Monday, December 28, 2015
Sometimes you build because it's what puts food on the table, and sometimes you build because your passion is hungry.
A million years ago I used to work at Kinko's.
When I would get my check, I would go buy punk records from Wax Trax, hit up the Century mall and try to meet girls, and go to a store called UNTITLED up the street.
UNTITLED would carry funky clothing brands like Stussy and Fuct, and whatever money I had left over from buying punk records, I would blow on clothing.
We're talking about the early 90's here. Being a kid and having a full time job with no real responsibilities, it didn't really get any better.
Fast forward to the present day, and about a year ago, someone tells me I should check out a store in Wicker Park called Mildblend Supply, because they sell the artisan type of clothing that I like.
I pay the store a visit one day, I'm poking around and I'm looking at this guy and thinking "I know this dude from somewhere", but I couldn't figure out where.
I left that day, and returned a few months later to get a pair of jeans hemmed.
The familiar man was there, seated at a Union Special sewing machine. I brought my jeans over to him to get hemmed and we started talking. Come to find out that he used to own Untitled back in the day, and it all came back to me.
We chatted about that era, the 90's, the people we knew, the time stamps of Chicago during that decade like Wax Trax records, and house dj's, the rave scene, and all the wonderful things the 90's had to offer.
Shortly after that, we built him a display table for his store.
Every time I walk in there, I'm treated like family by Luke, his wife, his daughter, and his staff. Max always comes with me, and he likes looking at all the waxed canvas backpacks and messenger bags, and I have to explain to him that I can't buy him a $500 backpack for his Ninja Turtles.
Anyway...we became friends and he recently asked for a display table to replace the stacked crates he had been using as a display table.
The first display table we built for him came out really cool, so I wanted to outshine that one.
This one is steel and some 100 year old wood from a deconstructed church. It was meant to have a smaller table that fit under the display table to hold stock. After I made the smaller table, I decided to put a back on it so that what ever is stored down there, wouldn't end up on the floor behind the table.
It's more than a retail display table to me and not just because it was built for a friend.
It's a representation of what me and Zack have created over the last year.
This piece IS the MAKERS.
It's a refined rustic piece, with a unparalleled attention to detail. That's what we do, that's who we are.
I always get a little emotional around the New Year. Partially because my son was born on New Years day.
New Years eve of 2009, I watched a woman endure 27 hours of excruciating pain. I watched as my son fought his way into this world.
That day back in 2009/2010, they gave their all, and since that day I've given my all.
Looking back on the last year, I want to thank some people for making this task of dream chasing a reality.
My family (all of you fucking weirdos), Zack...my business partner, friend, brother, and therapist, The LM group (Mary, Gabby, Tiffany, Stephan,Nicole), The Cacciatore family, Limitless, Luke and the Mildblend Supply family and staff, Marcus and Salvage One, 3sixteen, Andrew at Freenote Cloth, KOOTH BRAND, ZACEUSA, Keith and his REDTAIL HARDGOODS hooligans, Christophe Loiron and his staff at Mister Freedom, Manuel and the family at IMJIT35020, Alma at Gordon Brothers steel, Cory at LIPPS INC. and everyone who has come through the shop, hung out, bought shit, high fived us, and basically all the people who have been there for us.
I thank you, we thank you, ya'll have a good year.
Monday, December 21, 2015
When you do it a second time, there's much more finesse,
We did a rusted steel, bent ear desk for a client a few months back. It was all trial and error for that piece, and ended up being really cool, but the process cost us in blood and sweat.
For the new desk, instead of smashing the corners to bend the steel, I used a series of blocks and clamps.
While smashy-smashy may have been faster, the clamp method proved to be less taxing.
When we rusted the steel on the first piece, we weren't sure how our grocery store rusting concoction was going to work, and on this one, we had way more control of the rust. (controlling rust...fodder for a god complex).
People always say "learn from your mistakes", the thing is...we didn't make any mistakes on the first one, we just learned how to be better than we were before.
The last photo is the humble beginnings of a retail display table for my friend Luke at Mildblend supply.
We did a piece for his store back in the summer, and he asked about getting another piece.
What he doesn't know is that his piece will probably be the last build for 2015, and there will be some un expected bells and whistles on his piece as I quietly celebrate the end of the year in my head.
If you've been following my blog or read previous posts, then you know that I'm all about "time stamps".
Time stamps are little details on the pieces we build that help me remember when and where I was mentally or emotionally during that pieces creation.
When I get to see a piece in it's permanent home, I can look at it, and know exactly the state I was in when it was built.
It's more for me than it is for the customer, but the customer wins out in the end.
Unless your an asshole.
It's rare, but on occasion, we get the asshole customer.
Nice or not, our customers always get our best, but they don't always get "special".
Special is earned.
For Lukes table, I had a particular wood in mind.
After inspection of the wood I originally envisioned, I realized that it wasn't gonna work for his piece.
In the 11th hour I had to drive to bumfuckegypt and pay market price for some 91 year old wood from a demolished church.
It took a huge chunk out of the budget, but it was the right wood, for the right person, so you chuck whatever profit you might have made in the garbage and make the right piece.
Money is useless if I'm not making something I'm proud of.
I think this will be my final 2015 post.
It was a year to remember for sure.
Me and Zack have made it through our first year doing what we love everyday...barely, but we made it.
It's something to be proud of, for both of us.
