One of my favorite stages of starting a business is the branding process, likely because it gives me the opportunity to work with skilled creative types who I’ve always envied deeply, yet the process feels so foreign when compared to the mechanical or structural design process that I am so accustomed to. I’ve never considered myself a creative person, because I think the ultimate form of creativity is being able to sit down with a pencil and paper and create something as powerful as a good logo. My work takes computers, months, and involves others to bring it to life. A good artist or graphics designer can operate independently with minimal resources. Branding Project Cedrus was something I’ve been excited about from the beginning, but with so many expenses from patents to molds to prototypes it was not an option. Fortunately, the various kite beach logos from my other side project, Bay Area Kiteboarding created an opportunity for launch customer personalization, which was a feasible touch at small scale. But after the decision to move forward with additional production batches, I knew I needed something easier for my shop and felt comfortable investing in a new decal that captured the essence of this project.
As mentioned in my introductory post, Project Cedrus was named in honor of the First Nations use of composite materials, Cedar trees in the form of dugout canoes. Given this, and my PNW roots, I began looking for an artist to help with a decal incorporating tribal style, such as Salish or Haida. Finding a Native artist with aptitude in modern digital vector based tools was a challenge. I needed something that I could scale for a website, but also load into a vinyl cutter for decals on the mast and someday maybe even screen-printed T-shirts. I reached out to the local Suquamish Art Museum, which is on reservation land adjacent to my home on Bainbridge Island, and got some leads. But nothing materialized, either due to miscommunications, timelines, or budgets. After months of researching other resources, I met some artists who despite some experience with that style, were no longer working in those themes after accusations of cultural appropriation. I was very puzzled by that concept, as to me it was more of an appreciation and respect for other cultures and history. Plagiarizing was the ultimate sin in my book, not incorporating historical styles using modern tools.
Just as I began to run out of patience, and was even considering doing it myself, my dad gave my a copy of Outside Magazine containing an article about one of my favorite artists, Roy Henry Vickers. The story in Outside covers an amazing project executed by Vickers, re-creating one of the largest and most complex totem poles in history. Reading the story gave me chills, as in it Vickers touched on some of the themes I was encountering in my project like accusations of inauthenticity and the use of modern design tools. To get a sense of Roy and his work, you simply have to read the story. I cannot do it justice.
My relationship with Roy’s work began almost 30 years ago after sailing around Vancouver Island with my dad. Near the end of the 5 week circumnavigation in 1990, my dad purchased a print by Roy Henry Vickers at his gallery in Tofino, BC. It hung in our house throughout most of my childhood, and might have disappeared around the time of my teenage years when I would have been least likely to notice it. Fast forward 20 years, my dad offers my wife and I a chance to peak through his old art to see if there’s something we want for our new home. Hidden in the stack was Megin Lake, and without hesitation we took it to a frame shop and had it reframed before hanging above our mantle. It is the center piece of our living room.
After reading the article in Outside, I figured it couldn’t hurt to contact Roy. This assumes of course that he would not be offended by my proposal to design a logo for a 3ft carbon mast, which is laughable when compared to working with the Canadian Government to fell a 16ft diameter cedar tree and sky crane it to your workshop to execute one of the most complex art projects of your life. So I emailed his gallery, as there was not contact info direct to Roy. I gave a little background on the project and my interest in a logo incorporating an eagle and an orca, to symbolize flying on water as foiling allows. To be honest, I did not expect to hear back, which is part of what made his response so exciting.
“I am still interested in your project, I was born into the Eagle clan and my father was Orca and my life has been about working with cedar so this is very personal.” -RHV
The process went incredibly smooth. By far the smoothest of any graphics design/identity project I have ever conducted. It only took 3 basic concepts, ranging from an eagle to a dorsal fin to a totem pole. In the end, he was able to capture everything I wanted into a simple yet powerful logo with the perfect aspect ratio to mount on the mast. Working with him has been a pleasure and honor, and I am so grateful for his interest in the project and ability to execute beyond expectations. Thank you, Roy!