Man Makers Mondays with Collin Elder

Man Makers Mondays is back with the artist behind the transcendent artwork, Collin Elder. I can still recall the flutter of feelings that arose after spying his work a few years back. Be it tattoo or street art, Collin's work is a visceral experience into the mystical realms. I've engaged with his paintings in a manner that allows me to spiritual encounter my own guides and guardians of the ethers. When I look at the precision of shading and shadow, bird of prey eyes and beaks, it's unbridles my own set of wings caged within this realm. His work speaks of an earlier time, when the ancestors were shapefiting and communing with our animal relatives, learning secrets and taking alternative forms. Whether by painting or mural, his work has a means of reminding everyday folk of the guardians that hover above us and guide us on this Earthly plain. I am still dreaming of sitting for a portrait with Collin to see which spirit guide comes through his vision. Below is his interview.

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What is your brand/name:

Collin Elder

 

What is your heritage:

English, Scottish and Russian. Mostly Scottish though, hence my last name.

 

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture):

Most of my work is a reflection of living in the wilderness of Canada, having studied wildlife biology in university and having worked in conservation biology in western Canada, trying to encourage people to care about the creatures that surround us and the ecosystems that they inhabit. It has been mostly about trying to bring this message to the visual realm, hopefully inspiring a more visceral response. Also trying to square the dual mindsets of modernity and its heady, concrete, scientific worldview with the subtler, visceral reality of the unseen, enigmatic forces in nature that science has yet to describe. I guess inspiration reference points could include such things as phenomenology, deep ecology, conservation biology, and spirituality…

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What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:

I have always heard that it’s a good thing to diversify and I try to aim for that. I try and build relationships with galleries, festivals, markets, individuals, online galleries, shops, organizations etc. In the midst of all that, its good to maintain a solid online presence. It might be enticing, especially as an introverted artist, to go straight for the dopamine and dump all efforts into social media but, unfortunately, shareholders can encourage algorithms to run your reach into the ground to make you pay for ads.

I think being flexible is important. There is no one way to ‘success’. Do what you can with what you have and if you care about it enough, good things will come.

A tough thing for me, but an important one, is to be confident in how you talk about your art. I feel its important to show people that you believe in what you create and try and place yourself within the greater historical context of art culture.

 

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What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

There is a large part of any work, it seems, that is not as much made, as it is received. So constantly wearing your business hat in the creative process turns into more of a hinderance when it comes to creating good art. So I often try and create away from the idea of it being a commodity, as much as I can, which is hard because of the pervasive influence of money, power and fame on our culture. It’s important to create what I believe in, telling stories that are important to me and that don’t sacrifice my fairly strong moral conscience. I feel that the more I dig deeper into the details of the story that inspires me, the more rewarding the outcome is.

I also feel it’s important to allow yourself to change as an artist. Recreating what worked in the past is remaining in the past and telling the same old stories. I really like the Ezra Pound idea of artists being the antennae of society. I believe that, as society changes at its current rapid pace, we need to develop the conceptual creativity as artist to quickly change with it, and be able to pick out the importance of what is happening today and will likely become important tomorrow.

And again, I would just toss in the importance of self-confidence and self-honesty. It can be difficult, sometimes, to place your deepest thoughts out in the world to be looked at and judged, so I find it good to remind myself to not let little setbacks be career-questioning ultimatums and to try and never take anything personally. And to also not let praise get to my head too much.

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What moved you to make with your hands/how has working with your hands helped you understand a deeper sense of being?

I  was initially drawn to painting in an effort to tell the stories that I felt i couldn’t get across with words in my work in ecological restoration and conservation biology. I think it was the embracing of this form of discourse that converted me fully to art, the desire to create a memory never experienced before. It felt like this process has lead to a greater understanding of my inner growth than just trying to discuss the importance of nature with people in words. It has given me a slight glimpse into the power an individual has, even with simple tools, to mine the chaos and create beauty, and, at the same time, how that power is shaped by the cultures, dogmas, traditions, power, and politics that surround us.

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If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:

I just got back from New Zealand and didn’t get to see much of it so I would go back there. I would love to go back to India too. I always love to spend time in Europe but haven’t yet been to Scotland, England or Ireland, which are all high on my list. I guess they hold so much history that I am curious about, including the stories of my ancestors. Also, I have visited most countries in Central America on a bicycle trip but still haven’t gone further south, so South America still holds some intrigue for me, with its vast variety of cultures and landscapes. But, in the age of carbon, these seems like daydreams. I am just as happy to stay on this continent and connect with and support the first nations and indigenous cultures of Canada and explore the vast wilderness of turtle island.

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3 Favorite songs at the moment:

Pretty much anything by Flying Lotus, Other Lives, and Ora Cogan …

 

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?

Don’t take advice from men because they are men, including this advice, ha ha. As a straight, white, cis man, i don’t know if i am qualified to give advice to women artists. I don’t really experience the same prejudices that women face in the art world. I definitely see how sexism is alive and well in the art world still, founded on centuries of women only making it into galleries as, largely, sexualized subjects of male artists. It is definitely better, lots of my favourite painters are women, but there is still some imbalance that I am eager to help balance, if I can, more by helping to raise the voices of women in the art world, than by giving advice.

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What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?

I think it would pretty much just boil down to time. He would likely go on about spending it wisely and not dwelling on the past.

 

What change would you most like to see in the world?

I feel like just the simple act of re-inspiring a deep connection with nature would help with a lot of the worlds problems. Our senses used to be deeply nourished by our connection with the earth’s voice. It seems today that our relationships are becoming exclusively with humans and human technology. I feel like the more we distance ourselves from the natural world, the harder it will be to not lose ourselves within our technology. I hope we don’t lose sight of what keeps us human; the deep connection we have with the earth and our cousin species. I feel like we need to protect and connect with the non-human and all of its mystery. Not simply to preserve it as museum pieces and for practical things like clean air and water, but as something to come back to, something that is outside of us and all that we have created.

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What a mystical inspiration Collin is for me! Thanks for sharing more about your work and thoughts.

 

www.collinelder.com

IG: @collin.elder

Man Makers Series with Jym Davis

Landscape photographer, mask maker, University teacher and myth maker Jym Davis came onto my radar about a year ago. His mask spoke directly to my primitive soul, the sliver of the soul that is the creature between the masculine and the feminine. They felt like the representations of all the tall tales and myths, totems and spirits that abound. In union with his eye for a harmonious backdrop, his work hums a deep, gutteral knowing of visages from ancients past. Whether the masks reflect the animals of the land he is in residency at or elevated beings of another dimension, they speak to all my senses and inspire shoots. He has been actively participating in a National Parks artist residency which came as no surprise and is amongst the most enticing residency I've heard of to date! I am a big fan of his ability to shapeshifter myth into matter.  Below is his interview. 

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What is your brand/name:

Jym Davis. I make and sell hand-made masks and document them with studio and landscape photography.

 

What is your heritage:

French on my Mother's side.  Welsh on my Father’s side.

 

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture)

The most original mask designs in my sketchjournal come from simply studying nature.  I am always looking through books of animal skulls or strange insects and I like to visit science museums. I just sculpted a series of antelope horns that I’m very excited about.  I am working backwards and designing the masks around them.  I found inspiration in the subtleties of the twisting horns and I’m going to see where it leads me.

 

For artist influences, I would say the main photographer that inspired me to work with masks was Ralph Eugene Meatyard.  He was an optician who lived in Kentucky.  During the 1950’s and 60’s he made these very unusual photographs using dime store rubber masks and working with his family as models.  I love that he was living this very normal suburban life but creating these experimental photographs on the side. As for broader cultural influence, I really love the Wilder Mann project by photographer Charles Fréger.  That led me to investigate some of the more eccentric European mask and costumefestivals that he documented in his book.  Although my masks don’t reference any single culture, I find inspiration from festivals and rituals around the globe.

