketch something out really basic and then just see how it turns out on the canvas. Maybe I’ll continue with it, or maybe I’ll turn it around and repaint, starting anew.

 

I’m always looking at what I made previously, because all these current paintings are for an art show, so I want them to be cohesive and relate to each other but also be different.   I’ll start by mixing the colors out from dark to light, warm to cool, and then I’ll blend the colors on the canvas with a cross-hatching motion, so it makes the gradients look seamless.

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I’m a perfectionist with it. If it’s a little off once it has dried, I’ll have to re-do it because it’s an eye sore to me.   Lately, I have introduced the usage of tape to my process. I use it very basically – to create frames, borders, or visual layers. I do this to experiment with color relationships and subtle tricks to the eye.

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Have you seen your style change much in your time painting?

Yeah, it went from representational, then to very abstract expressionist (where it was all about mark-making, energy and movement), and now it’s turned into… stillness and spacious compositions.   It’s changed a lot. I’ve found more direction. My other paintings were like, “What the fuck am I doing?” I didn’t know what I was doing with painting before, I was just doing something spontaneous and in the moment. I would get a bunch of paint and just push it around on the canvas, and something would eventually happen that I thought worked visually. I would step back, and I could see a presence or character to the painting and then I would call it done.   But these new paintings are so much different because it’s more about evoking stillness and peaceful moods and creating space. This new process has a more solid foundation, offering me many directions to choose from. I have a method to these, where my previous paintings were more about making noise and grabbing people’s attention. These new one’s are about centering and balance.

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Tell me about the shift between your old work and your new work.

I did a mural for a tech company down the street. It took me 3 to 4 months to accomplish because I was using brushes to paint a wall that was the size of two billboards. They wanted something seamless and calm, and I worked on that kind of composition for 4 months. Soon after, I went down to LA and made a painting for my aunt and she wanted the same kind of thing. So I was making art for other people, trying to bring their vision to life while utilizing my own techniques. Following other people’s guidance in art-making was hard to get used to, but when I finally came back to making my own stuff, and because I did that for so long, I took what I learned and made it my own.   That’s why I’m working this way now. Even though it was unbearable at times, if I didn’t do those commissioned pieces, I’d probably still be dragging paint with wood and stuff like that.

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Do you think you’ll do that stuff again?

I think so, I think I’ll bring it back in some way. It was a different state of mind that I was in then, I was lost and trying to figure out what I was doing with painting.


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Once I finally found a method, I stuck with it and that’s where I’m at now. I have control with these, where my other paintings were about losing control or letting go of control. Letting go of control can be a good thing.

What do your paintings mean to you, what do you like them to express/portray?

I feel like they are a reflection of what I’m going through as I’m making them. But to go even deeper, my paintings are visual manifestations of every single event that led up to their creation. For example, no different from the complex networks required for two people to meet or for what it took for our planet to become inhabitable to its many different life forms.   When other people view my artwork, I hope they can feel a presence of being. When I look at them, I don’t necessarily see just myself, but a new foreign presence as if the painting has taken a life of its own, evoking different moods and playing with the viewer’s perception differently.

 

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What do you see 5-10 years down the line?

It’s hard to say because I look back 3 years ago, and I never would have expected that I would have gotten here. But I want to bring my artwork out in the public space. I’d like to do big murals of this style. I’d also like to expand from painting and create these kinds of moods through ambient music and other mediums as well.

 

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Check out Charlie’s work at www.charliedimascio.com, and send any work enquiries to cfdimascio@gmail.com.

The Process of Tom Wandell

I met Tom late on a Tuesday night in January. On my way home from a drive to Bodega Bay down 1, I was driving down San Pablo in Berkeley, and saw him with his lights on in his shop working on some shoes. I felt compelled to go in and see what he was up to. After some time, I decided to go into more detail with him about his process. Here’s what came of it.

 

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How did you get started? 

I got started, interestingly, through mountaineering. I moved to the Bay Area in ’95, and started climbing. I was an armchair mountaineer with my brother in Philadelphia, you can see there is a whole library of mountaineering books behind you there. Since we were kids we exchanged books about mountaineering for the holidays. So he has a library like mine that I’ve donated to him through the years.

Then I met a guy out here who actually climbs mountains. And I was like “OH, there’s mountains in California.” So I moved out here in 95, and a couple years after working in a cafe, I needed a job, I got a job at Marmot Mountain Works, and they had a climbing shoe repair service, the manager thought I might be able to help out there, and then I did.

I was working there for a couple years with a couple guys who were bike racers actually, who showed me how to do resoling. Then I was away for a couple years, and when I came back, the resole shop was closed because they didn’t have anyone who knew how to do it anymore. I convinced them to allow me to re-open it, even though initially they didn’t want to.

