Branding Rustic

Posted online: June 2014

Stormy Monday Goods branding irons.

Stormy Monday Goods founder Neil Harrison in the wood shop.

 

Get Neil Harrison going about his high-performance surfboards or the custom skateboards and cutting boards coming out of his wood shop and you’ll get a glimpse of his stoked inner teenager. That driving force of his youth—equal parts doodling artist, aspiring craftsman, and wave-riding skate rat—became finely honed over the years, first in the art department at surf-apparel giant Quiksilver, then at rival Volcom, which he helped launch in 1991. And now it’s carried him here, to a Montecito bungalow beneath mature oak and sycamore trees, the home of Stormy Monday Goods.

Harrison’s living room is an organized and sparsely appointed creative space where art books and collectibles welcome visitors to a fireside surround-sound from his vast and cherished record collection. At a small table, Harrison, 43, inspects a pair of Stormy Monday denim jeans—checking thread color, stitching strength, and the feel of the nylon-weave pockets he makes out of army surplus sleeping bag liners. He handcuts his pant labels from thick pieces of scrap leather.

Except for the surfboards, all of Harrison’s goods are built at least partially from repurposed materials. Many of his cutting boards, for example, started out as discarded off-cuts on a cabinetmaker’s shop floor. After some shaping, sanding, and finishing, the hardwood slabs are ready for the kitchen. Similarly, Stormy Monday skateboard decks are old maple beaters that he’s reshaped, sanded, and repainted for the wildly growing skate demographic that digs the smaller, so-called cruiser boards. Others forgo the streets entirely and instead hang them as wall art. Either way, Harrison stays busy working with his hands and on his own terms.

“More and more craftsmen, engineers, artists, and the like are literally getting back in the garage and creating and building their own brands the way they want to,” says Harrison. “They’re working for themselves and being able to hire their friends and have a better quality of life. I believe it’s a very exciting time to be a small manufacturer.”

Darrick and Lana Rasmussen

He’s not alone. Out front, at the end of the dirt driveway, the wood shop is strangely quiet. Saws and sanders are shut off as Harrison’s good friend, Darrick Rasmussen, wipes a soft cloth along the vivid grain of a stunning walnut credenza that he’s spent nearly 100 hours building from scratch. “I’ve been interested in furniture since I was a kid, going to flea markets with my mom,” says Rasmussen, dressed in Stormy Monday denim, a waxed canvas shop apron, and steel-shank utility boots. “I always had this fantasy about having a wood shop when I was an old guy.”

Low rocker by Rasmussen.

At 37, Rasmussen is way ahead of his dream. Like Harrison, he grew up surfing and skateboarding in and around Orange County, with backcountry snowboarding trips to the mountains. Starting in his 20s, he played guitar and toured with rock band Innaway for about seven years. Back from the road, he began revisiting early impulses to build furniture, and after a handful of community college wood shop classes in his native Huntington Beach, he moved to northern California for a rigorous, two-year certificate program in fine woodworking from College of the Redwoods. Right there by his side, making her own art, was his wife, Lana Rasmussen. Lana and Darrick met Harrison through the cupcake baker at their wedding four years ago. They’ve been friends ever since.

A skipping stone’s throw down the creek bordering the property, Lana has set up her art studio in an outbuilding flooded with natural light. The space—a modern, open-concept cabin in the woods—doubles as her and Darricks’s home. She’s projecting a transparency of one of her prints against a large sheet of paper tacked to a wall, preparing to draw the small piece into larger form. Nearby, several of her drawings cover a small desk. “All of the drawings are ink on etching paper,” she explains, “with any color done with colored pencil. I specialize in works on paper.”

Stormy Monday Goods; Harrison and Rasmussen share a laugh in their woodworking shop.

While Lana’s techniques come from a fine arts degree from New York University, her Native American motifs—the buffalo silhouette in black ink, the headdress prints from carved linoleum block—descend directly from her grandmother’s Lenape tribe, as does Killscrow, the name of the company through which she and Darrick sell their art and furniture. “It’s all very much about using our hands and making these things ourselves,” says Lana. “Our end results are so different, but when it comes to our tastes, we all have a well-rounded sense of what we’re interested in, and we’re always feeding off each other’s art, music, books, all that.”

“When you get into something, you want to excel, to learn more techniques,” adds Harrison, back in the main house preparing for a R&D surf trip down to Mexico. “I’m learning joinery and how to sharpen blades from Darrick. And I can be a sounding board for him and Lana and the work they do. It’s really about community, opening doors for each other.”

Lana Rasmussen at the artisans’ playground.

Harrison and Rasmussen enjoy downtime on the brick patio beneath the oaks and sycamores.

 

 

 

 

 

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