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What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:

The first thing I learned: it is o.k. to allow commerce to play a role in what you create (as long as you do not compromise your ideals).  My hand-made masks were first created to use in my photography and video projects.  I got tired of using mass produced store-bought masks and decided to make something unique.Second thing I learned: be flexible with your business.  It did not even occur to me to sell the masks.  Then I started to get offers on the masks and that motivated me to work on my craft.  The first masks I created were like delicate wasp’s nests and I needed to make them more durable.  That leads me to a third point: accept challenges.  When I received commissions from performers I was asked to create masks that could withstand the wear and tear of a stage show.  None of these things would have been open to me if I had stubbornly refused to deviate from my original concepts.

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What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer? 

Do not be afraid to say no to an offer.  Don’t accept a commission for less than it is worth, and make sure you are happy with the compensation.  I would also say make yourself available to buyers and respond to their requests quickly.  If it is a big project I check in regularly so that it is understood that progress is being made.  It is also especially important for artists to fight against the ‘head in the sky’ stereotype.  Let people know you are very serious about your work and it isn’t just a hobby.  And always get paid before you hand off any artwork or craft. 

 

What moved you to make with your hands:

Great question. I spent years making Video Art, and I still teach Digital Art classes at my University.  I enjoy those things but, in the end, I find spending a lot of time staring at a screen very unrewarding.  Once I began making masks and working with physical objects it became almost like meditation.  The first masks were really poorly made and, as I said, were basically just visual material for my photography.  But I enjoyed the process so much that it became a fine art pursuit very quickly.  I’ve been making masks for about three years, and the process is more satisfying than any art I’ve ever made. 

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If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:

I have a fascination with otherworldly landscapes.  Alien looking places really compliment the masks in my photography ideas.  I am also completely in love with our National Parks in the United States.  Last summer I spent a month at Petrified Forest National Park and every morning I woke up looking at the glowing red painted desert of Arizona.  It was like being on Mars.  This year I will again be a National Park Artist-In-Residence at two similarly unusual places: Lassen Volcanic National Park in California and Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho.  Both landscapes were sculpted by volcanic eruptions.  The astronauts trained at Craters of the Moon because it looks like a lunar surface.  I would also love to travel around Iceland and photograph my masks there.  It looks like a dream location for me.

 

3 Favorite songs at the moment:

We have lost so many great musicians that I will name three that I really miss and I play constantly when I make art.  Also I will list my favorite song by them.

David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes

Warren Zevon – Desperadoes Under The Eaves

Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) – Dusty

 

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?

Not sure I have much advice for a fellow female maker that I wouldn’t also give a male.  Don’t be afraid to defy people’s expectations.  If someone expects you to create a certain type of product based on your gender then go in the opposite direction. 

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What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?

Probably the same advice I would give my 25 year old self.  Go out and enjoy the beautiful natural world.  Explore the wilderness and also fight to protect it.  Keep making the art that feels right to you and makes you happy.  Don’t bother with commercial jobs where you are working towards someone else’s vision.  It will zap your creative energy and leave you disillusioned.

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What change would you most like to see in the world?

That is such a huge question that I’m going to focus on a small change that would benefit everyone:  learn to make things with your hands.  It is the greatest therapy that I know.  It forces you to be patient, calm, and thoughtful.  Making art comes naturally to kids, yet it is something many adults dismiss as silly child’s play.  I lead mask-making workshops with the elementary school kids on my street because I want them to learn the joy of craftsmanship.  I want all children to carry that natural curiosity into their adult lives and not feel like it is something they should “grow out of”.

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Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

It recently occurred to me that a lot of people have almost no contact with unique objects.  By that I mean almost everything they see or own is mass produced or in some way created from a blueprint.  Therefore, it is more important than ever to create unique art objects that people can cherish.  When someone buys a mask from me I always emphasize that I do not make the same piece twice.  The mask or painting they own will never be replicated.

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I've really enjoyed the portal into Jym's world and the representations of his masks. Stay tuned for the collaboration between Jym and Ghost Dancer. 

www.jymdavis.com

IG: @ jymdavis 

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Goddesses share their secrets

A longtime ally and fellow creator, Jessika Le Corre, interviewed for me her project titled " Godesses share their secrets." Jessika is a beauty product creator, poetess, mother and beautiful human being sharing her light with the world. Below is the interview which was both vulnerable and empowering to write out.

www.jessikaeaglesky.com has the story.

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What is success to you? 
Understanding ones talents and learning how to harness them in a way that enables one to live a full life from those talents is a successful life in my opinion. 

Success has many woven threads within its web and my definition of success will continue to change as it is tied into the present of each chapter in life. If I may live my life in a sustainable way that supports my growth, my health, my relations, the Earth and enables me to create what I hold in my heart, I am a successful woman. 

On a linear level, I want a ranch in New Mexico with horses, mini horses, goats and sheep. I'd love to have a weaving and arts center to support the future generations of artists to rise. If I could spend my later years riding horses, weaving and watching sunsets everyday in the Land of Enchantment, I'd say success is mine. 

What is magic for you? 
Magic is the space between, its the way life is intended to be when our minds aren't stuck in the doorway of logic. It's the enchantment of synchronicity and the horizon of possibility if we can allow ourselves to listen and follow it. Magic has many a countenance and many a name but for me, magic sings loudest through intuition. It's the YES in life. 

What is love for you? 
Love is the truth of life. Love is a phenomenon that perpetually mystifies me and fills me with awe. Love is my greatest teacher to whom I am devoted to all my days. 

What is your beauty /health practice? 
My beauty routine has always been very simple, keep it natural. Minimal make-up and organic beauty products. I lavish my skin with a variety of rose oils. I also limit my exposure to long hours of direct sun.

Water is my medicine and I de-stress with hot springs, baths and lots of bodywork. Biweekly massage and cranial sacral is a necessity for me with my intense weaving work schedule. I eat 85% plants to meat for meals and listen always to what my body is requesting of me.. My diet mirrors the seasons as do my social engagements. As an introvert who is prolific with art, it's an absolute that I am in balance with my socializing. In spring and summer, I follow the trail of adventure. When autumn and winter are present, I'm found indoors cooking food, enjoying some wine with a small group of friends and practicing stillness. Quality over quantity is a mantra for me. 

I exercise 3 times a week, vascillating between hot yoga, Pilates or running. As a health practice, I implement one day a week without any work. I'm practicing the art of disconnecting more from social media to go hiking and tune further into the real knowledge of life. My meditation practice fluctuates with the demands of my schedule however I try to mediate at least 15 minutes each morning. I also have a daily gratitude practice in the morning with an evening gratitude practice right before sleep. 

One of the more important practices that serves my mental health these days is facing an obstacle or conflict fully. Movement is crucial for my mental health as well emotional/spiritual health. I'm very devoted to moving through conflict as quickly as possible so the stagnant emotions may be removed and replaced with space for more love and more creative energy. This practice feels quite relevant in this age of technology and I've also adopted as a rule, absolutely no processing of emotional matter via text message. When something feels out of alignment, I hop on a call, clear it and get back to the loving. It is a health practice to hold my relations in a clear and integral way. 

What makes your spirit glow?
Creating art, self expression in myriad of form and laughter are the staples. I've always treated myself like a lady, donned my treasured garb and taken myself out to some lovely dinners. I've learned to treat myself that way I'd want a partner to treat me. Making my niece laugh hysterically uplifts me in a new way I couldn't have conjured before her birth. 

For the wild woman within me, sitting in solitude atop a giant boulder with the winds whipping my hair around makes me glow. Camping alone in the desert and building myself a fire is enmpowering, dancing wildly by moonlight with loud music playing emblazens my spirit and praying with my spiritual allies in ceremony makes my entire being as bright as it was born with. 

