Giving to Families Affected by The California Wildfires

Feature

California has seen an unprecedented year of fire. In just one year we’ve seen nearly twice the total number of fires experienced over the previous five year average. The Thomas fire in Ventura is the latest in a growing problem and while I cannot hope to stop the problem, I can help those in need. We can help. Especially during this time of giving. From now until the end of the year, 100% of your purchases from my Etsy store will go to Ventura County to help the victims of the fires there. And in addition I will personally match, dollar-for-dollar, any money earned for this cause, doubling the donations. Perhaps, with our help, this small measure will make a difference for one family this Christmas.

If you’d rather donate directly, please send a text to: UWVC 41444. Or go to United Way Ventura County for more information on how to help. I encourage you to give a little to help save the holiday spirit in this difficult time.

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Dana Point Art Festival

Dana Point Art Festival

Events

Dana Point. A beautiful stretch of bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean that once was the landing point for traders and got it’s start when developers from Los Angeles built Lantern Village for movie types and other well-to-dos.

That’s where I’ll be May 21, selling my posters under the warm sun, breathing in that cool ocean air, at the 4th Annual Dana Point Art Festival. Me and about 80 other artists will be hanging out on Del Prado between Ruby Lantern Street and Old Golden Lantern (named for the colored lanterns that traders used) from 10 AM to 5 PM, but don’t hang out there all day. Bring your beach blanket and enjoy those final days of comfortable weather while barbecuing at Doheny or enjoying some swank beach restaurant in San Clemente.

Dana Point Art Festival
Near the Dana Point Post Office
24551 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point, CA 92629
Starts 10:00 AM
Ends 5:00 PM

I’ll be near the Post office and street parking should be available.

 

Copyright © 2017 Robert C. Olson

New Store Front Openning

Feature, Products

For a while now I’ve been looking for an option to help people get more direct access to my goods and I think I have a solution. A few people have mentioned a hesitation to buy from Etsy and I guess I understand some of it. We are drowning in complicated passwords and email marketing. It is such a huge hassle to create a new account, track the endless passwords and block the notifications. And unless I’m going to give the Etsy more money to set up yet another webpage, there’s no way to buy without registering for an account. I need to make it easier to buy. Not to mention that some of my prints don’t necessarily fit in with the cozy, good-feeling vibe, and female driven tastes that Etsy is trying to promote. I mean, fart jokes are awesome, but I don’t think hipsters aren’t really into school-boy humor. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.

Well, starting today, I’m going to try out an option provided by my mobile credit company and see how it goes. So now when you click on my “Store” link on this website it will take you to the Square sponsored storefront where you can order prints directly from me. No complicated logins to remember. No advertising. No hassle. Just unfiltered vulgarity beamed straight to your home from my demented brain.

Check it out.

 

Bigger Than Life

Feature

For the last month and a half I’ve been away from social media and frankly, it’s refreshing to be free of my electronic tether. To be selfless instead of always looking for validation in the black mirror. And there’s a good chance that I won’t come back to my online life. At least not as much as I once did, because for those of you wondering what has been happening in my life, where I have been: my Mother died.

The hardest part was watching her writhe in pain and terror in the hospital. Her animal instincts on overdrive pushing her to escape the hospital bed. But she didn’t have the strength anymore. She didn’t even have to strength to sit upright anymore. Her spirit was there, but her body gave out from under her.
That was hard to watch. For one month all I could do was stand in the background as my Mother was stabbed by needles, bruised and bleeding. I witnessed her panic and fight only to be doped into submission on high octane pain killers or sedation. Because of her claustrophobia she couldn’t tolerate the breathing masks the hospital staff attempted to put on her face, so the only option was sedation in order to shove tubes down her throat.

The waiting was agonizing. Waiting to see what happens next. To hope for some miracle – the staff was good that way I suppose, providing hope in dire circumstances – but I knew early on that things didn’t look good. When she rebounded mid way, I thought she might stand a chance. Cruelly, she collapsed again and never found her way back. And it created a lot of frustration. “Why drag this out?” “Why make this harder on her than it already is?”

This very undignified end for such a powerful force… the hospital is a brutal place. Not a place of comfort or care. Which is perhaps why she chose to hang on as long as she could. I don’t think she wanted to die in the hospital.

