Jay is a weird dude. I mean that in the most affectionate way possible, he’s unlike anyone else I have ever met. He has no problem speaking his mind regardless of who is around, he is always down for a good time (regardless of the consequences), and I’ve never met anyone who can eat a live crawdad at a Chinese buffet or an expired egg salad sandwich from a less than reputable gas station and live to tell the tale, but Jay has done it more than once and I’m pretty sure it just makes him stronger. Jay and I grew up five houses away from each other, He was the best man in my wedding, and he's one of the most prominent people in my life. Jay’s Instagram handle is SkunkApe and his persona in real life has come to match the mythological beast he covets so dearly. This past year he started up Death Cycle, his illustration name, and has done work for Death Co., Chopper Coffee Co, as well as various bands and clubs. I wanted to interview him because his work is really cool and unique, plus frankly I wanted to see the type of responses he was going to give. I was not disappointed.
Does it matter? / Ask my doctor / Third rock from the sun, dog
Most people these days just refer to you by your Instagram handle Skunk Ape. Why did you choose Death Cycle instead? Also, when are you going to just officially change your name to Skunk Ape in real life?
Well seeing as I draw more death and motorcycle themed illustrations and have never drawn a bipedal cryptid I thought I was moving in the right direction handle-wise. I didn't want any Sasquatch enthusiasts stumbling onto my page and leaving unkind comments under my work. I'd only consider legally changing my name to Skunk Ape if I was put into witness protection and was sent down south and began performing in backyard wrestling bouts.
I feel like you’ve been a doodler since I met you. When did you realize you wanted to illustrate professionally?
I've always wanted to illustrate professionally and design cool logos and designs. Growing up in a 'punk' scene you are exposed to a lot of weird out of the norm art. Album artwork, shirt designs, posters, etc were always huge cool different inspirations to me growing up. Seeing a lot of different artists showing off different styles. In my head, I was just never as good of as the artists that influenced me. I started going to school for graphic design and that made it worse because I started to see art as work and not just a fun hobby I was doing. I'd hate to say it but instagram opened my eyes to a lot of artist and cool projects everyone was working on. I realized that I could keep the soul and myself in my art and still be 'working' while I'm illustrating because there is a vast amount of weirdos out there that like cartoon skulls, monsters, and lowbrow artwork.
What is your favorite project you’ve done?
I don't have a fav, if I did I would judge every other drawing on the ONE design and would never get anything done
Kill one, F*$% one, Marry one- Bigfoot, The Lochness Monster, An Alien
Easy. Fuck an alien with three tits and some intergalactic lingerie on, marry Bigfoot because I need that space. The fire would never die because I'd always be looking for him/her. Totally kill the lochness monster and have someone film it for some insane metal music vid.
Why didn’t you write your best man speech down for my wedding?
We've been through this. I love you and I thought I'd have a few drinks and get up there and really just spill my heart out and not read some pre-planned BS. Although it wasn't some earth shattering, heart throbbing, eye wetting speech; it was still 100% me.
What else should people know about you?
Call 911 and I'll answer any questions people might have
We're good right?
Danny has been a friend of mine for a long time. I met him playing in bands when he was a senior in High School and after 10 years I have seen him work a variety of jobs and juggle a whole host of hobbies. If you looked up renaissance man in the dictionary, Dan is the man they are referring to. Despite being an amazing designer (Working with Dice Magazine, Prism Supply Company, The Congregation Motorcycle Show and a whole host of other projects), he’s a great drummer, he writes for Heddels ( a massive site about quality clothing and goods,) he builds motorcycles, he does leather work, and he probably knows a little bit about anything else cool you could think of. I have been wanting to talk to Dan on here about his work on here for a long time, but with his wedding coming up and with our professional lives being crazy it has taken a while. Finally, I got time to catch up with him and hit him with some hard-hitting questions.
25 / Dude / Connecticut
When did you realize you wanted to do illustrating/design?
I grew up drawing with my dad all the time for fun. It was mostly goofy stuff…aliens on skateboards, monster trucks, and lots of skulls (go figure). He would draw these great cartoons inspired by the Mad Magazines he had growing up, those always stuck with me. I enjoyed learning how to write cursive and my drawings would usually have some sort of text on them, even if it was just figuring out a cool way to write my initials.
I never really understood that drawing or design could be a career path, so I originally went to college for music business. I was playing in a hardcore band with my friends (including The Empty Earth himself) and that is around the same time I learned about traditional tattoos. That old school style captured me and I spent a lot of time exploring weird imagery and trying to get my head around that style. I never really had intentions to be a tattooer, I really was just having fun drawing. As I realized more and more how much I did not want to pursue a career in the music industry, my friend finally suggested I look into graphic design classes. I transferred and switched majors the next semester.