I grabbed a couple buckets of rental shoes, and spent a couple months just ripping them apart and putting back together shoes. I got the old guys to come back and refresh me on how to do it. That was in 2000, and until three years ago, I did it for Marmot Mountainworks.

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What education and learning did you do prior to shoemaking?

I went to school at the California Institute of Integral Studies, I got my BA there. It’s the highest degree you can get in generalism, without a speciality. The way it’s approached is, “Here’s an idea, a thing. Let’s examine this thing from all these different perspectives.” Each thing can be talked about in terms of science, of mass, gravity, density, it can be talked about culturally, sociologically, psychologically, economically, societally, personally, emotionally, every one of those lenses. It was very easy for me to go there, it’s how I naturally see the world, with multiple perspectives, that’s what this shop really fosters.

I also spent a couple years in art school, two years as a general art major. Watercoloring, figure drawing, perspective, acrylic, just going through getting a solid foundation in all of the building blocks.

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What are some of the things that you do in your shop?

A lot of it is half-soles and heels. I fix a lot of straps on purses, polishing, cleaning, and then I get what we refer to as projects. hahaha. Which are so hard to turn down, because they’re fun, but once you start working on them, you realize how long it’s gonna take.

I’m still tied to the mountaineering world.   Here I actually have a pair of skiing, climbing skins for my friend, a guide on Mt Shasta.

I still do a ton of rock climbing shoes. There’s usually a pair of leather sandals. Three customers right now have custom shoes being made for them.

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How do you do what you do? 

Well, I mean there’s you know, there’s so many ways, that’s the thing with this type of work, kind of like the project stuff, you have to be able to just pick up anything and work where it’s at. I probably have a hundred projects going on here, and each one is in a different place. I don’t pick up a shoe, do the entire process, finish it, put it on the done shelf, go pick up another shoe, and do that one. Every one is in different stages.

But with curing times for glue and things like that, you can’t just sit with it for the drying. The glue likes to sit  for an hour, overnight, depending on what the use of the shoe is. With climbing shoes, I like them to sit overnight between each stage.

I’ll try to go through everything in a similar stage, like everything that needs to be ground on the finisher, I’ll just have that running, and I’ll just walk around the shop. “Gotta clean up that heel, this one needs to be finished, I need to cut a groove in this…” I’ll turn on a machine, and I’ll just do every shoe I can do with it. Then I’ll start glueing, anything that needs glue…

 

Why do you do what you do? 

I grew up in an age where people fixed stuff. hahaha. The middle school I went to, Loller Middle School in Hatboro Pennsylvania, everyone learned how to do woodworking, ceramics, cooking, we did a little bit of smithing, sand/casting of metal objects.

It was considered part of your general education at the time. “You’re going to have a home some day, and things are gonna break, and maybe you actually aren’t going to be able to get that part for the car anymore, you’ll have to make one.” Melt some metal, make a sand casting of it…

I think that really instilled in me an aptitude.

 

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Also because I’ve been able to keep going deeper, deeper in so many different threads. There are so many lines of development, that I’m growing in through my work here.

It became really exciting when I started learning shoemaking. Because it’s not just shoemaking, you gotta learn the history of shoemaking, and the history of shoes, the knots, the way you use the materials. It’s a tradition, that’s been handed down. Being able to connect with the tradition like that, and to embody it in my work, is so rewarding.

I’m connected vertically, through the history of the trade, that’s been handed down, from one person to the next, showing how to do in-seaming, how to work with leather.

And horizontally attached to hundreds of other people that right now are in their shops doing the same thing. I’m connected on Facebook with three groups, several hundred shoemakers and repairers, who are posting their progress throughout the day, of what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it. And we’re trading inspiration and ideas, but the biggest thing is knowing that we’re both doing it TODAY. We’re both out there facing the same challenges.

“I know what I would do, but how would you guys recolor this cordovan?” You know, because a color is very particular, it’s a very specific shade, that’s from a very particular tanning, very particular part of a horse. And the guy said, “Meltonian dark burgundy.” hahaha. You know, that was the answer that I came up with myself. It’s great that I got that validation, it’s great that if I wasn’t right, that I would have gotten an even better alternative, that someone had posted. We also talk about price. That’s super helpful.

My shop and myself have been tied very intimately to the mountain climbing world. Of this weekend, Dean Potter, probably the most famous climber out there right now, died in a BASE jumping wing suit accident two days ago in Yosemite, at Taft Point…They were trying to pass through a notch in this ridge, and they weren’t high enough, and they slammed into the cliff. And so now, there’s message boards, thousands of posts long, with people really debating the issue of his motivation. What motivates him to do that? It’s interesting after reading these comments for hours, to be asked myself what motivates me to do this work. In many ways it’s probably the same thing.