My Mother was incredible. Of course, that’s what anyone would say about their Mom, but my Mother wasn’t typical in a Motherly way. And we didn’t get along for many years because we never really developed a familial connection. While I loved her and card for her well being, we were different personalities. Her personality was much bigger than mine. As I said in her Eulogy, she was bigger than life itself.

Early on, her father’s commission with the Army Air Corp, before there was even an Air Force, allowed an upper middle class lifestyle. She rode horses in competition as well as for fun, but as a military family does, a move to the other side of the country forced them to give up her youthful delights. She rebelled, planning to run away and convinced a neighbor to join her in a midnight ride to a meager, hand-built-by-children stable in the woods where they had stashed supplies. Unfortunately their carpentry skills lacked and the makeshift corral they built for their horses failed to hold their horses which ran off home leaving Mom and her accomplice alone in the woods. That flight to freedom ended with a long, cold walk back home where an angry father discovered the plan when the horses returned to the stables without their riders.

That tenacity and fearlessness continued throughout her life. Rules never applied to her and she became very good at asking for forgiveness instead of permission. Later, after her father died, she would use that strength to begin a quest to learn more about her father’s life in World War II. He didn’t talk about it much and when all his possessions fell into her lap, she learned that he was a hero decorated with a Silver Star among other awards. Survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Raider on the Japanese in the South Pacific. Piloting supplies in the rebuilding of Europe and the Berlin Airlift. Veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. But it was her interest in her father’s WWII years that drove to search for lost planes in the distant and wild island county of Papua New Guinea.

She learned about a crew that flew under the command of her father that was on it’s way to the far off island county of Papua New Guinea (PNG). They had gotten lost. Crashed somewhere in the wilderness or maybe the endless ocean. So her that runaway spirit took hold and led her on many adventures dedicated to finding lost WWII aircraft. In the early-1990s she went to PNG with a handful of clues pointing to lost aircraft. And when she found one crash site, overgrown by the jungles deep in the mountains, only accessible by jumping out of a helicopter on to a pile of logs cut to create a makeshift landing pad, she discovered the long lost bones of full B-17 bomber crew – ten men – led by LT Howard Eberly, who was easily identified by a golden bracelet that had his name on it that had survived fifty years in the jungle. She was able to return the remains of those lost airmen home and, as fortune would have it, the bracelet had a match held by Eberly’s surviving widow. My Mother gave that bracelet back in person.

Mom at one time lived on the Navajo reservation in Arizona witnessing dances that “no white-man has ever seen”. She got to see Canyon de Chelly in it’s prime and cliff dwellings now closed off to most people. She spoke to Navajo vets who spent time in Vietnam and it left a deep impression on her soul.

She broke glass ceilings in a time when women weren’t necessarily promoted to executive positions in business, climbing to a corner office in the (then) Sears Tower.

In her youth she moved to Mexico City and lived there for a time. Then met some Canadian hitch hikers on the road north in California and decided to move to Vancouver where she lived and worked for a while. We still have close friends there.

While I cannot possibly do justice to her memory, in it’s entirety, because she was such a huge personality, it would be a shame to not say something about her loss. And while our relationship was rocky in the end, which I may regret as I learn more about her – oddly enough I’m learning more about her in death than I did in life – I can see the love and affection she had for me in the old photos from my early years. I’m glad I at least had the chance to tell her that I love her very much in her final moments.

Compared to those days in the hospital there is some relief in knowing that she is no longer in pain. That her endless searching and pushing for the next thing has finally been put to rest.

I will miss her laughter. Loud, and clear, and carefree. I will miss her grammar corrections and will be forever trying to improve my writing because of her. I will miss her inspiring energy and drive. I will miss arguing about politics and the long conversations about the stars and physics. I have missed the opportunity to ask her about the old days and the parts of her life that I wasn’t a part of. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to introduce her Reggie Watts, because I really think she would have really liked his style. But I’m glad that she was my Mom. I consider myself lucky to have known such an extraordinary woman in a time when such greatness is rare.
So now, looking back over the last two months a lot has changed. The end of this bigger-than-life person has made me reconsider my place in the world and how I approach living. Perhaps that’s my Mom’s parting gift: to help me refocus and build the wherewithal to pursue things that are more meaningful. To shine light on the preciousness that life can hold. This isn’t goodbye to the online world necessarily, but definitely a step back to think about what value these mediums offer.