Going to school for art was something else. It was a great way for me to figure out a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to do, but it also forced me to try things I would never have done otherwise that I am still gaining from today. At the end of the day I still had the most fun with pen and ink drawings, and I started throwing them into the computer and learning how to manipulate them digitally. I started making shirt designs and album art for my band, and soon enough I had friends asking for designs for their bands, and things grew from there. That was about six years ago, but I would say I realized that I wanted to give freelance design a concerted effort about two years ago and I’ve been doing that since.
You love motorcycles and your work lately has been heavy in the motorcycle world. Is there a similarity between the process of working on bikes and working on design?
I’ve realized over the years that when it comes down to it, I just really enjoy working with my hands and it isn’t necessarily limited to just one medium. For instance, I got into leatherworking for a bit and loved the process of turning a flat piece of hide into a functioning wallet. It’s that sort of stereotypical “starting with nothing, ending with something” thing that I really dig. I get the same enjoyment when working on a motorcycle, and believe me I’m far from a mechanic. If I’m working on my bike chances are it’s trying to fix an idiot mistake I made previously, but it’s always fun to learn as I go and I have plenty of friends to help me figure things out when I get in over my head.
All of my design work is hand drawn starting with rough conceptual pencil sketches and refined until I create a final version in ink to be scanned into the computer and traced. I’ve tried to be that super clean, minimalist designer and it just doesn’t work out or make me feel the same as drawing up something by hand, so I tend to stick to what I know. Sometimes I’ll work on an idea for days, with tons of rounds of revisions and redraws, only to decide it isn’t really what I thought it would be, so it gets scrapped. And sometimes the bike still won’t start after a full weekend spent in the garage. I guess there are similarities.
How are you balancing your day job, building your bike, planning a wedding, planning getting a new house, making time for all the weeknight drop ins from friends, and spending time with your family? How do you prioritize your creative life?
To be honest, I’m still working on my prioritizing skills because when I get something in my mind, it rules my brain until I finish it and get it right while everything else tends to get put aside. It’s been busier than ever lately, but I think that’s a good thing because I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I like it that way too--one minute I can be drawing or sending emails and the next I can be messing around in the garage or playing drums or whatever else. Hanging with friends and family is the best way to break all of it up.
You did all of the branding for The Congregation Vintage Motorcycle Show recently that Prism Supply and Dice Magazine put on. What was it like seeing you work on such a large scale?
In one word, crazy. There’s nothing more humbling than having people you look up to reach out and ask to work together. It was a lot of work and we definitely hustled near the end but everything came together so great and I’m pumped I was able to get down there to see it all in person.
What is your favorite project you’ve done?
Maybe this is a cliché answer, but I really enjoy every project that I take on. Doing this kind of work has helped me meet so many people that I can now call friends, with projects that continually blow me away just from the point of conception. The variety of subject matter always keeps things interesting, and I’m challenged now more than ever to find ways to keep learning and trying new things whether it be from drawing a t-shirt to branding a company.
Kill one, F*$% one, Marry one- Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard
Does it mean I get to go back in time and see them all play live?
You have a pretty eclectic taste in music, what are you listening to lately?
I’m all over the place with music. I will literally go from listening to Leadbelly one minute to Bongzilla the next. I recently found out about this dude Colter Wall from Canada when his new album came on one of my Spotify playlists. That’s been on heavy rotation ever since. And of course ‘Chattahoochie’ by Alan Jackson.
Why is everyone always trying to get you drunk?
They want to hear me sing ‘Chattahoochie’ by Alan Jackson.
What else should people know about you?
Be careful when challenging me to a ping pong match.
We’re good right?
:-) <3 - DAN
Technology is driving the world of photography towards an unforeseen level of ultra-clear and pristine images and it has been for the better part of the last decade. Camera companies have to keep up with the increasing accessibility, versatility and cost effectiveness of smartphone cameras, and in the age of Instagram and Snapchat and all the mass marketing that goes into those platforms, it’s an understatement to call it a competitive industry.
In the way that 120mm was replaced by 35mm, and Polaroids were replaced with 1 hour photo stations at every pharmacy, the scramble to create the best and brightest product for taking photos, be it with a phone or traditional camera, is still being fought. With Social Media and everyone branding themselves now, the demand for clear and perfect photos taken on the best cameras money can buy would seem like it is at an all-time high, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Women of all body types and lifestyles are modeling online given the accessibility and ease of use that social media platforms have created and the built in foot traffic it offers, but for some instead of seeking out portrait studios and photography shoots that end in ultra-touched up, airbrushed shots of themselves, or even settling for the standard phone camera shot, they are taking a step back and reevaluating not only how their own image looks, but also how it is taken in the first place.