How do you stay centered in the middle of chaos? 
Coffee, visualization and time outs. A good latte with have me charge through it all and I love coffee, ha. I visualize myself anchoring myself into the earth as a redwood and breathing in as much space as I need to be present with what I am facing. Communication and the manner/tone of communication is one of my greatest tools. When triggers arises, I kindly ask for a few minutes of alone time to process, breath and return. Knowing my own boundaries and communicating a need for assistance with them also allows me to move forwardly through anything. I also encourage myself internally and create positive feedback loops that allow my bandwidth to expand even greater. 

What causes /organizations are you passionate about? 
Right now, it's women's work. I'm researching organizations outside of the country that would enable me to study with and employ global networks of indigenous women  with steady income. Preserving tradition and empowering women to retain their traditional wisdom is very important to me so I'm working on a project that will allow younger generations to feel empowered to do what their grandmothers have done. When I became a woman of the loom, I also took on the responsibility on what it means to be a weaver in society. Weaver's really hold a mystical power that has fallen by the wayside in Western culture so I'd really like to see the honoring of both male and female in indigenous cultures that still uphold the traditions. I plan to return to Mexico and travel to South America soon to acquaint myself more with these communities in need of support. 

Man Makers is a small online project I have also started in effort to really highlight the craftsman of the men in our community. When the Trump regime began, I felt more of the need of the support from good and empathetic men in our society. Western society has been patriarchal for so many ions and through this chaos of the political climate, I believe many outstanding men are recognizing the need to evermore support women. My intention was to highlight the divine masculine that comes through the handmade proces of these artists and feel like there is a unification within the art world. We need the beauty and powerful messages of art and with all strength of our female nation stepping up, it's time to balance with beauty. So, in a small way, Man Makers is means of creating harmony within our greater community. The interviews from some of the men and their respect for their female peers really has made me glow in gratitude. 

If you could say one thing to the world what would you say? 
This will speak to the heart of the novice and perfectionist. Your work is to train yourself not to compare yourself to anyone as you truly are your own world. You have come in with your gifts and spirit alone, turn inward to explore the vastness of you and the only you who could only be you. Press pause on your self judgment and your critique. Set your goals and take note from those you admire but remember, you are exactly where you need to be at this time. Comparison is a waste of your finite resource of time and you alone are here to do your work. I believe everyone is born with creativity and if this is the path for you to embody, this one slice of advice will enable you to keep your eyes on your own goal. Let's allow all of our sisters to be queens of their worlds and we can be the queens of ours. We are here to support one another and this world is so much more lovely when we all get to be queens of our own castles. This will enable you to experience much more compassion for yourself along the road. 

How do you Mother the world?  
With my vulnerability. When I chose to walk within this strength, I've been witness to many more humans softening to their own strengths. Vulnerability allows us to enter the heartspace and gracefully push the ego aside, providing a meeting ground where magic and love reside. I'm constantly learning to forgive myself and take responsibility for my faults in a way that allows me to learn and not repeat mistakes. I also chose to mother with my ability to listen. Many times, people want to talk without receiving advice. Whole hearted listening teaches you to be present and hop in another's shoes. When I've witnessed a mother listening to her toddler, the whole experience seems to work out smoother. 

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Man Makers Series with Obi Kaufmann

Wilderness preservationist, illustrator, poet and artist Obi Kaufmann is this week's maker. Obi and I have been circulating one another's work for 4 years. When I first began exploring the realm of connection through the web of instagram, I happened across his profile. His illustrations and poetic kissings really struck a chord and the further I dove into his world, the more my appreciation grew for Obi. He's the real deal and I value individuals who walk what they preach in the world. Immersing himself in the backcountry by sunrises and campfire, he thoughtfully draws the mirrors of the natural world around him. He's been a driving force behind the harvest and cultivation of the brand, Juniper Ridge and his voice is being echoed through his call for our generations to wake up to the toxic damage upon Mother Earth. A few days ago, his recent book titled " California Field Atlas " was released for pre-order and the first wave of orders has been thundering in. I'm convinced every school should have this gentlemen educating young minds on the awareness of the living world around and his book should be required reading to facilitate a visual experience of the Californian landscape. Do yourselves a favor, pre-order and follow the trail of Obi below.

 

What is your brand/name:

I started the website www.coyoteandthunder.com as a hub for all my art, and my land-conservation efforts in 2010. It feels like a million years ago. A few years later I joined instagram as @coyotethunder, which has become a bit of a moniker for me, as if my first name is Coyote and my last, Thunder. I've found a really enjoyable groove with instagram, where I can connect with my clients and my collectors and speak my poetic voice and those who get it, get it strongly - I think social media works best on that level. I suppose the brand and the man have merged on some level: for the most part I don't post about my personal life at all.

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What is your heritage:

I am Californian. My parents were both scientists: my father, an astrophysicist and my mother, a psychologist. I was doomed to be an artist. I spent my childhood mapping Mount Diablo, a 3,500 peak, twenty five miles east of San Francisco. Covered in Oaks and patrolled by a healthy population of mountain lions, I found my invisible family there - between the spider webs and the sage flowers - a frequency that dispelled all my youthful loneliness and opened me up to the great mysteries of the natural world.

 

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture):

For the past year and a half I've been pouring all my heart into the creation of the CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS - a book that is being published by HEYDAY out of Berkeley. I've been so inspired lately by that team that runs and creates for the publishing house and the support they've offered me. John Muir Laws creates the most beautiful field guides to exploring the California back country and his work and way of truly seeing nature for both its scientific and its artistic quality is super inspiring. Tom Killion (@thomaskillion) is another HEYDAY artist who has been making woodblock landscape prints for decades and whose recent work with the poet-of-poets Gary Snyder forever sings to my heart. HEYDAY was started by Malcolm Margolin - look him up, he wrote THE OHLONE WAY - who has become a good friend and whose generosity of spirit is constantly humbling is a man I've learned to look to as an ambassador of all that is good and worthy in this world.

I would like to also point out the work of tattoo artist Matt Decker (@deckro) of Premium tattoo in Oakland. As a disclaimer, it should be noted that Matt Decker is also my best friend. Recently, Matt has invited me into his shop as a working ink slinger, and our art and friendship has only profited by the collaboration. The man is an art-making machine, and everyday we bounce a galaxy of creative possibilities off one another, and I just can't imagine my career right now without him as part of it.

When thinking about other great, creative forces in my life, I need to shout out Mats Andersson, the genius behind INDIGOFERA (@indigoferajeans). For the past year, Mats and I have been collaborating on a capsule line of men's apparel called THE CALIFORNIA HIKING SERIES; this line brings calls to mind an extinct era of the gentlemen hiker, the naturalist who would rather be identifying wildflowers than being into extreme outdoor sports, for example. Mats' eye for detail, his knowledge of what makes a thing of quality at all, and the kindness of his spirit are all qualities that I feel so lucky to have gotten a chance to glean from at all.

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What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:

I learn something everyday, and when you've been doing this as long as I have, that works out to a lot of lessons. The old adage of art being only partially inspiration and mostly perspiration works for me. I like to get up before dawn and I like to work all day and into the night. I am not exactly sure where the energy comes from, but I like to joke that I am a father and I am a farmer, but I have no children and I have no land, so I'm working on a surplus of budgeted energy. Art has never been a hobby to me, but a serious endeavour that has always demanded all of my guts, every last one of them. That is step one: an unquestioning desire and determination to hold that living fire every damn day. If you don't have that, you are sunk from the beginning. If you do have that, you can move onto step two: riding the surf. Waves of success come and are inevitably followed by troughs of doubt, questioning and wasteland visions. Riding that bronco takes decades to acclimate to. The third step, I would say is to trust the surrender: your voice will change over your career and I've learned to welcome the evolution. I revel now in the incremental progress through the seasons of my skill, my style and my voice. What happens on this trail next as we travel through this forest only time will tell. 