Anti-Spam

Anti-Spam

Business

Technology has invaded our lives. Everyday we spend several hours checking social media and email. Personally I hate updates: all the background noises and flashy messages that pop up on my phone to alert me of things that I don’t really have time for. I’ve turned the majority of my notifications off. This is why I choose not to advertise using email. To bombard you with useless notices about something that you really don’t need – it irritates me as I imagine it does you.

If you search the Internet for marketing tips one of the strategies you will see is building an email list. It is the number one sales tool for companies because it gives you a direct pipeline to people’s private lives. It is also said that “conversion rate” or turning clicks into sales, is highest in emails, bringing a higher return than social media. This is why people are always trying to get you to sign up for email lists. They believe you are better primed to spend money and it’s these kinds of tactics that I have learned to dislike.

Therefore I have deliberately decided to meet marketers’ advice to shout as loud as possible at people to get their attention by any means possible with my own silence. In this one area anyway. I do advertise. I occasionally take out ads on Etsy. I publish pictures and notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (although I don’t know why I bother with the last one). And I’m considering hitting up several businesses to drum up client work. Because how else will people know that I exist?

But social media is the kind of space where you have more latitude to control who you let in. And it’s momentary. Something pops up. Then it quickly moves to the bottom of the list, evaporating from view over time. Unlike the unending, never expiring mailbox. Social media can also be conversational, not just a one way shouting match, where you can talk to a real person and not just a corporate image. If my story is interesting enough I think social media should be sufficient for my advertising purposes.

A lot of this attitude is learned by working my booth at a craft fair or art show. I can see people’s immediate reactions when their faces and body language change after I try to start a conversation. Anything more than “hello” and people run away afraid of aggressive sales tactics.

I’ve talked about this before. Going to a small Sierra mountain community and being welcomed like an old friend was a shocking experience for me and my wife. We are so used to being hit up for money that we have become distrustful of strangers. And that is a sad state, but one that I’m intimately familiar with.

I used to be one of those aggressive salesmen in the mall trying to get you to sign up for credit cards you didn’t need. I hated being in that position. I felt awful and sleazy, but when your job depends on car salesman tactics you either comply or go hungry. Today, I take that life lesson seriously by trying to give people the space and freedom to browse on their own, because as someone who’s been around this aggressive sales culture long enough I think it is important to respect people the same way I would like to be respected. Maybe I can even capture some of that Sierra mountain friendliness and bring it back to the urban sprawl.

Being friendly, approachable, joking, taking the time to demonstrate and inform – these are worthy attributes that outweigh any benefits I might receive with an email advertising campaign that junks up your inbox. I want to be personable. Human. Not a salesman. And in order to serve that principle I will strive to be less invasive. To treat you like a friend which is easy enough since if you like dinosaurs and beer, chances are we have a few things in common.
 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Reclaimed Wood Decor

Double Duty

Business

Busy. Slammed. Overworked and feeling like I might be on the verge of burning out. But I keep pushing forward. I can’t stop. Because it’s survival mode now. Nothing like a little pressure to motivate you.

I can’t really tell you what has happened over the last few months. Not just because my memory sucks – something I like to refer to as my beer soaked brain – but because I have been going pretty much non-stop. When I’m not working a full time job during the day as a tech for theater (building sets, hanging lights, cleaning up other people’s mess, etc.) I’m taking whatever free time I have to build up… well… what has become the family business. Which isn’t out of the ordinary. The biggest difference is that everything feels like it hinges on the success of our separate, yet jointly created ventures. Our feet are in the fire now.

Here are some things I’ve been working on behind the scenes…

Over the last three to four years I’ve been plugging away at this art business in a moseying pace. Sauntering in the way retired hobbyists do for pure enjoyment of a thing that keeps my human setting on tolerable instead of obnoxious. That was pretty much the course we followed when, earlier this summer, my wife quit her job. Now, urgency is how we operate. Like the way that a bathroom can be urgently needed when a bowel movement won’t wait. One savings account has been depleted and we are living on single mediocre income in the one of the most expensive counties, in the most expensive state, perhaps, in the world. Rent is about to go up. Probably will do again soon after that. Cost of living is steadily rising at the same pace as global warming and has a similar impending doom feel about it.

