By: Gavin Sheehan
Back out onto Gallery Stroll we go this month for one of the hottest days of the year. Which is kinda funny since Broadway had an outdoor festival to go along with it. Despite the heat it was one of the busiest events we had all year, and while most of the action was held to 3rd South, we travel off the beaten path again for a little something awesome.
Blonde Grizzly recently opened up on 4th South, sitting next door to The Manhattan and Royal Eatery, occupying a space previously held by a photographer. But within the gallery/retailer is an artistic and geek paradise. T-shirts, prints and high-class artwork both original designs and inspired works based around cartoons and gaming from both local and national artists. After barely opening two weeks ago the place joined up with Stroll to show off everything they could for public view. I got a chance to chat with the married duo behind the place about it all, plus took some pictures for you to check out over here, showing off everything they have for sale and the artwork on display this month.
Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Hillary: We currently have a house in Layton, and have an adorable puppy, Bear. We really love our house, but hate being so far away from Salt Lake. We are hoping to move back to the city soon.
Gavin: How did you both take an interest in art and what were some early influences on you both?
Hillary: I went to school at the U and majored in Graphic Design. I have always loved art and have been creating things since I can remember. Growing up, I was completely content staying home on a Friday or Saturday night and creating. I am inspired by everything around me. From art, crafts, graffiti, architecture, fonts, textiles, etc.
Caleb: I love Alex Pardee and Greg “Craola” Simkins artwork. I didn’t get heavily into art until I saw their stuff. That’s why I have a store. I love their artwork and finding new artists.
Gavin: Caleb, you went to UVSC and SLCC, and Hillary went to the U. What made you both choose those colleges and what were those programs like for you?
Hillary: I am from Idaho and started out at Ricks College. I got my associates there. At that time, it was a two year school so I needed to find somewhere else to go to school. I had heard a lot of great things about the Design program at the U. I moved to SLC really fell in love with the city. I applied for the Design program at the U and got accepted. I started school there and really enjoyed the program at the U. At the time, it was heavily print based and I didn’t learn a lot about web design and such. I wish there was more focus on that aspect of design.
Caleb: I went to UVSC because my friends were moving to Provo. I didn’t want to be away from my friends. So I moved there too. I took a couple semesters of school there. When I moved to SLC, I tried school again at SLCC. School wasn’t really for me, so I kind of fizzled out of school.
Gavin: How did you both end up meeting each other and eventually marrying?
Hillary: We met through friends of friends. We dated for four years and have been married for three.
Gavin: Hillary, after you got your degree, how did you end up getting into Graphic Design professionally and how has it been for you working your way through that career?
Hillary: I got a job as a Graphic Designer for Making Memories, a scrapbooking company, right out of school. I started out working there doing packaging and catalog design. I moved to product design after about a year of working there. I worked as a product designer for about three years. I really loved my job, but always loved the idea of working for myself. I started doing freelance work while working there and eventually quit my job to just to freelance work. I now work from home.
Gavin: Caleb, during this time what made you choose retail, and what led to you wanting to quit after all that time?
Caleb: I just kind of fell into retail. I felt like a second class citizen working retail. Some customers were really cool, but most treated you like dirt. I wanted to be excited about going to work, not dread it.
Gavin: Where did the idea to start up Blonde Grizzly come from?
Caleb: I just wanted to do something on my own. I worked at the same retail job in the same position that I started in for the last three years and was tired of it. The only way that I saw getting out of it, besides getting another corporate retail job, was to start something on my own. We started with a kiosk in the Layton Hills Mall for three months. It was a good starting point, but wasn’t really what I wanted long term.
Gavin: What made you decide on the downtown location, and how was it for you guys getting set up?
Hillary: Even when we opened the kiosk in the mall, we always knew we would end up downtown. It’s a better market for what we are selling.
Caleb: We are still in the process of getting setup and getting more product in.
Gavin: How did you go about deciding what you’d have in stock, and what’s the balance like between local and national artists?
Caleb: At the kiosk, we carried a line called Zerofriends. Their main artist is Alex Pardee. That’s where we started and we are carrying over that inventory into our store. Through Zerofriends, we also got connected with Dave Correia. We are working towards a balance between local and national artists. We have some local artists exhibiting artwork in our first show. We are in the process of working with more local artists and getting their product in our store. I am headed to ComiCon in San Diego this month to look for new stuff.
Gavin: For those curious, what kind of stuff can people find in the store?
Caleb: We sell artist t-shirts from Zerofriends. Their artists include: Alex Pardee, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Skinner & Camilla d’Errico. We will have Vic Back’s t-shirt line. We have limited edition prints from Alex Pardee, Dave Correia and Skinner. We have Mode Clutches by Amber Dunford. We will be adding more stuff all the time from local and national artists.
Gavin: How did the decision come about to start having exhibitions in the store as a gallery stop?
Hillary: We have always loved the Gallery Stroll and thought it would be fun to be a part of that. I love the idea of an artist coming in and taking over the look of the shop for their gallery exhibition. Being a part of the Gallery Stroll broadens our customer base and heightens awareness of the shop and the artist we are featuring.
Gavin: Speaking of, this is your first Gallery Stroll. Tell us a bit about what you have on display for this month.
Caleb: Our theme is Saturday Morning Cartoons. Based on the age of the artists, the cartoons featured are from the 80’s.
Hillary: It is a fun and nostalgic show.
Gavin: Who are some of the artists you’ll have on display and how did you choose to include?
Caleb: For our first show, we are featuring a group of artists to get more people involved. The artists for this show are: Alex Pardee, Dave Correia, Vic Back, Alex Hinton, Austen Stanton, Jared Snow, CW Mihlberger, Mark Yamamoto and Nikki Goddard. We wanted to start with friends and build from there. We want to feature both established artists and up-and-coming artists.
Gavin: Moving to local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Hillary: I think we have a great art scene. It’s definitely growing and people appreciate art here.
Caleb: I opened the gallery and within a week have had a lot local artists show me their amazing work. Salt Lake City has a lot of really great artists. We hope to be a hub for many local and national artists.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Hillary: I think our job as a gallery/store is to help people become aware of our exhibitions and give them the opportunity to see what we have to offer… and what this city has to offer. We are here to educate people on the artists we exhibit and get people excited about art. If they are stoked about what they see at our store, they are going to go home and look up more artists. That’s what is so exciting about our store.
Gavin: What’s your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?
Hillary: Up until this point, we have always just been “gallery strollers”. We love going to the strolls. There is always a big turnout. Now we have the opportunity to be a bigger part of the Stroll. We are really excited about this.
Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?
Hillary: We are really excited about the shows we have booked for the rest of the year. In August, we have Cindy Ferguson, a local artist, doing a solo show. She is an amazing paper cutting artist. September we have local artists Nick & Erin Potter of Potter Press. They do really great installations and we are excited to see what they come up with for our store. October will be another group show featuring local and national artists. It will have some sort of Halloween theme. Our year will finish off with Kalvin Lazarte who is from Utah and currently living and working in New York City. He does amazing work and he floats on moonbeams.
Gavin: Is there anything you’d like to plug or promote?
Caleb: Every artist that we have mentioned, check them out. We are in business because of them. They are amazing. Alex Pardee, Dave Correia, Skinner Davis, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Camilla d’Errico, Vic Back, Mode Clutches, Candace Jean, Alex Hinton, CW Mihlberger, Mark Yamamoto, Austen Staton, Jared Snow, Nikki Goddard – firstname.lastname@example.org, Cindy Ferguson, Potter Press and Kalvin Lazarte.