Meet the Real James.
If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably be a lot less enthusiastic about the past.
I was raised in ad agencies around Asheville and various spots in North Carolina – and that was when I decided that I never, ever, ever wanted to be a designer. I just wanted to read Mad Magazines and listen to the radio. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I didn’t want to be like my old man. Heck – how many people want to be like their dad?
Well, life went on and I developed an ability for art and design (by osmosis and possibly breeding) and an interest in electronics (and a love for German military aircraft and tanks, but that’s a different story.) As my young life drug on, I started really leaning into electronics. I started with a Timex-Sinclair 1000 with a tape drive. By the time I was 9, my hands were on an Atari 2600 and an Atari 800 – a behemoth of a personal computer. I learned to program in Basic, and I’d build my own games. I also had a few “graphics” programs – and I really started to enjoy illustrating on the computer. I think there’s still a few floppy disks at my folks’ house with some of my “masterpieces.” I seem to recall a lot of zombies and pixelated boobs.
Through all that, I was still into art and the whole DIY thing. I always drew and wrote and sketched and painted and made stuff – but that was just part of me. I wasn’t interested in a career in art or design. I was now a “computer geek” that just happened to do artsy crap in his spare time.
Then came high school, and I became a punk. I had a great time – and I did the whole art and graphic design thing (Erwin High used to have a graphics class – super progressive) as a way to get out of doing “real” classes. Grades in the other classes slipped to crazy levels – what kind of punk has good grades – and I found myself with no college-escape-from-home plan. I got turned down by a local college (I’m looking at YOU, UNCA!) and I considered a meaningful career in air conditioning repair and cheap beer and living somewhere in Leicester. Luckily, I had a wonderful high school art teacher, Renee Ensley, who placed some of my work in a show – and I was given a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design. I still didn’t have much of a desire to to design as a career, but it got me out of the house. It also gave me a lot of time where I was forced to focus on art – create or fail. Fail meant no more scholarship and no more scholarship meant going back home. Nope – I could concentrate on art. 4 years later, I had a degree in graphic design and illustration (plus a minor in art history – impressive, no?) coupled with a new found appreciation for art, design and my old man. I had (sort of) grown up – and I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. I have the diploma somewhere. I should probably hang it up in the office, but I’m not sure it would fit well with the Bugs Bunny portrait. I digress (I do that, if you haven’t noticed.)
After a few odd jobs as a designer, I wound up working for a screen printing shop in Asheville. I enjoyed my time in that realm, but I moved on shortly after my first son was born. I bounced around corporate America as a creative director and had some interesting times and travels. Again, I moved on to find something that fit a little better for me and my family. I started Independent Studios in 1999, changed the name to Blue Dozen Design, LLC in 2013 and ever since, I’ve had the best time I could ever imagine having while earning money.
I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies and one-man-shows in the years since I founded this business. Every day is different, every client is different, every project is different. That difference is exciting – and I hope that excitement shows in my work.
I really do drink too much coffee, but I don’t drink as much as I used to. Something about aging. Still – it’s a ritual, and one I wholly embrace.
Asheville is, and has always been, home. I’ve lived in a few other states in my adult life – and I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling, but Asheville is home.
In my personal life, I have a wife (Beth) that means absolutely everything to me, and we have 5 kids. That’s probably enough, really – but in my (sparing) free time, I enjoy drawing and participating in artsy/designery things. I’m a guitar player who is not very good. I have a small bunch of chickens, and I still enjoy the occasional video game. Music is a constant companion. I listen to a lot of bad music, and my patience for modern pop is minimal at best. Old punk, psychedelia and a lot of progressive, noisy and loud rock. I enjoy hiking, swimming and travelling around with my wife and kids in our 1987 Toyota Dolphin, Sadie. She’s a sweet ride – don’t let appearances fool you.
Above all – and I mean that quite literally – I am a family man. My wife and children have and will always come first. There’s no web or design emergency great enough that it can trump “Daddy, read this to me.” I love my job. I love design. I love YOU! I just love my wife and my kids more.
Now, aren’t you glad you asked?