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What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

On the rote-businessy end of things, I've found that all my success has come from being available. That means that 1. You've got to go to things and meet people face to face. You need a community, a support group, a network of resources that extends more deeply than a  social media platform and that also means fostering relationships - relationships are your greatest resource. Keep those emails going out and coming in. Engage. 2. Deliver. Procrastination is the doom of the hired artist - get to work immediately and approach it with as honest a heart as you can muster. Let the sun be your battery & take care of your health. Your body is the best tool you've got. 3. Protect yourself. Establish boundaries and expectations along all points on your delivery chain - from commission, to dealer, to supplier, to collector. Trust your gut in all relations: if you are working too hard to making something happen with someone - I mean working hard on making a creative deal happen at all - it probably isn't right. Learn to cut your losses and let your rolling stone gather no moss.

What moved you to make with your hands:

I think all artists are called to chase the study of aesthetics, whether consciously or not. The idea of atonement with larger concepts of beauty through  the process of arrest: the chase of the arresting moment, when we are held in stasis - no desire, no loss, no suffering - the eye of the universe perceives the thing of the universe and are one. Beautiful art affords our better minds this ability. It is actually quite common, and as satisfying as any sensation I know. To make great art takes a lifetime. A lifetime based on surrender to a fleeting thing that breaks us for just a moment to make us more whole for the rest of the journey.

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If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why?

I live in Oakland, California. I consider it my hometown although I was born in Los Angeles. Oakland is the most beautiful city in the world. The sky is an uncracked Sapphire and the gardens are in bloom all year. Tonight I walked around the lake in the heart of the city where dozens of double-crested cormorants are making their yearly nests in the tall elm trees, just off Grand Avenue. Tomorrow I am headed to Lake Tahoe to wonder at how beautifully the water can mirror the heavens, and then next week I am headed to Mount Shasta, to the father mountain - there I will crawl around the creeks that feed Lake Siskiyou, searching for the low-hanging lilies that shyly show their bright colors from under shaded, seeping stones this time of year. The whole place that is this Golden State is a garden and I couldn't imagine a more perfect home. That is where I would most like to travel - where I am always trying to travel: home.

 

3 Favorite songs at the moment?

Funny you should ask; Matt and I spend most days at the tattoo shop listening to a lot of loud music. In fact, we've been debating rock's top 50 albums of all time for a couple of months now.  We have the results posted on the wall of the shop. It is an ongoing process. I live by loud music: real, heavy, raw, beautiful, ugly, I don't care. I am going to sidestep your question and answer with the three albums from this year that are in heavy rotation: 1. Iggy Pop's Post Pop Depression - makes me laugh, keeps me calm and levels me out. 2. King Woman's Created in the Image of Suffering - an Oakland band making the most innovative heavy music anywhere: transcendent, haunting and resonant. 3. Graves at Sea's The Curse that is - hurts me in all the right ways - super heavy and moody, classical and ferocious. 

 

What advice would your 65 year old self give to you today?

Relish these moments. The days pulse by like a raven's wing - be sure to move slowly. My book is about to be published and it seems to me that from here on my life will be defined by all that was before the CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS and all that came after; like a birth, or a death. I suppose life would be as sweet as it ever could be were to be more aware of this as a daily occurrence, really.

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What change would you most like to see in the world?

I think that stagnation is an illusion. I see nothing but change in the world. This dynamic ball. This frenetic creature. This furious angel. I work for land conservation - I consider myself an activist, because I don't have a world view that gives the world and all its resources to us unconditionally. I see all natural systems as living systems and am anxious for the coming paradigm-shift when this perspective may have its time in the sun. I spend a lot of time lamenting the passing of the Holocene into the Anthropocene age of the Earth, simply because I find great beauty and wonder in optimized bio-diversity across all ecosystems and right now we are seeing levels of species diversity fall across the board.

 

Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

The CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS is a book of over 250 hand-painted maps that describe California by the shaping forces of earth, air, fire and water. Map making, as all art making can be, is an exercise in power. This is the core idea behind the agenda of my art these days: you have the power to shape the world with your art, influence it to be a more holistic place. Take that power and use that power for good.

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Obi's book is out for pre-order via his website:

 

www.coyoteandthunder.com

IG@ coyotethunder

Thanks Obi for the interview. You really are an inspiration and someone I'd like to have on my camping trip into the wild blue yonder. 

Man Makers Series with Timo Granzotti

Today's spectacular human is Timo Granzotti. I had the pleasure of meeting Timo years ago in Nevada City and he is a delight to be around.  He has a kind, steady and warm demeanor. No matter the time that passes, conversation arises easily. He's a sweetheart and a talent all the way around. When I met him, he had been a teacher at the Buckeye Gathering, instructing folks in fire making, tracking and fiber arts. Over the years, I've seen his woodworking skills take shape in these beautifully zen objects. There is a strength and grace present in his pieces  and anyone who can harness the strength of fire and transform nothing into something has a great ability to make memorable art. Below is his interview. 

What is your brand/name?

Timo Granzotti

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What is your heritage?


I am of Italian-Ethiopian descent. For some time, Italy ‘occupied’ Abyssinia, the horn of Africa, which is largely composed of Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It was my mother who immigrated to the U.S. during the Thirty Years’ War between Ethiopia and Eritrea. I was born in Alaska. My growth and development were split into chapters, between Alaska and then Italy. I’d say my heritage is very much a combination of these diverse aspects.

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work?


Indigenous & Ancient (crafts, skills, art and symbolism), Mediterranean (lifestyle, culture, art), and Modern (minimalist, abstract, simple, design).

What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist?

 

One skill that I've been learning to use in a way that works for me involves social media presence and branding. There is so much that can be shared to an audience. As someone who was always more focused on the process of creation and making, I’ve learned to incorporate more of the actual showing of my work, and the process itself. To fold all of this into the life of a maker, and promote it as well, is yet the other layer. This is inspiring when done well. To do it in an artistic way is something that I really appreciate, and almost another job in itself. 

Another skill that I’ve developed is hard to describe, but I suppose the word for it would be streamlining. It seems much of my journey has been in finding a way to combine all of my interests and skills into a concentrated form of expression. Much of it has also involved letting go of certain aspects to help with the focus. At times it's hard to let go of something, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. I’ve found much relief in streamlining myself as an artist. For example, a couple years ago I put myself through the production process steps I thought were necessary to developing a maker’s business. I carved batches of items to prepare for a website store release. I carved a number of these items and a number of those items, on and on, and went through the monotony of repetition for months. The inspiration was diminished and it was instead a draining chore. I set a deadline for the release, priced everything, took the photos, wrote all the descriptions. The experience was necessary in that I realized that I don't want to be that kind of maker. I don’t want to be a production style maker in that way. I had to be true to myself, and let go of that. Instead, I now make what I want, and mostly when I want. Most of what I make is a one-off. I have more room to evolve, grow. For me, streamlining has been a way to refine my representation, make it more genuine.

The third skill I’ve enjoyed developing is documentation. Investing in a good camera and lens is a great upgrade but learning how to capture the essence or beauty of something is the art of it all. Documentation is a major element for me, and not just of my work, but also of inspiration. I have two or three sketch books that I fill with designs. Whenever I go to a museum, or art show, I’m sure to either photograph or draw aspects of what inspires me. I have hundreds of gigs of images, multiple Pinterest boards that I keep private, and many, many books. This all comes together in helping me to refine what I’m trying to evoke, whether it be overall style, or a specific piece I’m working on. 

 

What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

I think the first skill to have is the eye for seeing art. For recognizing art, patterns, colors, and how they work together or apart. To see it in everything, much like a second lens that shifts how something is understood or related to.  To develop the ability to see and observe is the first. Not everybody has this skill, and many artists never fully develop it. 

