New Utility Tote - the story behind the bag

Now available, my new Utility Tote Bag is a handcrafted item made right here in my studio.

Growing up, my mom was often sewing--whether fixing something old or making something new, she kept busy. I wanted to pay tribute to my mother's craft by creating my own project. What came to mind was a better grocery tote, not a wimpy-floppy thing; something stand-up sturdy and hardworking, as well as neat and interesting. 

I chose materials I admire, like work-wear sturdy canvas, and hardware details that are beautiful, like copper rivets. And finally I would embellish the bag with a screen print. After many trials, this is what I settled on. Roughly the size of a normal grocery bag, just a little bigger, and, of course, with a strong handle that's a wide 2-inches, making it easy on the shoulder, because this tote slides and cinches to become a shoulder bag. 

I've been field testing them for several months. Lots of grocery and farmers market trips where I really overloaded it. Several camping trips where it served as food bag, and later as tool bag. It has personally become my new favorite thing.

So much happening in the VGoT

It felt like a heap of work earlier this year (and it still kind of is), but now there is so much new and interesting things coming out of the VGoT project this summer. New screen print posters are a hit, and I can see why: they embody the lasting courage and very real shift Americans are making toward more fresh foods, staying more in touch with plants, and coming together over food. I call them my "Flagship Series".

The "Flagship" limited edition screen print series.

The "Flagship" limited edition screen print series.

The 2017 Calendar "Action Snack" listed today, and I'm so proud of the styling on this one--its to become a real classic. It features illustrations of my favorite snack foods in a dynamic, colorful presentation. These colors and subjects speak to the mood and feelings of the seasons.

Posters More Than Ever

Thank you for following my work with the VGoT poster series.  I love making posters because they are graphic art at it's most expressive and evocative. Posters can be made loud and demanding; or poised powerfully for quiet strength. Within a vertical rectangle, a poster can tell you what to do, or better yet, show you what you can do. Like a song on the radio, it should be interpreted metaphorically.

Illustrated posters still have a role to play for us modern Americans. I'm still excited when I get asked to make posters available for a community group. I hear from food pantry folks, and garden education folks. They all want to give an imaginative voice to their program, and I’m flattered that my illustrations connect with the energy of their real work in the community. From abstract to concrete-- I love it.

I'm currently reforming the VGoT. It's a project I can't get away from, nor do I want to. But it’s not quite what I wanted it to be. It should be more beautiful, more like a real classic item. It should lend itself to other unique goods that express quality, durability and beauty. That’s why I’ve begun sewing heavy grocery totes and printing on them; as well as fabricating my own wooden poster frames. I want more screen printing, which I’ve always loved—there’s nothing like real ink on paper or fabric. I hope to have these new items ready to share this summer.

Those little jolts of excitement, which propel me to the sketchbook, are coming more frequently now. The hard part is doing the weeding; that is, keeping what’s worth pursuing and tossing what should go to the compost. The thing I crave these days is a project which has an attractive neatness, expressive quality, and is proudly made in the USA. I want posters with a voice that is powerful and imaginative. Its coming along.

Thank you for staying with me! I promise to reward you with some first looks and special offers coming over the next few months. 

New "V for Victory" Series of Graphics

I'm very excited to present a new line of work this year that focuses on food and cooking. Why? Because that's where the action is! And I know because this year has seen me in the kitchen a lot more than usual. With my wife doing Teacher Education (she's going to be an Elementary School Teacher), that left me doing all the kitchen duty. I love to cook, but when you're busy the favorite things are the simple things!

Last year, the focus was on an active, strong voice to promote feelings of change ("Courage & Progress"). Now with this year's interest in cooking with fresh foods, I want to express my wonder with the simplest pleasures of food, and generally promote interest around cooking fresh foods at home. So my first project with this in mind is the new 2016 Calendar "Action Snack."

I love simple things, almost like stuff kids eat these days. Tomato, avocado and salami on a cracker, for example. That one is actually something my wife and I call "camping sushi." Or oatmeal and raisins, or the cut apples which I eat probably everyday, and the rainbow carrots.  My sense of wonder and awe is communicated by putting a little movement in each month's design; a feeling of weightlessness, like floating. Imagine watching cheese and a peice of apple pie falling in slow-motion onto a plate. Many of these are my comfort foods, feel-good foods. I like how I feel when I eat stuff like this. The sense of color was important. At first, I wasn't sure about doing full flood colors on each page but then I realized you need that attitude, that strong statement to make the proper feeling happen; a feeling that I associate with the months of the year. I'm feeling like this project will be setting the style & tone for the 2016 edition, and I can't wait to get started.

