Weekly Discoveries 10.31.2014 – Ebbets Flannels, Horchata, Doug Seeger and Voodoo


Ebbets Field Flannels

I, like all sane people, have a favorite hat. It’s a grey wool, six panel ball cap with a leather adjustable strap. Last week, my favorite hat decided it wanted to take a plunge into a mud puddle and, despite my insistence, it has refused to let go of its new brown tinge. When I went looking the manufacturer so I could order a replacement, I discovered Ebbets Field Flannels, and my bank account hasn’t forgiven me since. Ebbets Field Flannel is an apparel company based in Seattle that makes throwback ball caps, jerseys and more (they have a San Francisco Seals hat that I can’t wait to get my hands on). If you like high-quality, American-made apparel or have an appreciation for baseball history, you need to check them out.


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Blue Bubblegum Horchata

I spent part of my weekend at Stockton’s Open-Air Market.  The gigantic flea market features tons of storefronts, shops and a giant conglomerate of food vendors/shops right in the middle.  One vendor sells a wide variety of different-flavored horchata and fruit drinks.  The table featured giant tubs of chocolate, strawberry, lime, and coconut drunks but I was enticed by the blue bubblegum.  I bought a medium sized drink and fell in love.  I’ve been Googling the stuff ever since, but haven’t found it on the Internet.  Might be back for more this coming Sunday.


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Voodoo Doughnuts

Cash only. 24 hours. Doughnut shop. This is Voodoo in a nutshell. I had a chance to try this place out while I was in Portland a couple weeks ago and it was quite the experience. I went here at midnight and there was a line out the door and down the street, and I waited for an hour to take a crack at these doughnuts. For those not familiar, Voodoo offers your normal doughnut fare but what they’re famous for is their more eclectic doughnuts and their silly names. I picked up the ODB or (old dirty bastard) It was a chocolate doughnut with chocolate frosting, covered in a mountain of crumbled oreos, with peanut butter drizzled across the top.  Some of the other doughnuts they served were covered with cereal like captain crunch and fruit loops, and per their name, they offer a “voodoo doughnut” shaped like a voodoo doll with raspberry filling and white icing to detail the facial features.  If you’re ever in Portland be sure to give this place a try!



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Doug Seegers

I discovered Doug Seegers this week thanks to the Buddy and Jim Show on Sirius/XM radio. His story is almost as incredible as his voice. He was basically homeless, playing outside the bus depot in Nashville, when he was discovered. He recently released his debut album Going Down the River which features, among others, Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller. If you like traditional country music, you’ll like Doug Seegers. If you don’t like traditional country music, you’ll still probably like Doug Seegers.

What is Blackwing? A Short Film Featuring Andrew Combs

Blackwing is more than just a pencil. This is something we’ve said a thousand times, but what does it mean? This short film, featuring Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Combs, answers that question.

For a live performance of “Pearl,” written by Andrew Combs, check out the video below.

Hand-Eye Supply – DIY in PDX

While in Portland earlier this month, we had a chance to stop by Hand-Eye Supply’s brand-new location. Hand-Eye focuses on providing tools and accessories for craftsmen, DIYers, and creative minds and, true to their identity, they decided to build and assemble all of the fixtures in the new location.

You won’t find any pre-fabricated shelving or clothing racks here, this is a 100% custom job. From the large modular stationery table in the front of the store, to the “toolbox” style drawers located at the back, everything in the store is the result of a team dedicated to the art of DIY.

This new location also has an attached garage where store fixtures can be created or modified with ease. This garage is also host to Hand-Eye Supply’s fortnightly Curiosity Club meetings. Each meeting features a speaker on any topic a person might be curious to learn more about. Meeting topics range from microphone building, to stamp collecting, to dirt bike construction. All of these meetings are open to the public, so if you find yourself in the Portland area make sure to check them out!