We muscled through some shit that would have crippled other peoples dreams and sent us to working at Home Depot.
We spent the last year building some of the coolest shit on the market, moshing in the shop, afternoon coffee, foot massage Fridays, and spent the better part of the year laughing uncontrollably,
Our numbers might tell a different story, but fuck the numbers...we got 2016 to change all that.
See ya next year friends.
Monday, December 14, 2015
I freely admit that I don't get out very often, and it's mostly by choice. This visit out in the world was a confirmation that my hermit status has been verified.
On my way there I was really trying to get myself in the Christmas spirit. I had Christmas songs playing in the truck, a Christmas-ish beverage in hand, and a positive mental outlook...until I walked inside of a place that appeared to be the first level of hell from Dantes Inferno.
The sliding doors open and display a woman screaming in a crying childs face, I enter into the gates of hell and another woman is violently tugging at a stuck cart as she curses it's existence.
I grab my cart and proceed to the second level of hell.
It's a scene of mass chaos, and I'm tempted to vacate the inferno, but I have a list in my pocket and I can't come home empty handed.
I navigate the chaos and fill the cart with the listed items. I reach the check out lines, which rivals any amusement park roller coaster line. I'm standing there...staring in my cart...it's contents are shit.
Pure plastic shit. Future garbage.
I know the temporary joy this future garbage will bring my son, but something is wrong with all of this.
I am a student of quality. From my clothing, to my work, to my food, to my personal relationships, I demand quality. Why haven't I been able to pass this affinity for quality down to my son?
Then, the voice in my head says "because he's 5 you dumb ass."
I had fully intended on enjoying this whole experience, but left feeling sick to my stomach.
I wake up this morning to write this post, and as I load up these photos, I feel a little better.
Zack knocked out a bad ass bench from a live edge slab that he bought from a yard sale. I watched him spend an hour, rummaging through all of our scrap steel in order to come up with a base for it.
Zack is a real quiet mother fucker, I mean it takes some work to pull information about what he's doing. I don't even bother anymore, I've learned that his best work is when he's the most perplexed.
I knocked out a welded chain coat rack that someone is getting for Christmas. I doubt that they need a coat rack, but I don't NEED socks and underwear either and I still use em'.
After Zack finished the bench, he joined in the gift making with the Whiskey art.
Gifts come from the heart.
Plastic bullshit, hand made stuff, as long as it comes from love.
If you feel obligated to get a gift for someone, ya probably shouldn't.
People get their mail delivery person gifts...I don't know shit about my mail delivery person. For all I know, they could fuck kids or have a head in their freezer. I'm not getting someone a gift for doing a sub par job that they get paid to do, bah-humbug.
The people in my life whom I love and appreciate, I do my best.
It's not always the best for them, but it's MY best.
The Holidays are when you spend time with the ones who really mean something to you and it's a chance to show your appreciation for the roles they play in your life. The Holidays are not about how much shit you can cram into a cart, or all the great deals you got.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Monday, December 7, 2015
It's the only time of year that it's totally fine to ultimately lie to your kids on a daily basis.
I'm fine with keeping the Santa lie going for as long as possible, but now I'm forced to perpetuate some brand new bullshit with this whole "elf on a shelf" thing.
The concept is brilliant in order to keep these little fuckers on their best behavior for a good month. You see, apparently this little elf is supposed to keep an eye on yer kid and report back to the fat man on a nightly basis.
I pride myself on the fact that I've always been brutally honest with my son. I never baby talked him, rarely sugar coated harsh truths, and ultimately spoken to him as if he were an adult. That's why this 5 year old has a firm grip on language and can hold or gracefully bow out of a conversation with any adult.
Now...everyday...for over a month, I have to fucking lie to him. It kills me. It makes me hate Christmas and I generally love Christmas.
The day is gonna come where he is going to arrive at the reality that his old man was totally full of shit, and the damage control will go on for years, because now, he's going to think that everything I've told him is bullshit...Thanks a lot Christmas.
Every year around this time, I get into building small, extremely heavy items that I envision as a great gift idea.
It's a tough market, and I don't usually partake in the gift market, but I do like the holidays and usually produce a couple of small things, just in case.
We did a couple of different coat rack pieces with the whole railroad thing. Me nor Zack remotely care about trains, but railroad hardware is as tough as it gets and nothing screams Americana like rusty, heavy steel.
The last photo is a gift for a friend.
It's another chain lamp. I keep working these chain lamps in the hopes that I'll get the right jig set up to make them faster and straighter.
I fought with this one. After it was all welded up, I had to beat it straight on the concrete floor with a 3lb. sledge.
I mortised in the bullet casing on the base. They serve no purpose other than adding a little shine and detail.
I decided to add the steel letters on the back of the lamp base, just for the purpose of making the piece more personal. After all, it's a gift...it's supposed to be personal.
We don't have a CNC machine, nor do we have a plasma cutter, so I cut these letters out of 3/16" thick steel with a regular 4 1/2" grinder, then I used a hand file to clean the cuts.
After all the work that went into cutting those letters, I mounted them on the lamp, stood back, and said "1988 Madonna belt buckle", shut the lights off in the shop and went home for the weekend.
What was just a gift, a lamp, a token of gratitude, became something else. It became a beacon of the art of "trying". Try this jig, try these bullets, try cutting these letters.
To me...THAT'S a gift.