Next, I believe is determination. In the beginning it is very hard to perfectly create what is in the mind, yet over time it becomes easier. To know this and persist takes true dedication. There is no shortcut to developing the ability to carve. It takes countless hours, with failure and injury. Many artists are in a rush, a hurried race to success, before their art or skill is fully developed. Others abandon the pursuit when they discover how much more it requires. I find that a wonderful result from determination is, the more you push yourself, the more you realize you are capable of. 

Lastly, I think is imagination. To make something unique, takes a fresh mind with unlimited possibilities. The imagination crosses boundaries, borders, definitions, and classifications. To be original and creative, is also a skillset. It finds inspiration at each moment, in almost anything. To express is human. In art, how an individual relates to a thing is expressed.

If you have these three skills: the eye for seeing art, the determination to create, and the imagination to make it unique, all the other skills can come.

What moved you to make with your hands:

I’ve always used my hands both physically and creatively. It’s something of a philosophy for me. I believe a well-used pair of hands tells great stories. When I’m old, I’d like my hands to have plenty of stories to tell. So far, I think my life has been a series of formative moments that developed my passion for making things. I have a background in botany and ecology, and have been both an ecological landscape designer, consultant, and a teacher. I am also a wilderness skills expert, with a focus on skills, craft and ancient technology. These two fields are closely related in many ways and both involve the tactile element, the touch, the feel, and the strength of the hands. They also involve a certain dexterity that develops in the dialogue between the brain and fingers.

From as early as I can remember, art has been an element in my life. I always wanted to create. One of my earliest memories was when I was very young, 7 or 8 years old, when my older brother took me to a totem pole down the road in town, this was in Alaska, and had me draw it. It took me several hours and was 5 or 6 pages long. Another was when I was 13 years old for a school project I decided to make a large scale model of ancient Rome. I used basswood to carve each little home, including the Aurelian Wall, the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, and painted the roofs red to simulate terracotta. I made the River Tiberius out of crumpled plastic over blue and white acrylic paint, and clay hills for the surrounding country. It was very ambitious and took me months but I remember how fixated I was on the project. Throughout all of this I was always involved in the outdoors, whether rock climbing, hiking, fishing, or camping. 

I have also always been passionate about exploring the cultural past. I believe making with the hands ties one with the past, it’s an unbroken dialogue, an inheritance. At first it was my own cultural past. Over time, this grew into studying other cultures as well. I read classical literature, ancient myths, sagas, and stories. I collected books and explored all kinds of art and art movements. I studied crafts and artifacts from all over. Museums are the best for this. I spend hours looking at the works from various places in the world. I was also inspired by architecture, pattern, and design. I guess this hasn’t really changed much. I think my education played a part as well. My education was very classical, we studied ancient Latin, Greek, and studied the works of Euclid, Themistocles, Aristotle, Sophocles, Virgil, Herodotus, Thucydides and so on. During this time art combined with my learning, and influenced it’s direction very much.

 

In my teens, I was interested in drawing, painting, clay, and literature. This was around the time when I moved to Italy. Much of my development happened during this time. I lived in Sicily, in a town called Taormina. Here I went further into my cultural exploration. Italy is a very artisan based culture, you can walk down the street and witness artists and makers with generations of learning working away. Even at home, the hands are used in the kitchen, and in conversation. It was very idyllic in many ways. I remember hiking 2,000 year old Saracen steps through the countryside with  specks of sheep and coastal views, or fishing for octopus with the elders, making wine, foraging wild herbs, helping to repair fishing boats, or working at the oil distillery pressing lavender and other aromatics. I traveled throughout Sicily, went to Tunisia and the Sahara, and traveled throughout the rest of Italy and parts of Europe. I visited so many ruins. I love visiting ruins, they inspire me so much. They are a reminder of what we are capable of making with our hands. I later moved to Florence, where I lived for a couple of years. More inspiration, as sculptures filled the city. I would sketch them just as I did when I was younger. During that time, I got into construction, remodeling an old villa, and developed my eye for design.

I moved to California, I was 22 years old. This was a new chapter for me. It was also a major culture shock. I went back to school and studied black & white photography thinking to be a photojournalist. However, I discovered my interest in botany, shifted my focus, and soon got my degree in horticulture. I was into landscape design and had my own little business for a time. During this time I was also discovering the diverse landscape of California, and began my studies in native plants, ecology, and the skills of the native peoples. My foundations in the wild of Alaska were reawakened. As my learning deepened, so did my craft. I made everything I could from natural materials. Soon enough I became a teacher, organizer and consultant in both fields. This slowly developed into a focus in woodwork. I studied traditional woodcarving from Scandinavia, the Pacific Northwest, and Japan. I focused on working with the axe and knife for many years. I searched for old woodworking tools to restore, and also made my own. My interests grew and so did my workshop. I now use a variety of means to make an object, and I appreciate the fact that I spent so many years cultivating my skills in hand-based crafts because it has made me more adept, more versatile. I can pick from a variety of ways to achieve making something. I am also grateful that I have collected much inspiration and influence in my life to use as a foundation.

I’m now making work that is more expressive, more symbolic. I found myself wanting to share something else from within me, not just objects that are strictly utilitarian or have a practical function, but with more artistic representation, a sensation, a mood, a feeling. More and more I've followed this, although, I still go back and forth, keeping the balance. My hands always need something to inspire them into action, to do those long days in the workshop. 

 

If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:

There are so many places to chose from! I think in the U.S. I really want to explore the Southwest more. New Mexico, Arizona, and the Sonoran expanse. There’s so much about the landscape, the adobe homes, the weather, the history, the rock formations and color tones, it all calls to me very deeply.

In Europe, it would be to explore the eastern Mediterranean, Crete, Cyprus, Croatia, Turkey. The colors, spices, the history, the food, the lifestyle, the ocean, the culture, all so rich. My heart is in the Mediterranean, I’m always wanting to be there.

 

3 Favorite songs at the moment:

Oh, just 3? 

1) Elega al Che by JAJA

2) Take Words in Return by Henrik Schwarz

3) Kylie by Kerala Dust

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice?

Seek to be hard to define. Everyone wants to put things in a box of understanding. An artist or maker must be always evolving. Find new arrangements, combinations of skills. Keep what you do difficult to summarize in a single word. Keep discovering new areas, dig deeper than everyone else. 

What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?

Do more. The reasons you have now, will mean little in the future. You will always look back at your younger self and think, ‘why didn’t I?’. Take it all in. Travel more, eat more, love more. Dance more, laugh more. Live more. 

What change would you most like to see in the world?

To return to a generational relationship to the natural world. A socio-cultural refocus like this would change a lot. 

Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

It’s a wonderful entry into the possibilities of another way of living. I like that it inspires people to create their own formula, their own way of formulating a lifestyle. I like this, it challenges the status quo. It also challenges the value system, and it makes us question how things are made. In the end, it’s helping to create relationships. Hopefully, it will stay on course, and become so much more. 

Thanks you Timo. You've always been an inspiration and reading this interview enhanced my appreciation for you as an artist. Please keep up with Timo through his website for his workshops and primitive skill teachings.

IG: @timogranzotti

www.timogranzotti.com

 

Man Makers Series with Lucien Shapiro

Lucien Shapiro.  Lucien's name is what immediately caught my eye as this has been one of my favorite names from history books. There is something antiquated about it, something regal and completely striking. It mirrors the experience I had when I came across his artwork. When I began following the rabbit down the hole in his world, I felt as if I was beholding relics from a different era. The masks had this feeling to them as if they had been buried in volcanic ash from Pompeii, waiting for centuries to pass before they were excavated and waiting to unfurl the carnival inside each. There is a haunting persona within each of them and the meticulous nature of crafting them resonated with my own body of work. He feels like a like mind who can sit still in a space to channel something greater, something mysteriously placed between life and & death. His work is a ritual, evoking and invoking. He has exhibited extensively and I have the pleasure of working alongside him at Church Boutique in LA. Word on the street is that he is headed back to the West Coast and I am awaiting the opportunity to collaborate and get lost in the space between. Below is his interview. 