Still I’m not worried. Anxious. Tense. Sleepless – absolutely. But we’re not to the cliff’s edge yet. And we have experience in this sort of thing: post recession we tightened our belts and pulled together what we could to make ends meet. It was stressful, but I think weathering the storm made our marriage even stronger. Made us tougher people which will come in handy as the strain grows, and it most definitely will. We’ve only just begun to hit hard times.

In the last few months my wife has opened five shops under three brand names, posting two or three dozen products of her own. She’s been by my side at many of the flea markets, art walks, or craft fairs that I’ve attended this year and she has been working every day to work on building her product line.

Time for a plug here: you can see her shops on Etsy, Society6, and Redbubble under Come To California and I Love The Unknown. Or follow the links here: 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/ilovetheunknown
http://www.redbubble.com/people/ilovetheunknown

Sure I’m tired. However, without that tiny, minuscule earning we are earning the hard way we might not weather this storm. It’s our tiny life boat. A raft in the in cold, trashing ocean. Got to bail the water out. Or sink.

So when I say I have been busy it’s actually true. Not just something I say to blow off our friends, but an all out war against the lies that the economy is recovering. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to not only ramp-up my efforts to put up new prints, but create things to help my wife’s business to gain some traction. I’ve made a Pop-Art dinosaur, some reclaimed wood decor, display tables and shelves. I’ve enrolled in fairs and markets as a partner to my wife. All while holding down a job that doesn’t necessarily have a constant schedule. I am one hundred percent business and we spend a lot of time talking shop when we are not working.

It’s odd to be here. I’ve heard the war stories from other creatives who say that when you don’t have a fallback you work harder. Well, now here we are. No Plan B. Without a safety net. Or at least, a safety net that looks a little threadbare. Maybe it can’t take the full weight of our fall, but it’s best not to think about that. Concentrate on reaching the other side. It’s with that determination that I keep working. Normally I would be too tired to keep drawing. This is the busy time of year for me when the day job takes up a lot of time and energy. Luckily there has been a little bit of space to breathe in, but I’ve had a few days here and there where I don’t feel like doing anything.

Then I pick up the axe and go right back to swinging. Dark bags under the eyes. Shoulders bunched up like knotted Christmas lights. Barely able to recognize mistakes. Which I’m making more of. Before this autumn I would have told you that I didn’t have the strength. That I would have let the flame die out. I’ve surprised myself.  My wife stepped up too. I knew she would. What makes it hard for her is that we keep hearing how the economy is doing better, but we’re not seeing it anywhere. Approaching one hundred applications to underpaying jobs and several interviews and temp agencies teasing opportunity only to pass on actually hiring through a gutless email. Pile on top of that a heap a lackluster sales and you might begin to understand the low feeling it brings. Can’t stop though. Not now.

This is the sort of thing people don’t really share on Facebook. If you looked at our photos and posts online you probably wouldn’t know that we are having a hard time. I don’t see us starving any time soon. We’ll get through this for now. Yet when times are tough you buckle down and dig in. You don’t quit. And I think that’s the thing that gives me hope. That by doubling down on our dreams we might be able to tunnel our way out of this mess. To feel the warm sunlight on our faces again as the storm clears. Stronger, better people for having survived. We are fighters after all, seasoned by a harsh environment and used to pulling double duty.

Tustin Art Walk 2016

Tustin Art Walk II

Events

Last year was my first run at the local Art Walk and this year I’m happy to say that I’m really excited to return. I’ll be bringing a whole new game to the Art Walk this year including new prints (with one in the pipe), a new booth set-up, and a year’s worth of experience on the road.

I had a pleasant experience last time and this show has been my biggest money maker. So I’m excited to return for that reason, but it’s also home and where I got my start. I’ll be interested to see if the scene is still dominated by an older crowd. The demographics have changed a little since last time and with any luck I won’t be the minority young person in the crowd this year. Then again, I might have been at an advantage there.

As usual the Tustin Art Walk will be held in Old Town Tustin at the cross streets of El Camino Real and Main Street. Just off the freeway where the 5 and the 55 meet.

The show will run from 12:00 PM to 5:30 PM and there will be booze including a new beer garden (we’ll see if there are any craft brews worth tasting), wine tasting, and music. Should be a nice day in Old Town and you can make a day of it by visiting some of the new restaurants that have been added like the El Camino Cafe (a personal favorite).