In a society where the definition of a woman’s character and her image is consistently being challenged, the need and desire to push back against oppressive social drawbacks is ramping up. The revival of feminism in the last few years has created a diverse media landscape, both on the end of consumers and on the marketing level. Sex sells, but it also has the ability to be exploitative and oppressive. In that same vein, the sociopolitical climate in the U.S. in particular is in a strange limbo between social progression and an equally powerful conservative backlash against it, which has created a fertile ground for alternative modeling and envelope pushing photography. The recent election alone having relied so heavily upon issues that solely concern women contextualizes why such an alternative movement is re appearing and why women are seeking ways of taking control of their images back from those who wish to define and constrict it.
Instagram is all the proof you need that film photography and intimate photography is alive and well. Brands like Suicide Girls have been presenting alternative modeling for years, but it is only as of late that an overall departure from agencies and binding contracts like the one with SG requires has begun to happen . Many models are simply cutting out the middleman and moving from trying to get publicity through contractual obligations that follow through companies like S.G. to marketing themselves and selling their photos directly to the consumer through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. You can even get prints through bigger format online stores like Etsy and even Ebay. The money goes directly from the consumer into the model or photographer's paypal account, without a cut going to anyone else. This liberation from management or agencies has put more power back into the hands of the artists and models themselves.
I spoke to Bette Machete, a model hailing from the Charlotte North Carolina area about her thoughts on the trend and it’s relation to women being more expressive with technique and content through modeling. She said “There are certain publications I will never be able to get into because I don't have a specific "look" or fit the type they are looking for. Well, good! I don't want to cater my look to specific publications. For me, it is true artistic expression. So for myself and many models alike, the opposite is happening. We are empowered and constantly inspired and striving to be better and push the envelope for ourselves and our creative happiness.I have always particularly been attracted to film and I am so thankful I am shooting a lot more of it these days and consciously choosing to focus on that medium of photography. It has made me feel very fulfilled and I am very excited that people follow and enjoy my film work and even routinely purchase my Instax and Polaroid photos.”
I can relate to this first hand. I have followed this trend simply out of interest and appreciation for the genre. Given that I only shoot film, I have an appreciation for the art, but since the dawn of time the female image has been a constant source of inspiration for artists and in a society where sex sells, the ultimate aesthetic power is that of the female form, which has been a double edged sword given the power dynamic is on the opposing end.
Now, with the rise of social media and the influx of alt models, the access to intimacy is just a message away. There is a connection between you and the model that feels very personal despite a screen and possibly thousands of miles geographically between you because most of the time, you can direct message them and have an interaction that consists of more than just money changing hands. Customers like the authenticity and rawness of the product. With a print or a literal instant photo, you can feel it and display it, as if you took the photo yourself. It appeals to the most voyeuristic inclinations in us. The vintage feel of it reminds you of something you could have found in an old box somewhere; a private moment you weren’t supposed to see, adding another layer of captivation to the product. A lot of the time, you will also get the photo hand signed with some kind of note from the model creating even more of an intimate bond. A lot of photographers are using the medium to create dreamy shots of their models, and the overall feel is much softer and sexier, even if the price of film is a little more costly.
On the photographer's end, it takes a different eye and a certain finesse to work with these formats. Instant photography is specifically challenging given how rudimentary some of the older cameras are and how unpredictable they can be. Lighting alone is a large factor, not to mention distance, colors, etc. Anyone with a digital camera can take photos on auto mode and get a good image, but even the new instant and film cameras Fuji and Lomography are putting out are tricky to master at times given the learning curve and the high cost of making a mistake with an eight pack of Impossible film hovering around $28 and a 20 pack of Fuji mini around the same price point. It costs money to fuck up, so the general idea of shooting on these mediums takes much greater attention to detail. Bette put it best saying “ Analog gives a raw effect with more depth that is difficult to mimic with digital. It's just so much more natural and real. I get a feeling from looking at a film photo that I don't get from looking at a digital photo. Anyone can be a model these days ( and likewise anyone can shoot photos ) but one can tell when a photographer/model deeply respects film and all the manual processes that make it work, whether it be experimenting with different types of film and film speeds, processing one's own film etc.”
Whether it be a sociopolitical statement, branding or just an aesthetic preference, film photography in the world of traditional modeling and alt modeling is alive and well. The path that lead us to this point is less important that the simple fact that women are taking back their image for themselves and the world of predatory and manipulative mass marketing is getting it’s well deserved lashback. Also, in general more people are getting back into analog photography and the culture is growing and becoming more accessible, which for anyone who cares about keeping the culture and development of the analog photography medium alive is a great thing.
