Friday, April 29, 2011

Featured Artist: Vil Luangraj

I am so excited to introduce to some of you (I'm sure many of you already know Vil) Mr. Vil Luangraj. I have known Vil for many years now. We met at a Meg and Dia show, saw some of his amazing artwork, began working with him on Meg and Dia projects, and the rest is history!

The latest project Vil did for us is a sailboat t-shirt that will be available soon along with a whole bunch of more merch on our storenvy site.

His artwork has been used by the following artists as well:

-Ronnie Day
-Falcon Scott
-ThreadSence Clothing
-Anna Judge April - Singapore
-Fly Upright Kite

Now, without further ado...

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Vil and I am a cartoon-esque artist. Some of my friends call me Bear.

Apart from creating what do you do?

I love to longboard! It’s a type of skateboard. I’m moving to California in a couple weeks and I can’t wait to do it along the coast as the sun dives behind the sea and the waves crawl up and slide along the sand. I also love to travel and hope to road trip all over the U.S. I’d like to explore New England and experience New York City and its’ unique culture. I want to find some of the hidden gems tucked away in America’s folds and wrinkles. Lately I’ve also been more into searching for and watching indie films, documentaries, and listening indie music. Indie films are always more true to life and I can’t escape the charm of indie music. It really projects the soul of artist and you wonder what kind of person they are and what kind of life they’ve lived. At least I do anyway. Ha ha.

What would be the title of your memoir?

It would have to be… “The Life and Times of a Dreamer”.

Where does your inspiration come from?

You know that tremendous feeling you get when you see something like an elderly couple holding hands while they sit on a park bench or when you come across something from your childhood and the rush of fond memories cascade from forgotten corners of your heart? It comes from things like that I think.

Who has been most influential in your art?

I’d have to say probably Norman Rockwell and Hayao Miyazaki because whenever I see their artwork I want to stop and look at it or buy it. Ha ha. I have a Norman Rockwell painting, likely a reprint, and many works by Miyazaki. Norman Rockwell always tells some sort of a story in his work and the people in it feel so alive in the way they interact. That may be my favorite part. Miyazaki is so imaginative and I love the imagery he creates to tell the stories in his films. The artwork is usually simple but has so much character. It’s very unique to him and you can always tell it’s his work from just a glance. I think what I learned from him is that it’s about substance of the small details. You can be simple with your artwork and still give it great presence.

When did you know you were an artist?

Probably when I started to consistently get request to do artwork. I love to draw and have drawn since I was a small child. I still come across old spiral notebooks from when I was a kid and they’re filled with doodles of things like super heroes and robots. It was always that I drew to project the fruit of my imagination to pass the time, but now I have people asking me to draw things for them for publication or for them personally and that‘s a great feeling. Art has always been a part of my life in a significant way for as long as I remember and I think I wouldn’t ever really feel complete being anything other than an artist. It is one of the things I enjoy most in life. I think that’s really important for everyone to do what they love and what makes them happiest.

How would you describe your creative process?

I’d say it’s very simple. I don’t have much of a studio or anything. It’s just me with my headphones on playing music from my laptop on my bed with a sketch book and a small pencil box of art supplies. I usually draw at night with a small lamp on. It kind of sets the mood like when you were a kid under a blanket with a flashlight reading a book, like in the movie “The Never Ending Story”. I drown out everything with music and just relax and draw. When I’m asked how I come up with some of the things I’ve drawn, I don’t really have an answer. It just comes out from somewhere in my head onto the paper I guess. When I was little, my mother never let any of my friends over or let me go over to friends houses because she was very overprotective so being very imaginative was the remedy to any boredom that kind of life inevitably conjures.

If you could peak inside the studio of any artist (dead or alive), who would it be?

Most definitely Norman Rockwell. I’ve seen Hayao Miyazaki documentaries and have seen how he works, but Norman Rockwell is from a different era. He’s from a time before all this technology. Just imagine what must have inspired him in the eras he grew up in and lived through. He was military artist during World War I and illustrated for the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn books. I wonder what kind of person he was and what thoughts swirled around in his head as he sat in his studio, lost in his work. To look over his shoulder and prod him with a question here and there while he worked on his art would be a real treat.

What piece of art do you own that you most cherish?