Weekly Discoveries 10.23.2014 – Ground Kontrol, Keen, Woolen Men and Higo No Kami


Higo No Kami Knife

I spent most of the past week in Portland attending Coffee Fest (and the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, but that’s another story). While there, I spent a good deal of time in the Pearl District, where I enjoyed some killer food (literally) and got to visit some of the shops that carry Blackwing pencils. One of those shops was Hand Eye Supply, an amazing tool/hardware/clothing store stocked with everything from hand-made axes and selvedge jeans, to aprons, hammers and hats. One tool that caught my eye was the Higo No Kami knife, a knife specifically designed for sharpening pencils. I couldn’t resist, so I picked one up and have been honing my pencil sharpening skills ever since.

Higo No Kami


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Woolen Men – Fear (Man Revisited) Tour Tape #4

Woolen Men are a sturdy DIY rock band straight out of the depths of Portland, Oregon.  There seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding Portland’s music scene a few years back, but that’s faded and true-blue rockers like Woolen Men endure.  They’re a three-piece band with each member contributing songwriting.  Delve into their discography to find years’ worth of home-recorded, home-dubbed cassettes, 7” splits and EPs, and an LP on Woodsist.  For each tour they release a tour tape – Fear might be the strongest one yet.  Five stellar songs that really capture the essence of a somber Portland fall.

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The Keen Garage (Portland, OR)

While in Portland last week, I stumbled into the flagship store and headquarters for Keen. They not only manufacture durable high quality clothing and footwear but their store design and vibe is worth the visit alone. You can take a break from shopping on one of these kegstools or in their lounge area (image 4507). But my favorite part, hands down (or heads up) was the Boot Chute.

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Ground Kontrol

Before going to Portland this weekend, several of my friends told me that I needed to check out Ground Kontrol. For those of you not familiar, Ground Kontrol is a BARcade, a bar that caters to gamers with 90+ arcade and pinball machines. We showed up around 10 PM and this place was already filled to capacity. After a 20 minute wait we were able to make our way inside. Once the excitement and wonder of all these active machines wore off, we decided to get to business.

We started with Sunset Riders, a four player shoot ‘em up with a cartoony wild west setting. We made it about ¾ of the way through before Chief Scalpem finally got our number. After the sun set on our riders, we moved on to TMNT: Turtles in Time. This is the one we had the most fun with. Some guy whose name I didn’t catch hopped into the game with us and helped us see it to the end. At one point near the end when we were getting light on quarters, he reached into his pocket and slammed a pile of quarters on the cabinet and said “We’ve come too far not to finish this!” I can’t even describe how cool the level of camaraderie felt in that moment. If you’re ever in Portland do yourself a favor and check out Ground Kontrol.

Ground Kontrol

Weekly Discoveries 10.16.2014 – Noodles, Trigger Hippy, Kenner, and Borges


Frank’s Noodle House

I’m a sucker for handmade stuff, and that includes food. Last night, I finished up the 12 hour drive from our headquarters in Stockton, California to Portland, Oregon, where we’ll be exhibiting at Coffee Fest later this week. Needless to say, when I rolled into town, I was starving. That’s when I discovered Frank’s Noodle House.

As the name suggests, Frank’s Noodle House serves noodles. Tons of them. And they’re all made by hand every day. I ordered the handmade noodles with tofu, served extra spicy (that’s three “x’s” on Frank’s hot meter), and it was delicious. If you’re ever in Portland, check it out.

Frank's Noodle House



Trigger Hippy

One part rock ‘n roll, one part rhythm ‘n blues, two parts The Black Crowes. I heard Trigger Hippy for the first time on Sirius’ Outlaw Country this morning. Their music is like a pretty girl you can’t get off of your mind. It’s been a while since I’ve heard such poetic soul, and I can’t wait to buy the record.

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Kenner’s Recalled Alien Action Figure

This year the Alien franchise celebrates the 35th anniversary of the original film’s release so, when I came across one of the film’s first merchandising ventures, the 18 inch tall Xenomorph figure produced by Kenner, I was floored.