In a way, I don’t know how to NOT do this. I got myself into this environment, where I have what I need right here. I can be perfectly satisfied with any one of these tasks. Somebody posted on a shoemaking forum, “what is the job you hate most?” And I thought…”There are none.”

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What do you see down the line? 

Ideally, I see myself doing more shoemaking, and perhaps still owning and running a shoe repair shop. I will have apprenticeships. Maybe if the shoemaking took off enough I would drop shoe repairing all together, but if I own a thriving shoe repair shop, that could be a way of taking people in to the trade and then they could work on shoemaking themselves. I’m more interested in the making of new shoes and sandals.

I’m going up to Ashland, Oregon in a couple weeks, for the first American shoemaking symposium. To gather offline, there’s dinners and cocktail parties scheduled, because it’s about sitting next to someone and getting to know each other, there’s going to be a lot of workshops and demonstrations.

There’s discussion of forming a modern shoemaking guild. To tie people who want to learn, to the people who know. To tie the people who know to each other. To perhaps standardize some aspects of the trade, because we’ve been off in our own little pockets.

There was a moment a few years back where we thought the trade was going to die. There weren’t many people who knew how to do it, and there weren’t many people who wanted to do it. But once we connected on Facebook, we got to find all these people who came out of the woodworks. Who both knew how to do it, and wanted to do it. In the pre-digital age, you might hear about someone else doing it, maybe through a phone book, word-of-mouth really. It didn’t seem like there were many, but once we got online, there was a lot of them, and they wanted to learn.

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Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

The whole craftsman ethic, aesthetic, ethos is: the things you use, the made world around you, transforms you. You are transformed any time you pick something up, everything you interact with transforms you. If you live in a box built by people who hate their jobs, made out of aluminum made in a factory where people hate their jobs and are underpaid and overworked, think about shoes, and the labor conditions for the people who make the shoes most people wear. Your character will change based on your environment. It’s karma, it’s the interplay of our lives.

The arts and crafts way is that if you surround yourself with things made lovingly, and the things you made you wear show that love, show that handcraft, show that a person held this and made this, and that person was happy when they did it, it’s like calligraphy, the line of paint they put on the canvas, is a painting of the consciousness of the person who painted it. The person looking at it gets it. Because you can tell, if a painting has a bunch of zig-zags and looked like the person had a panic attack when they did it, you’re going to feel a certain way. If a person was graceful when they did it, “I loved making that line!”, you’re going to feel different. those feelings, those experiences interacting with the made things around us shape our character.

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Author’s note: If you would like to get some custom leather shoes or leather shoe repairs done, call Tom at (510) 225-9659, or send him an email at  berkeleyresole@gmail.com.

 

 

 

The Process of Simon Lunche

 

 

Simon Lunche is 16 years old, from Berkeley, California. He plays the guitar and writes music. Here’s a little about his process.

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How did you get started with making music?

I started playing guitar when I was 5 years old, after hearing Eric Clapton’s “The Cream of Clapton”. I heard that in the car on the way back from the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, and it made me want to play guitar. I started with classical guitar, and, you know, that was cool, that was where I got my base, but I wanted to ROCK! I was born to ROCK! I got another teacher and had that teacher for a bit, and then I met a man named Chris Solberg, and he became my teacher. He taught my band The Blondies almost everything we know. We recorded out first album produced by him, now we’re producing our own stuff, we’ve got a new album coming out in about 2 months.

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What is it that you do in The Blondies? I’m definitely a leader, I write music, and I bring bits of tunes to the band. Sometimes I’ll only have a vocal or guitar part, and we’ll work it out together.

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Why do you do what you do?

Quite honestly I don’t know what I’d really do without it. I continue to write songs, and I continue to play the guitar to evoke feelings, not only in others, but in myself. I feel like that’s the goal, not just with music, but almost all art, it’s about the feeling. I’m trying to take something real, out of myself, and put it into a song, put it into a musical instrument, and then play it for other people so they can hear that feeling. That’s why I do it.

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How do you do what you do?

When you write music, a variety of things can happen. You can hear something in your head, and you can try and make it work on a instrument, that’s one way. You can sit down with an instrument, and you can try to come up with a chord progression.

I’ve been really thinking.. When I have a chord progression I like, there’s gotta be somewhere, buried in the chord progression, there’s gotta be a vocal melody, that fits perfectly with it. And so I’ll go through a bunch of different vocal melodies, and I’ll come up with one and record it on my voice memos on my phone, and then I’ll try and forget what it was I recorded, so I can just start completely blank again, and come up with another vocal melody, and eventually through combining.. Sometimes it just happens, and I’ll get the right one, but usually not. But through combining and trying, and trying, and trying, and continuing to clear my slate, I’ll finally come up with a vocal melody that I’m happy with. After I find it, I bring it to everyone else, and it goes from there.