My most cherished piece of art is the very first poster I did for Meg & Dia. It means a lot to me. Not only is it the first piece ever published but it was for my favorite musicians. I have it framed along with the first tour poster from my first Meg & Dia show and the first shirt the band printed with my artwork. For people who I looked up to and admired creatively to acknowledge and appreciate my art to the degree of wanting it to visually represent their music was quite surreal and tremendously encouraging. The thought of doing artwork for the band had never crossed my mind because I believed my talent to be mediocre at best. I remember when Nick asked me in Hollywood, outside the venue as I waited to get in for your show, if I wanted to draw a poster for the band and I just stared blankly in shock and said “…Okay.” I remember you laughing at my astonishment. Ha ha. I think doing artwork for your favorite band would be something one would have to work up to and hope to possibly achieve and it is crazy that it was my inaugural publication. Whatever I may do in my career as an artist, my time doing artwork for Meg & Dia will always be what I hold dearest.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?

I will usually walk away from what I’m working on and do something else to clear my head. My over-thinking and habit of wanting things to be fit perfectly together is often the cause. I’ll think “Okay, what should go here? What belongs? What is meant to be here?” to the point that whatever I think up doesn‘t feel good enough. Most of the time it’s that I’ll draw in something that looks great but I feel it doesn’t quite fit into the piece as a whole. Those are the times my floor becomes strewn with eraser shavings. Ha ha. So I’ll go do something like look for new music, watch different videos online, or play a video game. Anything to make me stop thinking about the artwork so that I can come back fresh.

Where would you like to be in ten years?

I really just hope that wherever I am and whatever I end up doing, that I am happy and have good people in my life. I like not quite knowing on what untold shores my ship will make anchor. Time is short and waits for no one. The cogs seem to turn faster with each passing year and I hope by the time the last stroke reaches the last corner, that the pages of my life are lush and tell the story of someone who chased his dreams on the backs of fireflies on warm summer nights. Someone whose courage did not fail him when his gaze was met by a beautiful stranger and their meeting became more than just a memory, left to decay. And of someone who ran like the wind toward every new horizon, with his arms outstretched under cerulean skies, baring his teeth and breathing deep the blowing wind.

To check out more of Vil's work check out @ ThreadSence and Fear to Faith

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review of "Cocoon" by Live Music Guide

This is a great review by Live Music Guide. If you would like to see the review on their site you can read that here:

Meg & Dia 

Sister fronted band Meg & Diarecorded and released their latest album Cocoon this month. Completely free from the influence of record labels, the album captures what the band is truly striving for in their creative process, and has already been met with popular demand.

Following the new found sound of their recent EP It's Always Stormy in Tillamook, Meg & Dia have created a full length adventure into a folk style that demonstrates how much their tastes and talent have matured over their musical career. Soothing guitar and piano riffs are frequent in the album, accompanying melodies and choruses that manage to invite the listener along into a far more personal experience. "Love Is" starts the album off, and demonstrates the lyrical and instrumental style to be expected from the following ten tracks. Though it begins soft, a steady bass line and drum beat accompany a chanting and clapping chorus that power the song through.

While a majority of the album follows the folk sound Meg & Dia have adopted so well, songs like "Mary Ann" manage to blend in their pop-rock roots for a very dynamic product. The song greatly captures a southern/western feel, and the catchy lyrics will undoubtedly force any listener to find themselves singing along. The album reaches a stunning climax with the song "Separate" that well demonstrates the various styles of dramatic and altogether haunting music and lyrics that are inherent over the course of the record. After three minutes of gentle and captivating music, the band breaks out into what is easily one of their most intense song segments ever conceived.

The album wraps up with an 'angsty' tune that is driven by Dia's ever powerful vocals, guided by progressive guitar riffs, but contained by beautiful choruses. The compilation of efforts in Cocoon result in a very enjoyable listening experience. Meg & Dia not only adopted their new sound well, but will certainly pave the way for fans and newcomers alike to find interest and entertainment in the realms of folk and blues style music.

 Photo Courtesy: Amber Wade
Main Photo: Cover of Co coon, courtesy Meg & Dia

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Creative Ruts and How to Avoid Them

-Write down randomly selected words on rocks, find a barn (preferably red and with attractive and healthy farm animals grazing about), chuck the rocks over the roof, scream "Annie-I-Over" at the top of your lungs, run to the other side and with the rocks that made it, see if any of them form any sensical sentences.

You may have heard advice like this before (o.k. maybe not quite as ridiculous) Creative advice like this is not helpful in the least. There is no sure-fire way to "drag out genius" kicking and screaming. If you don't have an idea, THAT IS O.K.

Question Mark Bubble Bauble Ring by Insane Jelly Fish Designs

There has been many a time where I wanted to put up a new piece on my blog and I just couldn't think of anything, or a time when Meg and Dia has been on a very tight deadline with big-time producers calling my cell phone every minute and screaming, "Well? Do you have new material?" 

What I HAVE found to be helpful is understanding that you ARE a creative person. I realize that music and being creative (jewelry) is a big part of who I am. So, I am constantly paying attention to life so that I can use that inspiration later.
The other day I was driving to a guitar lesson, and I saw a little boy standing on a fence in a batman costume. I thought to myself, "What's his story?" (along with the obvious question... "Where is his mother!")

Artwork by the talented illustrator Justo Cascante. You can see more of his work here

I took my laundry down to the laundry room yesterday and a little girl winked at me while I was walking down the stairs. "What was she thinking when she did that to a stranger?"

You may be asking yourself, "So what? How do these instances from life translate into a piece of jewelry or a song?"

The "translation" of the life experience and what it makes you feel is what inspires the piece or the song. Watching that lonely young boy on the fence in that costume made me want to write a song about... a boy with a hard life experiences, maybe some family problems or a recent death in the family made him feel lost and useless, maybe he's hiding underneath that costume. Maybe it makes him feel safe? Or... maybe he just likes Batman. (Watch out for the next Meg and Dia hit single, "Batman"! ha ha)

And the little girl winking? Well, to me, her cute little face and her confidence, inspires me to create something using little black buttons and copper wire wound around in a cute spiral. You know, something childish and daring. 

Some advice that I hear all the time for creative people is to always keep some sort of journal on hand and a camera for documenting ideas. I actually DO agree with this advice. I do these two things all the time, and they always come in handy.

The most important thing is to BEWARE of your surroundings and environment. Don't constantly annoy your company by exclaiming, "Oooh, I'll use that cat climbing on that fence for an idea for my next pair of earrings!" or "I think I'll write a song about our grumpy waitress." (I have been known to do this...)

Keep it to yourself. Keep a catalog of ideas in advance, and pretty soon you'll find yourself never short of ideas and inspiration.

What recent object, experience, or person, inspired your creativity?

Happy creating.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Melancholy Margaret

I promised you would meet Melancholy Margaret, and here she is!

Melancholy Margaret came about by a custom request. (This is one of the reasons why I love getting custom requests from you guys, because they give me great ideas for the future). My friend ordered a custom piece for his mom for mother's day. He sent me this image: 
If any of you know the artist or where the original image can be found, please send me the link and let me know. I would love to give the artist credit on my blog. 

The request was to make her look like she was "made from metal", so instead of the white body, I chose the silver that I make "Rachael the Robot" out of. I was going to make a striped "leg" for her to stand on, but then I thought the wire wrapping would add a nice "roboty" touch. 

When it came to the wheel, I wasn't sure how I should go about it. I was also thinking about how I was going to do the bows. I could have made the wheel and the bows out of polymer clay, but I decided that this project would be the perfect piece to implement other materials. So, I experimented with several materials and buttons, until I found some that I loved and I thought went with the piece.

Having a challenge like this is one of the reasons why I love designing jewelry. I get to take an idea, and put my spin on it and throw back out there.

Robot pendant is 3" tall, and is made from polymer clay, antique copper, beads, plaid fabric, and little black buttons

Monday, April 18, 2011

Free Download of "Weeding Through the Rubble"

Only because some of you requested it, I recorded my new song "Weeding Through the Rubble" in my home studio (a.k.a garage band on my laptop). Thank you for listening:)

Weeding Through the Rubble

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lonely Hearts Chandler's New Girlfriend

Lonely Heart's Chandler will have a new robot necklace girlfriend. Her name is Melancholy Margaret. He will will invite her over to dinner on Tuesday to meet you. Their broken hearts are what they had in common before, but after they found each other they have broken hearts no more.

I used new materials, buttons and fabric, for the first time on Margaret.

Below is a sneak peak of her little button toes...

She is very excited to meet you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Light Up

There are a lot of random noises where I live. I'm not used to it. I can hear the tenants next to me rummaging around sometimes, and loud cars pulling up in the drive way below me at all hours of the night. Whenever a call pulls up, a motion light goes on right outside my window.

I can't seem to get rid of the cigarette smell in my room. How lucky for me that I chose the room with the smoker previously. I've tried everything to eliminate the nasty odor. I've wiped down the walls with diluted ammonia. I've poured baking soda onto the carpets. I've gone through boxes of candles.

Yesterday, Nick, Mo, and I were eating breakfast, and suddenly it sounded like our kitchen was going through an automatic car wash! Nick opened the door a crack to see if we were in the middle of a hurricane. Water sprayed through the door, splashing up into his surprised face. We immediately placed paper towels along the cracks in the door. Apparently, without warning, the maintenance crew cleans the outside of the apartments with a power hose. Lovely surprise.

I know that I am probably complaining about small things, and I should be thankful for the great things about my place. So I am going to be thankful, right after I vent to you on my blog. Ha ha. I am thankful for the city I live in, and the privacy I am afforded in my place because of the respectful roommates I have.

This morning, in another spiritless attempt to eliminate the smoky smell, I was trying to light a candle in my room. Since I had used this candle nearly every day for 2 weeks consistantly, the wax was nearly all the way to the bottom of the tin can, and there was barely any wick left to burn. I had to, tentatively and softly, blow on the wilting wick, coaxing the little guy into life. I didn't blow too hard, of course, because that would have over-powered the flame, and I would have lost it. I used gentle soft breaths, and paused, scrutinizing the glowing oranges and yellows. "Light up, light up" I thought (like the song). Finally the flame, receiving just the right amount of oxygen, blazed into life, and I gently set the candle onto my desk.

The candle is like a goal in life, I thought, realizing right after the thought, how corny these metaphors are that I find in my daily routines. But really, if you have a dream that you desire so terribly bad, you can't just rush into it, you'll blow it right out. Careful, thoughtful steps are needed, just like the hushed breaths of fresh oxygen, and then an examination must take place, discerning how the dream reacted to your attempts at realizing it. Did your action make the flame glow a little more, or did your action blow the fire right out? But after careful, thoughtful steps toward creating your fire, it will burn and become a reality.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Weeding Through the Rubble"

I had to catch up with Dia's youtube covers (which are beautiful by the way). If you want to be shocked by a gorgeous voice, check out a few of her latest youtube videos here:

"Weeding Through the Rubble"

It's just you and me now
Lord we've had our ups and downs
We've been all the way up and all the way down

And when we were sailing high
I didn't stop to think how we would get by
No one had guessed the end and neither did i
and here we are now

You and me left
Where'd it all go
Gotta weed though the rubble
I've had enough "crazy" for both of us
You and me we'll make it up, because you and me we've had enough

I can't say i wasn't scared
Life seems to stay the same, but
time doesn't care much what I think these days
"Go one she says go on and you'll get by"

Like sunlight for the first time
A pretty thing unknown can make a man blind
Misfortune ain't a curse if ya play your cards right
gotta play em right

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Social Ride

"So, do you want to buy a bike and come on "The Social" with us?"
"Buy a what now?"
"A bike, you know, that thing that you pedal around outside?"

I silently held an inner dialogue with myself.

"Hmmm, how long has it been since you've ridden a bike?"
"Well, about two years now."
"Do you still remember how to do it?"
"I'm not quite sure..."
"Would you seriously injure yourself, and since you would be in front of a large group of people, embarrass yourself horribly as well?"
"Chances are: Yes!"

Return to conversation with Nick.


Our roommate Mo was gung-ho about purchasing a bike even before we arrived on the scene in Austin. Being from New York, he has never owned a vehicle, and biking was his only other option. After we were settled comfortably into our new apartment, Mo began participating in "The Yellow Bike Project" which is essentially a program in which you offer your time and help to earn yourself a bike. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Yesterday morning I woke up to a clanky, road-worn bicycle in our living room. So, the bike craze began with Mo, and then events fell into place from there. Our good friend, Jordan, bikes to and from work and to and from the grocery store. Basically he has no use for his car except to tote his bike from starting point to starting point. We met him at his bar a few nights ago, and he spent a good two hours explaining the in's and the out's of being a cyclist in Austin. He pulled out his handy shiny bike tools, explaining each gadget thoroughly. He showed us his new bike, beaming as we examined the rubber, custom-keyboard handlebars down to the very expensive seat, which he guards with his life.

I was beginning to see that this Bike Culture here in Austin would be similar to all the other crazes, and I was going to be sucked in whether I liked it or not. It was going to be like yoga for me. First you get a mat. Then you advance from your stinky high school gym shorts to legitimate yoga pants. Biking is the same way. I'm sure I'll upgrade soon from my cut-off denim to one of those tidy hot-pink spandex numbers.

It wasn't a problem to find me a bike to borrow, since everyone bikes in Austin. We all met at a starting point on the east side by Lady Bird Lake. As we pedaled into the specified meeting place I felt nothing short of surprise. Nick and I made comments on the similarities of the vibe between this Biking Social and Warped Tour. There were people dressed in high top socks and heels! How are they supposed to pedal in those? There was one guy who rode a bike made of 4 or 5 bike frames stacked on top of each other. His bike must have been 30 feet high. I kid you not. I felt shameful wondering how I was going to balance on my bike compared to frustrations that guy must be having way up there!

People had boom boxes on the back of their bikes playing bad rap and old punk rock. People had coolers filled with bud light and PBRs. One girl was even riding around with a bottle of champagne which she was generously sharing with a bunch of other buzzed and sweaty bikers.

"Let's Go!" a gruff voice shouted. That must be Keith, I thought to myself, the man who organizes this monster. Everyone is so cooperative and careful to shout out things like "Car front", which indicates a car is coming from ahead. Duh! And "Stopping! Stopping!", whenever we come to a red light. I even shouted "car front!" once just to see how it felt to seem liked I was an experienced biker. Nobody was fooled.

The take-off was shaky. At least two or three bikers crashed during those first two minutes of the ride. Several tires blew out over the course of the 15 miles. Those tumblers must have had a bit too much to drink. Jordan swooped up next to me not long after we had taken off, "Hey Meg, you may want to watch yourself. You just cut off Christina." "Oh sorry" I mumbled. I didn't know I was supposed to watch out for other people. Wasn't it their responsibility to watch out for me?

There must have been three hundred of us, "save the environment, love your body" bikers on the road that night. I don't take any political stands by being part of these rides. I simply like the company and to be part of something new. A hundred blinking red lights flew ahead of me. I turned behind me to see a hundred more white lights winking at me. The air was cool. It was a perfect night. I concentrated on quick hills, fast turns, being considerate to my fellow bikers, and speed bumps. I gained a whole new perspective last night. Austin, why are you so weird?

And now I'd like to add something that has nothing to do with bikes, or Austin, or weirdness. Well, maybe weirdness. I'd like to introduce you to my little sister's blog. (No, not the odd-ball which some of you know as Dia) The girl after that. Her name is Jade, like the pretty green stone. She is an aspiring journalist/screenwriter studying in Arkansas right now. In the meantime, while working on her degree, she entertains herself by being a super-star tennis player. I love hearing about her life, because it reminds me of me in college. She's so curious and so eager, and has a very, very beautiful heart. She pretends to be interested in how she's going to make a living, get through college, pay the rent, but really she's just interested in what all the rest of us are interested in: love.

Please visit her blog here and tell her "hi" from me:


Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Introducing Cocoon

I wanted to design something special to celebrate Cocoon. A Cocoon is one of nature's beautiful creations, but was extremely challenging to recreate due to its unique shapes and textures. The piece you are seeing here is a final design after many, many attempts. I wanted to find a way to incorporate a "literary or lyrical" concept into the piece, and being able to display the text on the cocoon, was an accident actually. (Sorry, I'm not going to give away my jewelry-making secrets and tell you how it happened) I wanted this piece to embody certain elements that I feel belong in "Cocoon" the album: grace, fragile exterior, innocence fading away, and pleasure in being.


P.S. You might want to visit my blog on the 3rd of April (2 more days). I'll have a little surprise for you guys.