What is your brand/name: 

Lucien Shapiro , my new online store is to be called Fire and Ice. Coming soon. 

 

What is your heritage: 

Russian /Eastern European Jew

 

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: ( philosophy/culture)

Subconscious, primitive, meditative .


What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:

Honesty, humbleness, whether it is a performance or a gallery exhibition make the experience special for the viewer and open a connection between them and you.  

What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

Hard working, open, ready to face any obstacle.


What moved you to make with your hands:

It was the only thing that made sense, I actually was in school for computer 3-d modeling in 1999 after I took my first sculpture class I switched and never looked back ,  this was 17 years ago.  

If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why:


My last 3 years have been filled with travel with not much of a home base for longer then a month or two. Most recently was the Fear Collection Ritual but was only Europe and USA.  But I've been itching to see Japan , love the style, and culture over there.. but I guarantee ask me tomorrow I'd choose somewhere else . Haha

3 Favorite songs at the moment:

Hardest question ever, this changes hourly but right now at this moment ... 

Artist) Shriek Operator

Song) Amen Death waltz 

Artist )Wu Tang Clan 

Song) Cash still rules 

Artist) Left over Crack 

Song) Life is pain

 

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? What business advice? 


To be honest most my female friends and makers give me the advice. Haha. I  primarily show my work as s fine artists and so many women in my life are boss ass hustlers, Or beautiful powerful queens in whatever  form of words you prefer to hear .  If I had any advice to anyone it would  be just to keep doing what you love. And keep pushing, the path will open and whatever you want will eventually fall in line. You just have to believe in yourself and make decisions that don't lower your integrity, be honest and true to yourself. 

What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?

Keep going , don't ever stop for anything. It will hurt, and there will be fear, but you got this. 


What change would you most like to see in the world?

Environmental
 

Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

I feel that it's one of the most important part of our culture, and I truly believe people are beginning to appreciate and support the hand made again more and more. 

 

Thanks Lucien for being an inspiration. I admire the castles you build from all of the discarded trinkets of the urban world. 

ANALECT_RITUALS VIDEO: This video really drew me into the world of Lucien.

https://vimeo.com/213395177

http://lucienshapiro.com/

IG:@Lucienshapiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man Maker Series interview with Spencer Hansen

Today's Man Maker is a treat to discuss as this human has been a favorite of mine for years. After relocating to San Francisco in 2007, I became enveloped by a new world of artists and performers. The burning man circuit was a circus of an experience and after I was happily dragged out to the dusty desert, I had the fortune of coming across this back flipping fellow. Yes, Spencer can back-flip like no one's business at the drop of a hat and has dance moves that can keep one engaged past sunrise. He has a kind presence, an intriguing one that entices most to take the journey and see where the adventure can take you. Over the years that I've been following the expansion of his artwork, I've repeatedly found myself inspired. His hands have crafted hands and masks, wooden figurines, snapped images that are mesmerize the mind and beckon for a deeper look into the magic behind. He is a maker and a designer who keeps his hands occupied in the process and also knows how to live a balanced life with lots of play. Based out of Bali with his phenomenal team, he shares his thoughts below on art and handmade. 

GHOST DANCER MAN MAKERS INTERVIEW:

What is your heritage:

Weirdo from Rural Idaho

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: ( philosophy/culture ):

Time, handmade and quality made. Making art/items that last and are not bound to fickle fads. I like to create outside of the popular ideas of how beauty is defined. I make because without this process, I feel lost. 

What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist:

To trust in myself, not my waste my trying to please other people or create pieces for other people. Artists are not bound to one medium and the more we learn to play and experiment, the more newness can be born. 

What are 3 skills you believe are a necessarity to be an independet designer/artist?

Focus and the importance of time. Time plays a large structure as a creative and time spent away from work also allows for more inspiration to accumulate. 

What moved you to make with your hands? As an artist who also runs a small production, I'd like to know more about what you directly create with your hands.

Its a constant quest to learn,  I love making with my hands.  Currently its ceramic clay to make heads for Blamo sculptures.  But on any given day I could be Drawing my designs, sculpting, painting, photographing, storyboarding, making clothing patterns, wood carving, photographing other peoples work.  Dyeing clothing, coming up with new processes for clothing such as painting garments, leather forming hats, masks, shoes etc.  

I also love working very closely with employees to learn new skills or come up with things we havent tried before.  Very lucky to work closly with Shayne Maratea, Naomi Samara, Jeremiah Hansen and the rest of the Heathen and Blamo teams.   

If you could travel anywhere today, where would it be and why?

Space 

3 favorite dj's at the moment?

Martha Van Straaten ,

Ubiq,

Dj Fog Puma

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers? Business advice?

Love what you make- don't waste time making what you think others want. Find people to work with that have a skill set different and varied from yours

What advice would your 65 year old self tell you today? 

Be kinder  to yourself.

 

What change would you like to see in the world?

The end of religion, a quieter life. 

 

Any additional thoughts on the importance of handmade goods in a fast growing Western World?

I am often amazed how much people love and care about the uniqueness of handmade quality goods. It's refreshing to know that the machine made, mass produced reality has not fully taken over yet although I was reminded of how omnipresent it is while traveling around America. There is plenty of the ugliness,  evident in Walmart and the homogenized everything on a larger scale. I think there are more of us waking up and designing a uniqueness in design and thoughtfulness in our goods after seeing such blandness. There is a niche for this movement and market. 

Take a peak at his work.

www.blamotoys.com

IG: Spencerblamo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Balloons in Mojave

Photographed by Chelsea Brewer in collaboration with Ghost Dancer

 

 

I've had an obsession with balloons ever since the film the "Red Balloon" came into my sphere at a young age. Something about the movement of wind behind the balloon captured me. Perhaps it is the way the lifelike persona of this intangible cherry red dream tantalizes the little boy below, it's this caravaning dream that hovers above that caught my eye as a child. Whatever it is or whatever Jung might say about my psyche, balloons against an empty sky have mesmerized me for many a moons. They've been a focal point for dreaming up shoots and this one was a blast. Chelsea and I ventured off into a scorching day while wrangling all these black balloons, the store owner thinking we were off to a funeral. Here's what we shot while frolicking minimal shade and sandstone castles in the Mojave. X

 

 

Man Maker Series interview on Westward Leather Co.

      Introducing the first talent of Man Maker Mondays, Ben Fife of Westward Leather Co. I had the pleasure of coming across Ben's work after a conversation regarding Tinariwen several months back. In my experience, I've come to develop some of my inspiring kinships through the power of music so I decided to step into the portal of his company. Ben dwells in Spokane, Washington where he occupies his time in the art of leather working. His work is sharp and sleek with a reminiscent spirit of the wild western days. I can smell the scent of leather from here and the wind-driven tales of his life from his images. 

I created the questionairre for the Man Makers series and offered it to Ben to be the initiator and brave soul to start the series off. I've honored he did. There is such a warmth, a timelessness to his soul and a kindness that would make it easy to befriend the fellow in real life. Below, are his thoughtful answers and approach to the art he makes with his hands. 

GHOST DANCER MAN MAKERS INTERVIEW:

What is your brand/name?

Westward Leather Co.

What is your heritage?

I was born in Washington State.  My mother is from Spokane born and raised, and my Father is from a small town in Louisiana.  My last name is Scottish, but I’m pretty mixed up in the blood like so many others in this country.  A mutt, or maybe a chameleon…I prefer a chameleon.  I guess what matters is I come from humble upbringing of hardworking, creative people, with very good hearts.  I am fortunate in that way.