Kenner struck gold after obtaining licensing rights to produce figures based on Star Wars.  Seeing Alien as “the next big Sci-Fi license,” Kenner acquired the rights to produce action figures based on the film. In 1979, they released their first figure to coincide with the film’s release.  Although the film was highly praised on its release, the figure wasn’t exactly a hit for parents. Parental outcry caused the figures to be recalled, but some of these figures can now be found selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay and in the homes of some lucky collectors.

Kenner Alien Action Figure



Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings

I picked up Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings at Logos Books in Davis while visiting a friend.  It’s not quite a novel, not quite an anthology – it details 120 mythological beings and entities from various Eastern and Western cultures and religions. Borges did not mean for the reader to read the book from beginning to end – rather, he meant the reader to flip through its pages at random or by interest. My favorite entry is the one for Bahamut, an unfathomably large mythical fish that supports the earth. It can be quite rewarding to buy a book blindly.

The Book of Imaginary Beings


Sketch Reporting with Off-Ramp’s Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan may be one of the last great sketch reporters.  His contributions for SCPR program Off-Ramp document significant events and stories with a nuance forgotten with photography and a craft rarely cultivated.  A former toy designer for numerous big-name companies, Sheehan in recent years has been sketching and reporting nearly full-time, working with Off-Ramp for over two years.

We talked to Mr. Sheehan about his love of sketching, the unique perceptions that sketch reporting affords, and his affinity for Blackwing pencils.

How did you hook up with Off-Ramp?

I’ve been working with John [Rabe, host] for over two years.  I heard about the [Endeavor] space shuttle coming in, so I went down there and took some sketches…John saw me sketching and talked to me about putting them into his article.  He emailed me and I had all these sketches that he ended up using.  Since then I’ve gone out and covered some other things, like the Murrieta protests, the symphony…


Where are you based?

I’m mostly based out of home now.  I travel to L.A. when I do stuff for Off-Ramp.

What work were you doing before you got involved with Off-Ramp?

I did toy design for 10-12 years.  I worked in-house for Disney on their California project, Mattel, Sony, I did toys for Jack in the Box – all kinds of stuff.  It’s mostly freelance now.

Was it a conscious decision to begin sketching?  Would you consider sketching your full-time occupation now?

It’s definitely becoming more of what I do now.  I think I always had an interest in sketch reporting, but when photography came along that went by the wayside.  New technologies tend to eliminate the old ones, but I think that people are starting to realize that sketch reporting gives reporting a different perspective – it’s never going to replace photography, but I think it has value as an alternative to photography.

I’m just an obsessive sketcher, you know?  If I sit down for five minutes, I’m sketching.  It’s like a smoking habit, where it becomes a physical thing.  I don’t smoke, but that’s what it’s like – it’s this compulsive thing I’m always doing.


I was in Murrieta, you know – there’s nothing out there but the desert.  I was out there reporting for the immigration protest for Off-Ramp.  I get outta the car and immediately sit down and spend ten minutes drawing a bunch of people crowded around this area.  The rest of the time I’m standing up with my sketchbook in my arm.  I can’t really bring luggage out there, I have to know what I’m doing into.  Like I said, in Murrieta I only brought a sketchbook and a cabby around it.

Same with the Wendy Greuel event – I had my sketchbook in the crook of my arm.  My arm hurt for two or three days after that because I was chasing her around.  She’s not going to pose for me – I’m sketching on the fly.

So you have to get these sketches on the quick.  Is that a skill you’ve developed over the years?

Yeah.  A lot of it’s editing.  There are things I’ve noticed that determine what a person looks like, too.  Usually the first sketch or two are of the mechanics of a person’s face.  It’s like how there are differences between the body of a truck and a car.  Once I can get the mechanics of the face down, I can sketch that person even when they change perspective and end up with a different perspective than what I started with.  Because people aren’t going to stand still for you, you know?

How important are warm-ups to an intensive day of fast sketching?

Very important.  I probably get in five warm-up sketches before I really get going for the day.  That’s something I’m always pushing on students – you have to get your warm-ups out.  A lot of students’ first sketches usually suck, and then they get discouraged and stop altogether.  But you always have to warm up.  You have to go into that first sketch with low expectations.  I’m never expecting my first sketch to turn out as a keeper, but sometimes the first sketch works out – like with the Murrieta protest.  That was a warm-up sketch.


You mentioned earlier that there’s a difference between sketching and photography.  Can you elaborate on that sentiment?

Sketching and photography are two different things.  I love photography, and I’d probably do it if I weren’t so bad at it [laughs].  But it’s completely different from sketching.

Photography you’re instantly capturing the moment in seconds, whereas with sketching you’re sitting and absorbing the earth for anywhere from ten seconds to two minutes.  With that vital pause in time I hear conversations and it gives me a sort of reflection.

I’ve gotten pretty fast at sketching, though.  I know what people are going to do – it’s like a weird extra sense.  At the Murrieta protest, I noticed this guy in was going to hit a certain pose, because I could tell that he was just one of those angry people that goes to a rally to get fired up and yell.  He was talking to someone and he hit that pose – back arched, bowed arms – and I wanted to capture it, but I also wanted to catch the people with picket signs across the way.  I took a few broad curves to outline the pose and moved on to something else I saw.  Some things are like sketching the tree in the background – it’s always going to be there.  I knew this guy was going to get into his pose again and I could fill in the details.

I’m always juggling three to four sketches of people at a time and I can tell which ones are going to come back to certain poses.

So you’re capturing the liveliest things in the moment. 

Well, I go in to a site with no preconceived idea.  I can’t go back in like half an hour so I’m just trying to capture what I see.

At the end of the day, I’ve absorbed so much.  I’m always hyper-aware when I’m sketching.  Since I know I have to get something, I’m always looking out and taking in everything around me.  It’s an unnatural state.  At the end of the day, I come out realizing that it was about something besides what I thought it would be.  Like at the Murrieta protests – I went in thinking it would be constructive, you know, people trying to make solutions for the immigration problems.  At the end of the day I realized that it was a pointless shouting match where each side is demonizing the other without trying to resolve anything.  I didn’t realize that the people that came to protest were gonna be the ones on complete opposite sides of the spectrum.

When you’re hyper-aware like that, all of the sudden the magical scenes happen.  At one point while I was sketching at the National History Museum I noticed a scene like that.  I’m not relaxing – I’m constantly looking out.

Another advantage of sketching [as reporting] is that you can stay stealthy.  Luckily, people never see sketch artists so they’re never looking at me and nobody knows what I’m doing.  When they see a guy scribbling information into a notebook, they mostly think, “that guy’s creepy” and want to get away from me, if anything.  I want to be a fly on the wall as much as I can.  The interaction needs to be as organic as it can.  I don’t want it to be like a reality show where none of these people are acting normal because there’s a reporter.


When did you cultivate an interest in art?

When I was a kid.  I’ve been interested in it for as long as I can remember.  It was messy, though.  Back then it was hard to get information – I had to go to the library, where all they had were hardcore books on classical painting and drawing.  In a way, it was good for me.  Nowadays art books are all about the eye candy and the pretty pictures.  These books had no eye candy – just classicism.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with pens.  Every time my parents took me to the store, I would look for different kinds pens – I realized later that what my brain was seeking out was a good marker set.  My mind was seeking out the tools I needed before I realized what they were.  In that way, I think you’re made for it – you’re hardwired for it.

Was it always sketching for you? 

The point of technique is to get so fluent with it that it becomes like talking.  That’s why I like sketching.  It’s very in the moment.  It’s important for me that I can do work spontaneously.  I like spontaneity, immediacy and just pure craft.

That’s why I like jazz – it’s pure craft.  Those guys know their theory back & forth, so that now it’s just a language.  It’s a result of dedication.  That spontaneous moment took 34, 35, 36 years to get into.

Plus, the instruments are thoughtfully crafted and I think that warmth and craft [in utensils] is what I’m into.


How did you discover Blackwing pencils?

Well, I’m a recovering art supplies junkie.  I’d read about them before they came out again.  I’d heard that they were going off for hundreds of dollars a box, and I thought it was laughable.  Then they became this mystical thing – are these pencils really that amazing?  When I heard they were being reissued, I thought, well, I’d try it.  When I did, it was like, ‘boom.’  They were perfect for my sketch reporting.  The Blackwing is velvety, almost like a charcoal pencil without the harshness of the mark.  You can really get a full range of line value out of the Blackwing, from light to dark and dense in one tool.

With what I’m doing – Ideally I want to use one tool if I can.  Some artists have their whole set of pencils, from 9H, to HB, whatever, and they have to pull them all out to get something done.  I don’t rely on that kind of crap.  I want one thing I can rely on.  It gives the drawings a sense of continuity.

It sounds dumb, but it’s true: the feeling of a pencil is so important.  How a pencil rolls across the page – that’s huge.  That makes me want to draw.  It’s like oil – it makes me feel luxurious.  It feels like butter, man.  With the Blackwing you can kind of paint, too.  You can get those broad strokes and go back into it for the details.

It even holds its point longer.  With the Blackwing, I usually don’t have to sharpen it as often, which is good for my work because I can carry less of them.

I was writing with it the other week and I understood why so many writers swear by it – it’s dense and it still erases.  Usually something that writes that dense doesn’t want to erase, but with the Blackwing you have no problem.

I had a student at a workshop I was teaching look at my pencil and ask me, “What kind of pencil is that?” and I told her all of that.

Weekly Discoveries 10.09.2014 – Sway, Richard Hell, Realistic Pokemon and Heigh Ho


Whirr – Sway

I’ve neglected listening to Sway for the past few weeks, despite the near constant urging of my circle of friends. The album is currently sitting at 141 on Billboard’s Top 200 list and, for this genre, that’s an astounding achievement. Plus, their label Graveface records is “a small independent label with a focus on all things hand-made, hand-assembled & unique,” and they have a shop in Savannah, Georgia that sounds right up my alley. Good job Loren.

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Richard Hell – Time (Alternate Version)

My car’s CD player recently broke.  While in Portland this past August my friend gave me a couple of tapes for the road.  One of them was local record shop Mississippi Records’ Afraid of the Dark compilation, the 16th volume of the label’s tape compilation series.  Each volume has a theme, and this one’s was old garage rock’n’roll from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.  This song by Richard Hell and the Voidoids is on the B side.  Richard Hell arguably invented punk rock fashion, but his music was quite strange and eclectic for 1970’s rock music.


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Realistic Pokemon artist Arvalis (RJ Palmer)

On his DeviantArt profile, the first thing RJ Palmer (aka Arvalis) mentions is “I love dinosaurs.”  If you spend a couple moments browsing his works you’ll notice he also loves Pokemon.  RJ combines these two loves to create what he calls “realistic Pokemon”. RJ also has videos that take a look at how he creates his monstrosities and has even published a book featuring all of the “realistic Pokemon” he has created to date.



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Blake Mills – Heigh Ho

I was introduced to Blake Mills and his impressive resume (studio, touring and production credits with some of the biggest names in music by the tender age of 26), by Michael Witcher a few months ago. This week, I discovered Blake’s newest studio album, “Heigh Ho”. Not only did it live up to the hype, it deserves a lot more. You can’t pin a genre on it. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it fits many genres. His guitar work alone has catapulted him near the top of my  “top artists I haven’t seen live” list. Speaking of that, so when is Tom Waits hitting the road again?