James Johnson Pt. 1 | Power to the Makers

Through our relationship with N-grained, Inc we were introduced to a man of mellow charm and incredible talent. Through this interview we discovered an epic story of tradition, skill, unique challenges, and a mind-blowing legacy in progress.

This is Part 1 of our “Power to the Makers” interview with artist James Johnson.

DCS: For those who don’t know, who is James Johnson?

James: I am Tlingit Indian from Juneau, AK. I belong to the Ch’aak Dakl’awedi Clan (Eagle/Kllerwhale). I’m an artist for N-Grained Inc, founded by Mark Landvik. I’m a husband and a father.

My son Elias is my biggest inspiration for my art. He was born with a life threatening genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis (you can learn more at www.cff.org). When my son was born, it was heart breaking to hear the average life expectancy of a person with CF is 39 years old. I had never cried in front of my wife until the day he was diagnosed. But, we made the decision right away to not hold Elias back from anything, we are going to give him every chance to live a full life. He requires a lot of treatments everyday, his care and his health is my main priority. Kids with CF are very resilient, they work so hard just to do what we take for granted, which is just to breathe.

Elias has taught me to value every second you get in this life, focus on what matters most. For me, it’s all him.

DCS: Your cultural heritage is a crucial part of your work. What was your upbringing like and how did you develop your painting & carving skills?

James: My late father Franklin Johnson was the first person to encourage me to carry on the Tlingit culture thru my artwork. He was my biggest supporter for sure when I first started. He passed away 2 years ago, I think about my dad often when I’m painting or carving, I know he’s smiling alongside me when I finish a piece.

I am self-taught, which is a rare thing for Tlingit art. Traditionally, the art is passed down from generation to generation. But, I didn’t really get into Tlingit art until 8 years ago. I currently live in Phoenix, AZ, so I wasn’t able to apprentice under an artist to have the knowledge passed down to me directly. I am the first Tlingit artist in my family line. There are a lot of fundamentals and principles behind what you see visually. The form line tell stories of our culture and heritage, lines are symmetrical, sizes and widths are exact, you have to balance the positive and negative spaces, everything is very precise. I’ve spent a lot of time reading books about form line, studying old photographs of artwork, and looking at pieces in museums.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent carving in my garage when it’s over 100 degrees in Arizona. I had to develop these fundamentals on my own through a lot of practice. As an artist, you learn the fundamentals, but how you apply them to your art develops your style.

DCS: What does it mean to you personally to carry on the traditions of your people through your art?

James: My favorite Tlingit artist I look up is Nathan Jackson, he is all-time. In 2012, I had one of my masks selected for the Sealaska Celebration Juried Art Show in Juneau, Alaska. Nathan was one of the jurors who selected my piece, and I asked him to critique my work. I was so nervous. Long story short, he told me how bad I was, haha. But, instead of getting discouraged, I used that feedback as motivation to become better. This past year, I was able to finally meet Nathan in person. It was such an honor. I had to work hard to get to where I’m at. But, the beauty is, developing your form-line and carving is a life-long learning process, the progression is never ending. Now, everyday I do something to better my art, that’s what you have to do if you want to be good. Northwest Native art is so beautiful, I feel that this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life.

That is everything to me. The artwork that I do was created hundreds of years ago by my ancestors, they created and developed this art form into what you see today. We are all creating our interpretation of it, while preserving the traditions of the culture. The art form was passed down from generation to generation. During the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, a lot of the traditions were lost in all native cultures. Potlatches and ceremonies were outlawed, the language was not allowed to be spoken in schools, the onset of disease drastically reduced entire native populations, and entire villages were left abandoned. Native people suffered, and there was a generation gap where the art form suffered as well. The time period was very tragic.

So, I see it as this beautiful gift was placed into my hands by my ancestors, it is my privilege to carry it through my lifetime, then pass it on to the next generation. I’m going to make the most out of it, leave my mark long after I’m gone, and hopefully pass it on to my son Elias.