Poor George Vintage is one of those brands with "cool" seeping out of its pores. It’s the type of company you come across and you find that you are kicking yourself because you wish you had come up with it first. All of the items are from the 1990's or earlier, so there is a little something from every era in her assortment, making it diverse and fun to shop through for almost anyone. All Poor George's success can be tied to its creator and my wife Cadah Hague and her seemingly limitless enthusiasm for buying and selling vintage clothes.
Cadah is the type of person that could take a flea market setup on blacktop on a 100 degree day and still find joy in it, which she has done plenty of times in the last 3 years of running PGV. Shes sweet and welcoming, and clearly loves what she is doing. The best part about interacting with her is that she’s not like other vintage sellers. She doesn't have that cold, distant, sanctimonious attitude that I have seen so much in my other interactions with vintage sellers. When you come to her in-person events, she doesn’t judge you or shy away from talking to you because at the root of it, she’s just genuinely happy to have someone show the same interest in her products that she does.
Cadah has shipped items around the world through her Etsy shop, including Thailand, Australia, Germany, and dozens of states in the U.S. Her photos in her shop are flawless and her ability to outfit her items is really the key success in how she is able to sell to such a broad and diverse customer base. She even goes the extra mile and adds hand written thank you cards, as well as pins and stickers, so that her customers get that little added flair to their purchase. She's always willing to answer questions on her Etsy when asked, and often times will go out of her way to get exact measurements, sizing quirks, or material info to give to you if you need more information before you are willing to make a purchase. Whether it's online, or in person, she strives to give the best customer service she can, because all she wants to do is spread her love for vintage and continue to make this dream of hers a reality.
I was able to sit down with Cadah without the interference of chores and the obligations of our busy lives, and get behind the curtain a bit to find out what makes her and her shop tick and what her plan is moving forward. Here is our interview.
Tell me about yourself
Hey I’m Cadah! I’m the owner/creator/curator/thrift queen behind my shop Poor George Vintage. I started the shop 2 years ago as a hobby and have been making it my life’s work since! In my free time from my day job and from PGV responsibilities, I like to go hiking, drink beer, and hang with friends. I’m mostly an extrovert but sometimes I have weird, awkward and unpredictable introvert tendencies; It’s really fun.
How did you get into vintage clothing?
I’ve always loved clothing and style since I was little and spent lots of time at the mall with my Grandma Janet who was a shopaholic. This coupled with my dad’s love of antiques and treasure hunting manifested itself into a deep love for vintage clothing and antiques. The best high in the world is discovering something unique and wonderful and I hope to bring that experience as much as I can to my shop.
Why do you think the vintage market has exploded so much in recent years?
It has a couple of major influences, the first being the sustainability aspect. By choosing to shop vintage consumers are making a conscious decision to reduce waste and exploitation that happens with the clothing industry, especially in fast fashion which is so trend and cost driven. Almost every piece I offer in my shop is made in the USA, and a lot of my product is 30+ years old and in excellent condition, mainly due to products from that era being so well made. A second influence in the market exploding is the consumers desire to own something unique. It’s all about treasure hunting to build your own personal style. Huge companies like Nasty Gal and Urban Outfitters also brought vintage clothing into the mainstream and showed consumers that vintage can be modern and trendy without the kitsch of the typical 40s/50s cocktail dresses that were the canon for vintage clothing for so long.
How would you say your perspective on your business has changed since you started the company?
Since it started out as a hobby, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself like I normally do, but as soon as I made my first couple of sales and did my first pop-up event, I realized that my life has shaped me for an entrepreneurial path and that retail and fashion were in my blood. I then shifted gears and began to concentrate mostly on in-person events, and that has spawned my plans to open my own brick and mortar. I’m always racked with self doubt, but with every ounce of support from my customers I am reminded that I can do this, that I am good at it, and that they’re down to support me and my dreams.
What sets you apart from your contemporaries?
I have a really solid background in retail, merchandising, trend forecasting (from my Art History degree), and customer service. Vintage clothing will always be there, but customers want to support people and their dreams and I make a huge effort to connect with my customers. I want them to love their purchases as much as I love being able to provide them with fresh product that makes my heart skip a beat.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Brick and mortar all the way! I will have a space that I can pour my creativity into and be a positive contributing member to the community wherever that may end up being.
What is the best and worst part of your job?
The best is the treasure hunting. I love spending hours and hours just scouring for new product. I’m getting giddy just thinking about going shopping! The worst part is not getting to keep all the stuff that’s in my size. I’ve sold so many things that afterwards I was like "crap. I should’ve kept that." But that’s okay, because then that customer gets to enjoy it and love it as much as I did.
Tell us something we don’t know about you
I have no plan B, sooo here’s to hoping this works out!