Not sure what the attendance looks like from the vendor’s side. Last time I checked there were a few gaps in the map, but I expect it to be busy nonetheless.

I will be near Freesoulcaffe near Main Street and Prospect Avenue.

See you there!

Tustin Art Walk Location, Old Town.

Event: Rock + Roll + Art + Los Angeles

Events

The Great Rock and Roll Flea Market at the Regent in Los Angeles has some pretty cool stuff like vintage vinyl, leather jackets, and, you know, rad rock stuff. Sunday, September fourth I will be adding my dumb crap to the pile of awesome stuff. Come check it out if you’re in the neighborhood because I’ll be releasing a new print to the collection before anyone else can get their mitts on it (hint: it’s a California print, fresh off the press).

Also, my awesome wife, who is a much better person than I am, will be bringing her awesome concrete pottery! Check her out on Etsy @ComeToCalifornia.

The Great Rock and Roll Flea Market
Sunday, September 4, 2016
The Regent Theater
448 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

For more information go to The Great Rock And Roll Flea Market website. Or check it out on Facebook.

Hack and Saw

Feature, Woodworking

My nine-to-five requires a lot of construction, and I’m okay at it. Not great. But when I have time to devote to making things I really enjoy piecing together lumber and turning it into useful things. Those days of plowing through Legos must have planted a seed. Only now I get to make custom pieces without having to dig through piles of plastic.

Sometimes I need to pivot. My five-to-nine, drawing and printing, can tap me out so when I start running dry, but still have the urge to create, I’ll start looking for other ways to bang my head against the wall. I’ve made music, writings, home improvement projects, taken photographs, and blown my brains out on video games. Lately a few people have taken notice of the woodworking I’ve been doing. Not really sure why.

Take this standing desk (gallery above): built from scratch, stained, and covered in a sleek polyurethane coat. Made from lumber – I guess you could say recycled or maybe it’s reclaimed wood; I’m not sure – scrapped from previous theatre shows. It was a request by a teacher I work with and it turned out alright.

Like most things I cook up this desk is simple in design. After all my brain can only handle so much processing. There are a few rough spots, but overall it will provide a stable platform for a least a couple of years. I think it’ll do fine considering, though I did get a chance to put a bit more work into this particular model, so it’s above par for my standard. Not sexy, but functional.

The strange thing is people seem to like the work. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when I get to talking about all the work that goes into a particular project you can see a look of “impressed” slowly materialize over their faces as the begin to understand the amount effort required. We don’t hear about handmade things very often and I think I forget that not everyone is a hack craftsman like me. It’s not complicate work, but it can be hard work and maybe we have forgotten what that’s like in this modern age of technology and information. More than a few people think that’s one reason why craft fairs have become so popular. I’m inclined to agree.

So long as people like this stuff I’ll keep making it. And it’s my goal to always use lumber that people might want to throw away. Trying to do my part in controlling waste in a wasteful society. Let me know what you think by hitting that little “Like” button in the corner and stay tuned for more to come.

Passion Sucks PT 2

Passion Sucks Pt 2

Random Thoughts

A friend of my wife has recently become really excited about blogging for the vegan food movement and in a conversation about being really happy they thought, “Is this passion?” This comes after my last article about how passion sucks… there’s nothing wrong with that. Finding the thing you love is a good thing and I don’t want to take away from that, but here’s one possible reason why things look good right now: this blogger is living her dream, as opposed to daydreaming about it and never making it happen.

Listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, an episode popped up about how daydreaming can become an obstacle to success. The study and book about the effects of positive thinking by Gabriele Oettingen, who wrote Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside The New Science Of Motivation, talks about how positive thinking puts people into a mental state that mimics accomplishment before they have even started out and actually creates negative results.

This is the trouble that I have with wishful thinking, or passion in this case: it’s not moving the ball down the field. You are not gaining any momentum and if we consider the interview below it may actually be counter productive. The resolution, it turns out, is to be more realistic to counteract your flights of fancy.

Learn more about how to overcome this problem by listening in and be sure to check out the rest of the catalog. It’s a great show that I highly recommend.

Listen to the Hidden Brain Podcast: WOOP, There It Is! here. 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson