Origin Stories : Entry 03 — "Let Your Dreams Grow!" March 14, 2019 12:18

Origin Stories : Entry 03

Let Your Dreams Grow!


Four years into this journey, I am still amazed and delighted at how the pieces somehow fall into place. As I was writing my entry last week, I really wanted to talk about letting your creative dreams grow next. And like magic, we hit a creative milestone yesterday. We had our first ever studio photoshoot and it was filled with good times, smiles, and great conversations. Never did I ever think I would make it to this point. Somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew a photoshoot would be a great idea, but I always thought my project was too small and therefore undeserving of that level of production.
There are so many times I get down on myself and don't believe that my projects are worth the time and effort that "real" businesses can afford. It seems that every time I get there, something brings me back up. I'm starting to trust the ebb and flow of life — It seems to be like reading the ocean. Sometimes it feels like I'm overwhelmed and drowning, but I know I'm going to breathe again soon, and it's all going to be just fine.
For years, well, decades, I was so scared to follow a creative path. I've made art since I was 3. Obsessively. But I stuck with a math and science focus in school because I was decent at it, and the world around me told me that's how to get to "success." As a teenager, I'd stay up all night drawing just for fun, even though I had never taken any art classes. In college I doodled my way through chemistry and biology lectures. Eventually I dropped out of the sciences and became a design student. I loved that it combined two things I found really interesting : visual communication and sociology. But I still wasn't creatively fulfilled.
I'd go to art shows and feel this incredible pain. I would look at creative projects that artists were releasing and it would make me feel so sad. I loved what they were doing, but I couldn't stop feeling terrible about it. It made me really angry. After a very long time, I realized the reason for my sadness was that I wanted to do those things. It's what I had wanted to do my entire life and I had pushed the desire down in order to achieve some kind of goal that doesn't exist. What was success anyways? To be a great researcher? To be a great graphic designer? How would I even know when I got there? 
At that moment, I knew I had to live for my own fulfillment, day by day. Wow, that was hard. Removing all those ideas of what it means to be successful is like removing giant thorns from your body. It hurts so much and leaves you searching because of how empty you feel. I started to submit my most honest work to art shows because I knew that was the one thing I needed to do in life. I was NOT a confident artist at this point. I had a lot to say, and I said it. It was bold, loud, and sometimes ugly. I had panic attacks during my art shows, especially the very first one. I remember feeling out of my body. I couldn't even watch people viewing my tiny space in multi-gallery group show.
More times than I've felt any kind of success, I've wanted to give up. However, I already knew what would happen if I gave up — eternal disappointment and sadness at not spending time on my own projects. I'm sure there are a lot of you who feel this too, and I hope my story helps you believe that your dreams are worth it. YOU are worth it. Your dreams need you to continue to nurture them, and in turn, your dreams will guide you towards where to be next.
Stay tuned for another story next week! I'll tell you about how our 5% policy came to be. :)

Origin Stories : Entry 02 — "How did you get this job?" March 5, 2019 10:18 1 Comment

Origin Stories : Entry 02

"How did you get this job?"

Dynamite Starfish Origin Stories Entry 02

I was on a climbing trip in Red Rock, NV. Another climber in our group greeted me while in mid-conversation about my week. That week, I had art directed a chocolate photo shoot, attended a vendor event for Dynamite Starfish, and worked on some personal art projects. This is pretty standard for me, but he saw this as a wild array of duties. "How did you get this job?!" he exclaimed. I was completely caught off guard and didn't know how to respond.
I'm going to try to answer this question now. The first thing to note might be that no one gave me this job. It's something that took years, and maybe my entire lifetime, to discover, create and optimize. I believe the process of adjusting my career path has no end. Prior to my first full time job at 27 years old, I had worked 14 different jobs. My family told me to stop working part time jobs and focus on school. They felt this was indicative of how lost I was in life. Maybe they were right. I wandered for a really long time. In my 20's I moved from Los Angeles to Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and then back to California but still didn't settle down. I went snowboarding almost every week, backpacked during the summers, and rode dirt bikes through mountain trails. Although that lifestyle was full of excitement and new learnings, it was not sustainable for me. I went back to school and looked for full-time work.
Sitting still and dedicating myself to full-time design work taught me a lot. I worked on some really cool projects like music packaging for Neil Diamond and Smoky Robinson, and even designed the current sauce packets for Taco Bell. Of course, all of those projects happened because of the amazing team of designers, art directors, and creative directors that I was part of. I was so excited and proud to be working with them, and saw this as my long term career path. This is what I would do for the rest of my life! Probably? But then... the discontent started to sink in. I loved the work I was doing, but it was hard for me to make ends meet, financially. All that escapism from previous years had me in a lot of debt, and I was also really damaged from a five year romantic relationship gone bad. (Like, really bad) 
Even though I loved my work, I desperately wanted to go outdoors during the day, and would take short walks during lunch break just to get some sunlight. The stress of working in the design field is high. It seemed fun and totally doable at first. However, day after day, year after year, it really took it's toll on me. I started to rely on caffeine to get me through the day. I was rarely exercising. I mean, who even has time?! Working every day while trying to heal from an abusive relationship meant I started having horrible panic attacks at work (which involved dissociation, and sometimes even hallucination), and I got stomach ulcers a few times because of my stress and diet. I realized I had to leave the company, so I did. 
I left for another job opportunity, at an advertising agency that had... windows! So many of them. I was so stoked about the sunshine I'd get in a large open office. And the work seemed REALLY easy. Coming from a small team of designers (4-8 at any given time), I had no knowledge of what kind of office politics the advertising world had to offer. Part of me wants to elaborate, but the other part thinks you may already know. Let's just say, I lasted for about 6 months until I came to this realization: I'd rather be dirt poor then work at this place for one more day. I had a Google Hangouts meeting with an HR employee I never actually met, put in my two week's notice, and was free to face my fear of financial ruin and social incompetency. But obviously, it all turned out okay. 
Dynamite Starfish is not my full-time gig. I still have to do design work to pay the bills, but I do it as an independent contractor. I also make paintings, prints and sculptures as a personal creativity outlet, which occasionally generates a tiny bit of income. Sometimes I stay up all night and get depressed and cry (last week is a most recent example). but I see it as a good exercise in prioritization. When I get that overloaded, I'm forced to think about what work is truly important to me, and what I might need to release control of let someone else work on. All I wanted to do last week was eat cake, drink wine, and cry, but I managed to avoid at least two of those things. I got through it and made what I thought was enough currency (this includes emotional/spiritual currency, too) for the jobs I did. I stayed healthy, treated myself to a massage, and onward we go.
It still feels weird to talk about myself so much, but again, I hope this was helpful to some of you! Next time, I'll tell you more about finding a voice in the art world, and why I believe that if you have a creative dream, your creativity cannot be ignored or held back for long.
Thanks again for reading, and for sticking with me. I love you.
A list of every job I've had before Dynamite Starfish:
  1. Swimming instructor for toddlers
  2. Mall kiosk employee selling heat-proof CD cases
  3. Boba shop employee
  4. Korean restaurant cashier/server
  5. A different, higher end boba/tea shop employee in another town
  6. Claim Jumper hostess
  7. Japanese sword wrapping and blade manufacturing
  8. Freelance design work as a design student (I wasn't that good at it back then)
  9. Claim Jumper, again, in a different town (Hey, I really needed money)
  10. Office manager and Sales at a dental laboratory
  11. Handing out flyers for a fast casual chicken restaurant in Hollywood
  12. Interior construction work
  13. Gardening/indoor farming
  14. Opened and branded a motorcycle-themed coffee shop
  15. Studio graphic designer
  16. Social media content designer
  17. Founder/CEO/artist/t-shirt printer/sole employee at Dynamite Starfish

Origin Stories : Entry 01 — "I NEVER wanted to make t-shirts!" February 25, 2019 07:09

Origin Stories : Entry 01

I never wanted to make t-shirts

Dynamite Starfish Origin Stories - Entry 01 - I NEVER wanted to make t-shirts

You may be surprised to hear this. I NEVER wanted to make t-shirts. By the time I started Dynamite Starfish, I had heard my share of horror stories from (very talented) artist friends who had started their own apparel companies and found themselves unable to make a living and always stressed out. It struck me as a venture that I'd never be interested in, unless I really really REALLY believed in it.
Obviously, I did it anyways. You may wonder, (and sometimes I even wonder) why I would do such a thing. I also don't think I've told very many people why this project was started or what it's roots are. So I'm motivated to share some origin stories with you!
Dynamite Starfish was born in 2015. What I really wanted back then was very simple. I just wanted to eat, sleep and work when I wanted to. I had a full time office job where they demanded I be at work at a certain time, and required me to fight through Los Angeles traffic to get there. All the inconsistent sleeping had me eating unhealthily, and drinking to relieve stress, and don't even get me started on office bathroom discomforts (Ali Wong describes it best in one of her Netflix specials). I had started climbing again recently and was obsessed. It was my main physical and social outlet. I was going climbing outside on the as many weekends as possible, constantly packing and unpacking in order to get those small hits of outdoor time that were becoming ever more valuable as my climbing started to progress.
Being an artist and graphic designer, I made a handful of drawings based on places I had spent beautiful weekends in. I made them to celebrate the experiences we shared together as a community, and intentionally not about the landscapes, the climbs themselves or the accomplishments gained. My friends really liked them. Since I had taken a few printmaking classes in college, I thought, "Oh, maybe I can turn these into fun, hand-printed postcards and sell them for the cost of materials or give them away." But I was kidding myself. That's not sustainable for an artist. I had to rethink my approach.
Quite a few acquaintances informed me that my doodles would look great on t-shirts. In fact, that's just about the only medium they were truly perfect for. My reaction was this, "How annoying! I don't want to stock all those colors and sizes, never knowing what will be sold or if that design will sit in my tiny apartment for years. I can't do that. Absolutely not. Besides, I have a full time job! (in an office I hate, doing work I don't believe in)" But the seed was planted. I don't know about you, but for me, the seeds of possibility never lie dormant for very long.
This is a really brief introduction to my business, which I have so whimsically named, Dynamite Starfish. If you're not sure what that means, check out our About page.
This is the first entry of what I'm hoping will be an informative, helpful, dare I say — inspiring(?!) series of stories about why I started Dynamite Starfish. I'm sharing these because I want others to feel empowered to pursue their dreams. I never thought I could do it, but I was the lucky recipient of lots of great learnings and want to return the favor. The second story is to come... let's say, next week? I think it's going to be about leaving my 9-5 life.
Thanks for reading! 
Owner/Founder, Dynamite Starfish

100 Drawings about Climbing — Will Work for Booty February 24, 2019 12:26

Drawing No. 36/100 "Will Work for Booty"

Will work for booty

How hard would you work to get that nut un-stuck? I was presented with a glorious blue DMM offset nut for my birthday, at the third pitch of Dark Shadows. My partner is the best. 

[Trigger warning] 100 Drawings about Climbing — Gentrifying Homelessness February 10, 2019 12:25

Drawing No. 35/100 "Gentrifying Homelessness"

[Trigger warning] — This art will NOT resonate with everyone. It was also not created by me, but I did obtain the permission of the artists to include it in my 100 Drawings about Climbing series, and I screen printed the art on tees for the artists.

Gentrifying Homelessness since 2013

I collaborated with them for a few reasons. Although I am not against "vanlife", I do have opinions about the glorification of it, and it's "trendification". This image was an Instagram post way back in May of 2018, and yes it has truly been that long since I've updated the blog.

Since then, I hope a few good people have viewed "vanlife" with a bit more mindfulness. 

100 Drawings about Climbing — Heart Splitters May 11, 2018 10:37

Drawing No. 34/100 "Heart Splitters"

Because let's face it, a good percentage of us are climbing out of heartbreak.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Wanting. Waiting. Hoping. May 11, 2018 10:27

Wanting. Waiting.  Hoping.

Drawing No. 33/100 "Wanting. Waiting. Hoping."

Good mix of all three in climbing. Charcoal + digital processing.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Crush Every Day March 8, 2018 08:29

Dynamite Starfish - Rock climbing art - Crush Every Day

Dynamite Starfish - Rock climbing art - You're my Crush Every day - Valentine's Day


Drawing No. 32/100 "Crush Every Day." This one celebrates someone you love, or you do you! Created for Valentine's Day 2018.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante December 29, 2017 16:30

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante

Simultaneously stoked and heartbroken as I make plans for Zion and Indian Creek.⠀⠀

Drawing No. 31/100 "Bear's Ears."

100 Drawings about Climbing — Tender Sender December 29, 2017 09:00

Tender sender

Drawing No. 30/100 "Tender Sender."⠀

We are all about that tender-hearted send. How about you?⠀

Words by Narinda Heng. Climber, potter, poet, friend.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Climb Like a Bulldog December 28, 2017 19:00

Climb like a bulldog

Drawing No. 29/100 "Climb Like a Bulldog"⠀

"You climb like a bulldog."
"Is that a compliment or an insult?"

Maybe not the most graceful climber, but gets the job done! 

Art by guest artist Justin Moynihan

100 Drawings about Climbing — Passive Aggressive Tricam December 28, 2017 00:44

Passive Aggressive Tricam

Drawing No. 28/100 "Passive Aggressive"

100 Drawings about Climbing — Buckle Up Buttercup November 28, 2017 09:10 1 Comment

Dynamite Starfish 100 Drawings About Climbing Buckle Up Buttercup

Drawing No. 27/100 "Buckle Up Buttercup."

Saw this on a street sign driving out of Lander, WY. Thought it'd make a good doodle. 😏⠀

100 Drawings About Climbing — Fortune November 22, 2017 06:30

Dynamite Starfish — 100 Drawings About Climbing — Fortune

Drawing No. 26/100 "Fortune."

“How can you be your most authentic self as a human and as a maker? You have to make the work that you make. You literally don’t have anything else.” -Maya Gurantz
On making, on doing work, and on being a woman. On boldness.⠀

In Ten Sleep I got real introspective and made some sketches. Here's the third one. More than being directly inspired by the experience of climbing, these were perhaps more inspired by eighteen days spent on the road, away from the familiarity of friends and cities. Out here I was disconnected from my usual daily routine, but found that the new one I had embraced was quiet, peaceful, simple. Wake, eat, create, climb, eat, sleep. Over, and over, and over again.

100 Drawings About Climbing — Infinity November 21, 2017 06:30

Dynamite Starfish — 100 Drawings About Climbing — Infinity

Drawing No. 25/100 "Infinity."
Whether it is your own, or another life source. Proceed with care, though we may be resilient. 💞⠀

In Ten Sleep I got real introspective and made some sketches. Here's the second one. More than being directly inspired by the experience of climbing, these were perhaps more inspired by eighteen days spent on the road, away from the familiarity of friends and cities. Out here I was disconnected from my usual daily routine, but found that the new one I had embraced was quiet, peaceful, simple. Wake, eat, create, climb, eat, sleep. Over, and over, and over again.

100 Drawings About Cimbing — Letting Go November 20, 2017 08:24

Dynamite Starfish 100 Drawings About Climbing Letting Go

Drawing No. 24/100 "Letting Go."

In Ten Sleep I got real introspective and made some sketches. Here's the first one. More than being directly inspired by the experience of climbing, these were perhaps more inspired by eighteen days spent on the road, away from the familiarity of friends and cities. Out here I was disconnected from my usual daily routine, but found that the new one I had embraced was quiet, peaceful, simple. Wake, eat, create, climb, eat, sleep. Over, and over, and over again.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Go Dolomite Starfish October 16, 2017 14:07

Go Dolomite Starfish

Drawing No. 23/ 100 "Go Dolomite Starfish"

I drew this in anticipation of my trip to Italy, and specifically for climbing in the Dolomites!

100 Drawings about Climbing — Wyoming Bush October 16, 2017 14:06

Wyoming Bush


Drawing No. 22/ #100drawingsaboutclimbing "Wyoming Bush"


The greatest bush in all of the state. On it's own, it's a gnarly little thing with a woody trunk and sharp, brittle branches. Its leaves are dry, with almost no color except the lightest touch of green, like a faded artifact. Even the youngest ones look somehow ancient. They often grow in groups, covering entire hillsides — stripping the landscape of color except for that lightest touch of green. That particular tone, combined with the uninterrupted sky, is how I know — I'm in Wyoming, and I love it here.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Rage and Shout September 22, 2017 09:54

Drawing No. 21 "Rage and Shout"⠀

How I feel about climbing and surfing these days.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Anatomy of a Dynamite Starfish September 14, 2017 21:07

No. 21 of 100 Drawings about Climbing
"Anatomy of a Dynamite Starfish"⠀

Some people are confused about what a Dynamite Starfish is. Some call it "Dynamite Starship" or "Dynamite Starfrog." So here's clarification for those of you who aren't so sure of whatever this project is actually called.⠀

This idea came from a conversation I had a few weeks ago on the G.O. Get Outside podcast, where I ramble for a while about my "circuitous career path" and generally failing and flailing my way through life.

You can listen to it here!

100 Drawings about Climbing — Extraction August 15, 2017 14:28

Dynamite Starfish 100 Drawings Extraction


sometimes painful⠀
to pull the thorns from⠀
inside your bony cage⠀
and interrupt⠀
white space

Another one on the border of "climbing related" and "personal." If climbing is some form of personal expression for you, then you probably wrestle with this idea as well. Putting aside things like fear, ego, and fixation can be like pulling thorns from inside your skeleton, but when you can push through your comfort zone, amazing things can happen. Maybe you'll do or say something you need to without fear of interruption, get on a route that you may not have previously considered, or just have fun without worrying about falling or sending.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Socks 'n' Stocks August 9, 2017 08:11

Socks n Stocks


This one is for a friend who believed this footwear combination was totally appropriate for camping in 20 degree desert nights.⠀

Share with a friend you love to suffer with!

100 Drawings about Climbing — Pivot Point July 17, 2017 07:37

I'm so sorry, 100 Drawings about Climbing project, I've been cheating on you with my own personal work as of late. When I started this project, I didn't expect that I'd go down this road. But I think when you make attempts to be more creative (in any aspect) you open doors for other channels. So, I suppose worlds will collide now and I'll post some of these as part of this "climbing-related" project.

Pivot Point

Drawing No. 18/100 "Pivot Point"

Contemplating the introduction of a thing, upon which everything must change. Perhaps some hidden beta, or previously unseen foot hold? Or fact of life gone by that eventually settles into truth. Either way, accept the unseen, and do not be afraid to change it all.

100 Drawings about Climbing — Crushed Leaf and Tiny Rocks July 15, 2017 08:00

After a day of multi-pitch climbing in Tahquitz, and some seriously inspiring conversations, I found this little scenario in my left shoe.

Crushed Leaf and Tiny Rocks