What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work?

I draw inspiration from so much really, this is a tough answer to pin down.  But I can say for sure that history is a large reference point.  I am always looking back, in large part at cultures that were innovative with very little, like the American Indian.  I am lost in admiration of the American Indian culture throughout history.  Not just the creativity and ingenuity of  their craft, but also the perspective they held/hold toward the natural world, and their role within it.  Which brings me to my next reference point: Nature.  Nature is the ultimate creation, and I can’t help but always be refreshed and inspired by it.  It is always waiting patiently for us to come, it overtakes me in the most magnificent way, and reminds me of who I am, and who I want to be.  Finally, I am inspired by the hope that this fast paced world, that seems to be barreling forward like a locomotive always gaining speed, will take a moment to slow down, look at our lands, look at our hands, and decide to embrace things in a more tactile and intentional way.  That’s why the Buffalo is my logo, because in our folly, we almost hunted that powerful animal to extinction, but stopped just in time to re-evaluate our misdoings, and work to restore life to something that we almost lost forever.  That’s how I feel about the importance of craftsmanship in our world right now.  Of many things.

What are 3 skills you've learned in representing yourself as an artist?

I’m probably more in the state of learning, than “ earned", but I’d say I’m working on self representation and selling my product.  It’s very easy to be excited about what I make when I am in my shop, but for some reason quite difficult for me to express the enthusiasm and faith I have in my product, to strangers.  This is mostly specific to the monetary side of things I might add,  and I’m learning how to be more confident in that approach, because I work hard to make the best item I can, with the best materials…and I know they’re worth it!  I’m also learning that I need to be careful not to try and please everyone.  Some invitations are not worth the hassle, and it is good to know when to say, NO.  And finally, I’ve learned that I have to remember to have fun!  Making the same things all the time can become daunting, tedious, perhaps lose the luster of when we first started, so it’s good to take a break and create something totally new, or off the wall sometimes.  Different materials, no intention of selling, whatever it takes for me to just challenge myself, but also be lose and untethered.  

What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

Hmm, independent or successful?  Ha!  Artists and designers will know what I mean by that.  From my experience, faith in yourself first and foremost.  Take on a big job once in awhile, bigger than you think you might be able to handle, but think you could still pull off.  Succeed or fall short, that will teach you all the skills you’ll need to be an independent artist/designer.  And as hard as it is for some of us, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Not only will it help you get things done, but in the end, sharing in all this is what it’s all about.  

What moved you to make with your hands?

Whatever has moved me to breath.  And watching my Father.  

 

If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why?

I think right now, I’d go somewhere warm, like Oaxaca or Peru.  I don’t necessarily mean warm in climate, but warm in the people…warm within the culture.  I’d love to spend more time with people that still have a visible connection to their indigenous roots.  And the craftsmanship coming out of those kinds of territories is just insane, and deserves more recognition.  

Can you narrow down your 3 favorite songs at the moment? 

I live in music, so this is a tough one. I’d say for a groove, Inner City Blues by Marvin Gaye.  On a sunny day drive, spin Ku Mi Da Hankan by The Elcados, and wait for the breakdown. And finally, pop on your favorite headphones, and let this track take you into a realm of revelation; Maggot Brain by the Funkadelic.  That last one touched my soul in a crazy way the first time…maybe every time.  Bonus track for the fade out…Preview Side Too - Bootsy Collins. 

What advice would you offer your fellow female makers?

Fellow female makers out there, believe in what you do, love what you make, always work to improve your craft, and go after your dream.  I’d say the same to my fellow male makers too I guess.   Oh, and remember to take a vacation and respite!

 

What advice would your 65 year old self to you today?

Shit, I hope something really wise.  But he’ll probably just say something sarcastic, before going off on some existential rant.  Ha!

What change would you most like to see in the world? 

For the fear that is used to lead people to hate, to turn into a humble pursuit of knowledge that would lead to love.  

Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

Sure, pass it on.  This world appears to be on the verge of losing perspective on many things.  I am excited to see what seems like a renaissance of artisanal handmade perspective.  That brings me hope, and I’m honored to play a part in it in any way I can.  But whatever we can do to get the youth excited about the creative process, arts and culture, pride in ones work, etc…that’s gonna make the difference.  I know I need to be better about this.  Each one teach one!

Well, I was dearly delighted after reading Ben's thoughts. I've been able to get a good sense of the individuals I'm interviewing through their answers. Ben's products are of high quality and would pair very well with a good beaver hat, a bottle of Woodford Reserve, a campfire and an adventure into the quiet yonder with coyotes in the background. And ladies, that Watanya Cicilla bag is an absolute must. Take a peak on his site below.

http://www.westwardleather.com/

IG: @westwardleather

Thank you Westward Leather Co for sharing inspiration with us here via the Ghost Dancer platform. I'm grateful to be apart of this handmade revolution with you and bring more thought back into wearable art, commodity and our choices on how to support artisans. We are all in this together. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feminine Light of Carlota Guerrero

Summer has come and occupied this nimble fingers of mine for other means than typing. I still romanticize the idea that all writers and storytellers of written word use typewriters but I yet have to find one who steadily does. With the work load rains, writing takes a quiet seat in the back of the engine revving engine. I output more during these high volumes than I intake. In the spirit of intaking rather than emitting creative steam of the verbose kind, I'd like to input the feminine light of Carlota Guerrero. 

Carlota Guerrero is a photographer and art director based in Barcelona who works on personal and commissioned projects. She recently directed Solange's new video which enabled me to come across her work. When I look at her work, I feel like I'm coming across one of those round cornered photographs from a relatives album, grainy and soft with the filter of fog on a grey day. Vintage and timeless, a piece of art that will teleport you to a day in 1972. I have found a softness within her work and her art direction. Her interview on ID Vice proposed this questions and has resonated deeply with me albeit such a short, simple answer. 

ID VICE: What does girl power mean to you?
The power I find in my body and soul is infinite and that power is strengthened when I get to share it with other women. Together we are powerful beyond measure.

When I think about the unknown and winding journey with Ghost Dancer, I think about my success and how that directly translates into the ability to continue to collaborate and directly work with other talented women. To me, one ray of the sunshine of success is the ability to financially support other artists, without that funding for my own work or others, we are hobbying. From day one, I have set my sights on a list of photographers that I dream of working with, spending long hours in mystical settings creating art together. I hope this road will bring me to a place where I may work with Carlota. 

IG: @carlota_guerrero

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Source: http://carlotaguerrero.com/

What is Man Makers?

After relocating to this quaint little abode in Ojai, where the fledgling hawks are calling out mercilessly for food, I've been doing alot of thinking. As an artist, as a human, as a woman.   I believe it's my duty to reflect on the important questions, the questions that seemingly do not have answers yet. I've never been one to avoid the deeper thinking or the plague of real intense emotion that ebbs and flows. I want those questions that stir the soul to knock on my door and provide an impetice for real change. The questions that seem to be hovering above me at the moment are  " How is my art a means of making this world a better place?" and "How can I create more of a positive impact through my art within my community?"

As a weaver, I've come to develop my understanding of energy even more acutely. Weaving is comprised of two forces, the weft and the warp. It's an intersection that brings matter into form. The relationship between the threads is what will provide a limitless use  for the final product or material. Warp and weft, like feminine and masculine, are foundational. Thankfully my cup from day one as an artist, has been supported by the feminine. My patrons, fellow artists of varying mediums, have cloaked me in loving words and opportunities to refine my skills. My muses are vast and the collection of creative women in my life abounds. I began Woven Woman Wednesdays a while back on Instagram and immediately became overwhelmed by the lists long of women working with their hands: tiny, paint splattered, nimble fingered hands in every shade of the rainbow. The more overjoyed I became sifting through endless lists of  feminine forces in my life,  I began to notice the imbalance of the masculine. I felt there was a need to paint a harmonized image with both the lady makers and the man makers. So, this blog will be the field in which we unite the forces. And momentarily, this feels like a proactive quest for understanding my own artistic experience within a community. 