New Work for the Home Kitchen

As I learn more about organic produce, the more I like it. There was a time when I thought "oh, geez, here's another way for the grocery to charge more for produce." But after getting to know the folks at OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) I realized organic means more than just "no spray". It represents a holistic set of farming practices that protect the land, the people, and even the wildlife. I'll have more about this issue later this year, but in the meantime I'm very excited to present this new poster for Organics: Today's Victory Vegetables. 

This summer I've become more interested in cooking and preparing better meals. Making food at home is just inherently healthier, it seems to me. So I decided to create a few prints that may inspire a bit more home-cooking.  For this mid-year Edition I was thinking about the practice of making stock chicken broth from a roasted chicken-- one of my favorite and economical practices. We do this and use the broth for all kinds of recipes, like rice or noodle soups. And cabbage is both nutritious and versatile, showing up in cuisines around the world. 

Coffee with Pollan

I got up early this morning and had the pleasure of doing some thoughtful re-reading, over coffee, of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," Michael Pollan's classic exploration of American food ways. Part technical, part philosophical, his story informed so many of my views on food and home cooking; it was nice to review that today. It was like checking in with myself and where the VGoT project is going. Pollan's visionary book came out in 2007, and here we are in 2015, still wondering about the value versus cost of organics, the proper role of processed and packaged foods, whether or not Whole Foods supermarkets are a boon or a scourge. And that was the thing that jumped out at me: big organic versus the local organic. I generally take a broader view that is happy that we're discussing the kind of organic we want at all. But if big organic can serve more people who ordinarily wouldn't go to a food coop or a farmers market, then I say that's a win. And remember, organic is always GMO-free. Overall, I have to say I'm optimistic and encouraged by the changes that have taken place over the last ten years in the food culture of America. So much is up for discussion these days that was considered fringe thinking ten years ago. Consider school lunches and school gardens, or even industrial food makers who are dropping unnatural additives. I'm not declaring "victory!", but I'm encouraged. Change takes time, but it's moving. I'm excited by all the people who are interested in cooking more, refocusing on real family meals, or tinkering in the vegetable garden. Thanks again, Pollan, for articulating those complex issues so well. And now, as a guy who draws pictures about food, I'm wondering, what's next?

 

Old dog-eared copy of one of my favorite book.

Old dog-eared copy of one of my favorite book.

The Space-Age Gardener

A little bit of WWII-era homefront propaganda, a little Omnivore's Dilemma, a bit of Tomorrowland plus some space Legos and I think you start to get the inspiration for "the Victory Garden of Tomorrow". In my latest show, the "Victory Garden" goes to space where we can imagine having space gardens in an orbital farm, or chickens on a low-gravity moon base.

Screaming Sky Gallery in Portland invited me to present a show of my work. They have this fun and adorable designer toy shop. So it made sense to make that the place to debut a new batch of designs. I've been wanting to expand the world in which my long sturdy "astro-gardener" has lived. This guy is one of the original ideas, and seems to have a following. So, I asked myself, what else goes on in his world? There has to be chickens, and a larger capsule garden. What about an orbital farm? And how did they get up there? 
And then, there's Earth Day, a very special holiday with a special story. The Earth Rise photograph by Apollo astronauts showed us how fragile and special is our home planet. It's like the "victory garden" went to space in these handful of designs. They were fun to make, and now they're available in the Design Shop under the Explorer Collection.

Friends of T-Shirt Photography

Since last year we've made a small pile of T-Shirts and T-Shirt model photos. We exclusively use only our most attractive looking friends to pose and try their best at looking cool. Are they fashionable? Maybe. Are they adorable? For sure. And worth browsing, but please note some of the T-Shirts are out of print.

The Power of Mid-Century posters

What is it about the power of these poster ads from the 30's to 40's? I started making this project because of the startling, subtle, emotive power of these images, even 60 years after they were created. I suppose you can see the earnestness of the images-- absolutely no irony-- and that's rare. I feel there's a craving among my generation and younger to go off and do something together. Just join up and make something happen-- not necessarily military (and I realize this is where that spirit is often channeled) but just to be purposeful and have a role. Thats pretty neat to think about. For me, I guess I participate by drawing pictures! 

If you like powerful vintage posters, consider visiting the Portland Art Museum to see the exhibit "Feast and Famine: The Pleasures and Politics of Food". It's about how "artists use the topic of food and drink as a means to explore society, examine ritual, and advocate politically." Until May 4, my posters "Keep 'Em Flying" and "Break New Ground" will be included in the collection.

New Website, New Energy

Let me introduce a whole new website for The VGoT. I've redesigned and redeployed a much simpler, easy to use and beautiful new home for this poster project. I'm so excited to share it and want you to know this is just the beginning-- these are the bones I'll be building on in 2014!