I’m honored to do my part.

DCS: 3 questions in and already we’re blown away. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Read Part 2 HERE.

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DCS Vinyl Color Chart

Still The Standard

Standard Vinyl Die-Cuts (aka Decals aka Transfer Stickers) are STILL cut directly from a vinyl that comes manufactured in a variety of colors and are NOT printed in any way.

An Important Update

To see the color options we offer in all their vinyl glory, look no further than our handy updated DCS Color Chart above. You can choose from our expanded inventory and most frequently ordered colors, as well as reference their closest Pantone match. Even though these are our primary stock colors, make sure to inquire about other colors as MANY are available.

Stay Sharp

You can also keep the chart handy by downloading the PDF HERE, but make sure to check our Standard Vinyl Die-cut page periodically for updates.

As always, reach out to us by Requesting A Quote.

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Drink Water Rat Race 2016

A photo posted by DRINK WATER (@wedrinkwater) on

The Mt. Hood summer tradition is back!

Once again, hydration lifestyle movement Drink Water will gather snowboarding’s elite to find out who’s the fastest and who’s the lastest as they race down Palmer Glacier at High Cascade Snowboard Camp.

DCS is back on board as a sponsor to provide stickers and help Drink Water raise money to benefit Water.org. Last year over $20k was raised for clean water projects and the goal is to blow that out of the water (literally).

Check out the video above and see photos from last year courtesy of Transworld Snow and follow #DrinkWaterRatRace all over social media to see what’s going down this year.

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Pantone Matching Explained

What are Pantone Colors?

The Pantone Matching System is a standardized system of colors used for reproduction. By developing a library for designers and printers worldwide, consistency and matching in printed materials can be achieved. This is especially important in visual branding and multiple runs of similar colors or designs.

How Do they Apply to Stickers?

Both our Screen-Printing and Digital Printing Processes use CMYK inks, which means various combinations of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are used to create colors. Screen-printing is extremely accurate but Digital Printing can offer noticeable variation in color.

Additionally, when it comes to Digital Artwork what you see on screen isn’t what you always get. Factor in the fact that printing on vinyl offers some slight changes from printing on paper stock and you’ve got some muddy waters to navigate.

What You Can Do

Calibrate Your Monitor: If you don’t want to use Pantone colors, try calibrating your monitor so colors are more accurately presented. While it will never be 100% accurate, a little work can help you achieve a stronger sense of what your stickers will look like.

Use the Right Set: If you are interested in using PMS colors, use a Pantone Solid Coated book to choose colors. This will present options that look similar to colors printed on vinyl.

Simplify Your Palette: Relying mostly on black and white while incorporating a 3rd color can make for a stylish graphic. This also eliminates potential room for error with complex colorways.

Request Production Samples: If you’re an illustrator with a colorful, detailed style ask for samples so you can see what the final form of your sticker will be prior to ordering.

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O’Douds x Compas | A Nature Trail Collaboration

We recently had the opportunity to work with the everyday explorers at Compas on some Digitally Printed labels for their super-secret collab project with O’Douds Apothecary. Now that everything has launched we’re hyped to show off the final product.

Read below for details on the launch.

O’Douds x Compas – A Nature Trail Collaboration

The cedar and white pine pomade is the first product in our nature trail collaboration series. O’douds Apothecary is a young, New York based business dedicated to handmade, natural, high quality products. It was a natural fit for Compas to collaborate with O’Douds as part of The Wild Life collection. We shared in our desire to create the highest quality product inspired by the Catskills Mountain Range.

Our chief goal at Compas is to inspire you to explore and embrace the opportunities the world has for you, turn your dreams into a reality. #Exploremore

Can’t wait to see what else they guys have coming for Summer. Make sure you check out O’Douds and Compas online.

If you’re interested in some custom labels of your own Request A Quote.

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