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How much do you write by yourself and how much is The Blondies? 

It’s a group effort. I can make music by myself, anyone can music by themselves, but it’s not gonna sound the same. You might have a whole song but then someone might add ONE other chord that’s a little bit different, that makes the song 10 times better.

 

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What influences your lyrics? 

Ah Shit! Depends man. It’s not one specific thing influences every song. You want it to feel like something, so I try and put experiences into rhythmic patterns that work. That’s also a struggle. Sometimes you’re trying to take a whole big long experience that you had, and put it into one verse, or put it into one song, and you’ve only got so many lines. You’re trying to condense it down, so you have to purify it and pick… OR find a way to say the most important parts, and the most powerful, in a short space. If you say too much it’s not gonna be as powerful, and when you say too little no one is going to understand.

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What artists influence your music? 

OHH. Oh The Beatles! The Beatles are so wet. So wet, hella genius. They’re so genius. The Beatles, John Lennon, *I’m saying the Beatles..*

But John Lennon.

The Strokes. The Kooks. The Kinks. Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Black Keys. The Cure. Bob Dylan. Simon & Garfunkel. I mess with Dizzy Balloon hella hard, and Local Hero, and they’re both from here, and they didn’t really make it really far, but they’re hella wet, and they made some real cool shit. The Beach Boys, Nickel Creek, Broken Bells. So many people.

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Where do you see your music in the next 5 years? 

I see more people hearing it. That’s the goal. Make people feel something from your music. More shows being played, songs getting more popular. Because that’s Where We’re Goin, you know, and it’s all Colors, it’s a Beautiful Life that we live in, there’s all these White Girls all around us, and man, sometimes I see that Rusty sunshine, and that Green Light, and I’m just like, man. You better Stop, Stop, man….

 

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Fuck you for telling me not to take a photo

 

 

I came across this comic on xkcd the other day. It resonated with me deeply , as a lot of my greatest and dearest experiences have been had because of photography.

I understand the feeling of emptiness you can have as you watch someone goad their kids into posing for a photo at a beautiful location, but seeing no warmth or presence in their actions. Simply a check off on a list of to-dos. This sucks. I get it. But slowly and surely the human race will figure out their relationship with technology and the world around them.

BUT fuck you for telling me to not take a photo.

Don’t you see my mouth agape at what I’m framing with my camera lens/iPhone? Don’t you think I am deeply experiencing it, all the awe, beauty, and wonder of it?

 

My camera took me to this rope cart over a river in Santa Teresa, Peru.

Riding a cable cart next to the Santa Teresa hot springs

Riding a cable cart next to the Santa Teresa hot springs

 

My camera took me to a crane booth high above the Cayman Islands’ Pirate’s Week Pirate’s Landing Re-Enactment.

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To a small town in Peru, volunteering my photography for a non-profit that connected local weavers to international markets.

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To the hilly streets of San Francisco, where pro skaters pushed themselves to land tricks.

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Jack Curtin Switch Ollie SFCA 2013

Fuck you, I’ll take my photo.

 

 

New Video by Work In Skateboarding!

http://workinskateboarding.com/how-to/how-to-publish-a-zine/

Very stoked to announce that Work In Skateboarding has posted a video on their site about how to make a skate zine, that I helped film.

I met this ripping skater Charlie DiMascio at Balboa Skatepark in San Francisco one Saturday afternoon in 2013, and he did something really cool for me. He introduced me to his friend Ryan Abrahams who was starting a skate zine titled “Frontside San Francisco”.

Ryan included my images I submitted to him in a a few issues , even having the front and back covers of Summer 2013 and Summer 2014.

 

So return the favor, I got him featured in this awesome video that aims to show people how to make a skate zine, and how they did it.

 

Thank you Ryan for agreeing to be a part of it, and thank you Sam at WorkInSkateboarding for the opportunity!

Being a Conduit

 

 

“Every photograph you take is a window to the past.” -Neil Mortensen.

When you are a photographer, or taking or making an image, you are being a conduit.

A conduit to the future, to share what is in front of your lens, to people who might be moved or influenced by what is shown. This is one of the powerful abilities of photography.

You care about civil unrest in the Middle East? Get out there, see how it makes you feel, take the images, find a story, tell it, and get them in Time or National Geographic. It might make somebody take a trip, or send money to help.

Got a buddy who rips a mini-ramp better than Daewon Song? Shoot a few sequences and submit it to Transworld with a bio on him, and you might make a thousand kids go out and imitate what he’s doing.

Have an obsession with the Northern Lights? Spend a month in Alaska, experiencing them with the locals who see them everyday, and you have a full-bleed format photo book with stories to tell, that will make people want to go.

It’s a truly empowering ability. Use it wisely.

Pig on the way to my homestay in Ollantaytambo