Man Makers for me is a way to connect the infinite spider web with men who tell their experiences and deepest understandings of life with their hands. I'm aspiring to create a hub where Ghost Dancer clients may come to peruse the collections of artists who make this world a more beautiful place. When I envision a cohesive community, I see a glowing fire in the middle of it's gathering space. Each individual comes to this space to be heard, to be supported and acknowledged. Around this allegorical fire, we tell our stories and our perspectives, our follies and rewards landscaped into wisdom....landscaped into beauty. Man Makers is space for each of these male storytellers to express their myths and ethos. It's a platform where there is breathing space to divulge just an ounce more of thought behind each image or each piece carved. I'm collecting makers whose quality is exceptional and crafted with pride. Here, as a tiny spider weaving a web, may I offer a wide range of artisanal goods and network the glimmering world together. Be it a visit for visual inspiration, a gift for a friend, an investment in a painting or a mellifluous song, all arises from the palms and fingers of a maker. It's always been such a pleasure collecting goods from some of my fellow makers and now, through this web, many more can come to understand who inspires me and how to trail the experience. Connect, collect, be inspired and go make.

These are the architects of thoughtfulness I would like to share with everyone. These are the vessels of masculine divinity expressing itself and making this world a more meaningful place through art and the nature of hand made. Enjoy.

Image by Edward Streenan

Image by Edward Streenan

Lenny...

Lenny Kravitz pulled this look at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last month in Ghost Dancer. I was thrilled when I caught wind of his sharp suit paired well with one of my long beaded chest pieces. The Titan necklace on this timeless male muse.

I've attempted to write a blog at least 4 times today and I've erased them all. There has been much transition in my life within the past few weeks, a break up, settling into a new home and living alone again for the first time in 11 years. This is what I have been calling in for myself and I am grateful although there's much matter to contemplate. Presently, I can't weave. I have a show this upcoming weekend and everytime I sit to transfer the emotional matter into the physical, I give up and sit my ass on the floor and stare. At the moment, this is my way of being an artist. I started an entry on the way of the artist, with all the complexities in a vast world, of being a bright individual carving out a successful journey in the myriad of many. And, I erased all the words because at the moment, this is my manner of being an artist. Sitting with discomfort, accepting reality as it is and knowing it's within my minds ability to create the change I'd like to see moving forward. It's extracting the moments that cause suffering and realizing the patterns that need to be unwoven and unlocked for future progress. At the moment, I'm 100% okay with my inability to generate. By nature, I'm one hell of a generator so when the waterfalls of mystical inspiration pour down, I'm prolific. At the moment, I am still watery and in the flow of the changing chapter from hour to hour. And, I'm grateful for it all. There are no complaints in the way the fates have woven this little chapter as I know there are always mounds of gold behind this moment. In the meantime, here is what is visually moving me while I gestate on what threads to bind together for beauty.

 

And post script, Dior nailed it with the 2018 collection. x

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FAUXTALE X TAIANA X GHOST DANCER X BLUE CALEEL

Years ago, when I was coming to know Brooklyn day and night, I was introduced to a beautiful boutique that made my heart melt with all it's curated beauty. This store was Beautiful Dreamers and I will never forget the palpitations I had walking in there. One of the pieces that caught my eye immediately, aside from the giant swing in the window with vines growing around it, was a piece of Taiana's work. My eyes were drawn to the strong presence her work held and at this time, I wasn't too acquainted with the artwork of felting. I fell in love and couldn't stop gazing at the textural wonders that had a spirit of both the light and the shadow. Something about them lingered and it was less than a few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting her at an opening at Roseark without even realizing who she was! Some people go starstruck immediately for the celebrity fame, I, on the other hand, can feel my knees go weak and all the goofiness of my soul compensating so I can able to say hello and engage when I meet a designer I respect. TWO of them in fact! . Well, Taiana is absolutely darling and quite easy to converse with. The same for Toree from Fauxtale. Toree has been creating this whimsical head crowns, body harnesses made of porcupine quills and all bits harvested from animals whose lives have passed. Her work is of the Earth and speaks a language of pure appreciation for the found gifts all spirits leave behind. Fauxtale is majestic and enchants you from the get go.. I began to dream up what it would be like to be on a merry go round with Marie Antoinette wearing one of Toree's crowns, flowers dripping down the sides or butterfly collars playing peek a boo. Both of these women truly inspire me and I am grateful we have been given the chance to be surrounded by beautiful, friendly and insanely talented women. Here is the photoshoot they whirled up. All items were pulled from the boutique we all showcase our work in, Roseark. All these items are available there. I am also appreciative of the introduction to this beautiful photographer, Blue Caleel. 

 

www.fauxtaledesign.com

www.taianadesign.com

 

Blue Caleel Photography shot these. Fauxtale headpieces, Ghost Dancer woven dress  and the raven cape on the dreamy Taiana from Taiana Designs. 

 

 

The Sand Dune Story

Somewhere long ago, my ancestors must have lived directly upon the sand. Something about sands, tiny grains that may have once been mountains move me like no other substance of earth. The sands of time speak to me so strongly that my work is directly influenced by the palettes, the structures and the way the minute channels it's tiny voice into larger legions of life. With that in mind, anyone coming to know my work will understand why I chose to name so much of the work after sand dunes around the world and why I take refuge in the deserts to create. I've had in my mind for years now to embark on a journey shooting my work, whichever medium speaks to me at that chapter in life, atop the sand dunes around the country. Death Valley offers a few different landmarks of sand dunes and Eureka Dunes has had my name all over it since I first spied their nostalgic beauty in an image. This past April, as the wild flower began to dot the landscape and the winds were still shaking their winter coats off, I ventured alongside a fantastically talented photographer friend and the breath taking model. Ben Renschen, who is an angel riding the tails on a prayer of mine to call in more visually inspiring friends, said yes in a heart beat to this new roadtrip. Melina Drake, a silent and strong woman of Mexican/Choctaw descent, excitedly responded to my call for long dark haired model. She is a woman of the Earth by all means around and an budding photographer. All three of us embarked into the scorching, sandstorm weather of Death Valley for a weekend. Below is what happens when your focus is on making art, unifying in creative vision and releasing yourself 100% to the elements. The sandstorm was intense and it felt like we were all being wind slapped by the spirits of the land. I am the type that gets an idea in mind and won't cease until it's complete so the other two really hard to bare with my head strong nature when it came to climbing the dunes. I could care less about my sun burnt face and my bruised legs, or even the parching that came about when the water bottle trickled low. When I am conjuring spirit, there is no stopping so onward ho we went. I was left breathless by the portal to high heaven art Ben captured. Enjoy. 

Bohemian Diesel

I am such a fan of Bohemian Diesel's curation skill and easy breezy ability to share a tale of hand crafted beauty. A few of my fellow sister designers have been written about on this blog and here is the little post on Ghost Dancer. Here's to the gypsy spirit that resides within all of us wild women, dancing to a different beat from the mainstream projection of beauty.

Here's the link to our story.                            http://bohemiandiesel.com/art-music/art/ghost-dancer

 

 

Autumn and Fall Treasures

I often find myself too entranced with work on the loom to take time for a blog post but I find it to be valuable for all those who make their way to the website. Below are many of the one of a kinds, wall hangings and images of the seasons inspirations. Enjoy. 

Ghost Dancer X Free People

Hello darlings,

I have finally released an exclusive I have been working on for sometime. Ghost Dancer is now on Free People! I designed two woven necklaces, a woven bracelet and rebirthed some of my old fancy beaded earrings.. Below you can take a peak! I am also grateful for the opportunity to be highlighted in their Designer Spotlight. X