I recently had the opportunity to talk to the founder of Spacecraft Clothing, Stefan Hofmann, about topics ranging from the company, to skateboarding, to unicorns and slipper-footed ninjas. Enjoy.
[caption id="attachment_1856" align="alignright" width="159" caption="Self Portrait"][/caption]
Hi Stefan, thanks for taking the time to do this.
Let’s start near the beginning. What was it like growing up in the Arizona desert?
Stefan: Hot! But it was fun. We lived in the middle of nowhere, explored a lot with motorcycles, hiking, that kinda stuff. We all grew up skating tons. Kingman is a small town stashed in the Arizona mountains, lots of hills and banks. We built a lot of cement features into the streets.
A lot of riders these days don’t grow up skateboarding. Are you surprised by the evolution of snowboarding as it’s own sport?
Stefan: No, I started snowboarding in high school, it was a lot like skating but so different as well. You could just go so much faster and jump so much higher. The mountains bring such a different vibe to the table than the streets. It's mystical in those mountains.
Like many people, you started skating before you strapped into a board. How did you get into skating?
Stefan: I guess my mom bought me my first board. It was a plastic banana board which I rode a lot, but real skating didn't really start for me until, say, 7th grade. I loved the sensibility of the culture, the lack of team and strategy. It has always has struck me as a gestural idea of style. I love that.
Growing up, we didn’t have the chance to skate pools like in the glory days. Can you give the kids some insight into what it was like sessioning with your friends?
Stefan: We really didn't have a lot of pools to skate but there were some gems through the years. The best one we found was on an old abandoned military base in the middle of the desert. We had heard about it from an old officer in town so we just started looking around the area he had told us about. Eventually we found the coping of an Olympic size swimming pool. It was completely filled with tumble weeds. After we finally got all of those out, it took another good week of work to get the mud and water out of the deep end, but there were about 3 years of glory after that. We would BBQ until late. We had lights set up, the summers were so fun. It became the spot, our own private skate park. It was a small town so you would know everyone there, it was an amazing place to learn and push each other.
How did you get hooked up with the Powell and Peralta crew? What lead you to eventually drop out of the skate scene?
Stefan: I got hooked up riding for Powell through a local skate shop, they had a team and I was on it and Powell ended up sponsoring some riders from the team. We got to travel a lot to comps and things like that. After high school I ended up getting a VW bus. It's a funny story, my mom owned a small jewelry shop at the time. She has always made things for a living. She had this old wooden Indian standing by the door in front of the shop. One day someone wanted to buy it. She didn't want to sell it but ended up trading it for an ancient VW bus. We were pretty poor then and she wanted to get a car for me, so I got the bus. During that time I really wanted to get out and travel, so I outfitted the bus the best I could and headed for Colorado and froze my butt off there. I had cotton comforters for blankets and t shirts for first layer. I was a desert rat in the middle of the sub arctic, but that winter got me hooked. I started chasing the snow after that.
Is it safe to say that your time in Colorado was somewhat of a defining moment in your life?
Stefan: It started the travel and the idea of making it happen, of just going out and doing it regardless of how much money you have. I realized then that reality starts in your mind, that it's a state of belief that emanates out from you...this defines your experience of the world, not the other way around.
What first got you into art? Why did you decide to pursue it at the University of Washington and what was that entire experience like?
Stefan: Well, art has always been a natural part of how I relate to the world, a need to create... make things etc. I had taken a quarter of industrial design and realized that I would rather do something with less boundaries, so I headed to the Art department and enrolled in sculpture. That period was great, but it was hard as well. I was broke in those days. I spent one year sleeping either in my car or in the art building to save money. There was a thin line between myself and the street or at least it felt that way. It's definately a motivational factor to pushing harder on the work when you feel that way. I basically lived in the studio, working or in the mountains, riding as much as possible. It was a time of intense study and angst, a time of self creation and defining moments... like running up hill with an elephant on your back, in contrast to the mountains that offered so much freedom and bliss. It was a the combination of these two things that was profound.
The distinct Spacecraft snow cat goes back to your days at Alpental. Why the snow cat?
Stefan: The snow cat came forward as a symbol for those days. It was parked in a lot near the exit of the back country... you would come flying out of some of the best terrain in the world with one or two friends in a state of such happiness... it was so much fun there, and the cat was just their everyday. It began to symbolize this experience of the mountains and the journey, a vehicle. I took a photo of it. At the time, I was very interested in the notion that things contained intrinsic values. I wanted to experiment with the image that had taken on so much meaning for me, so I started making stickers of the image and putting them everywhere in attempt to bring this feeling and experience to a wider group of people. As things progressed, I started using the symbol as a podium to place projects on. This allowed divergent projects to maintain momentum.
[caption id="attachment_1855" align="alignnone" width="479" caption="Don't see many of these around anymore."][/caption]
I’m amazed and envious at the amount of traveling you’ve done. What made you decide to base your operations out of Bali?
Stefan: During a presentation of sculpture at school, I gave a slide show to better illustrate my ideas, and the images were so well received that my professor took the lead and helped me secure a research grant. I was lucky enough to have the next two and a half years to travel and pursue my photography and graphic work. Asia had always intrigued me, with the island cultures of the southeast Archipelagos, the highlands of Kathmandu, Nepal, the teetering city of Bangkok, and the enchanted isles of Indonesia. So I vanished from the Americas into the mystical lands beyond. It's hard to quantify the experience that entrenched me for what felt like an eternity, the search for light and moment, the idea of archiving light to be recontextualized in time and space. I became a pursuer of intuition, a kind of meditation, a search for the convergence of divine moments and orchestrations of composition. The reason Bali initially came up was the cost to get there--it was the cheapest ticket to that part of the world I was trying to get to. I was very interested in exploring the old, some of the islands there are like going back in time a thousand years, this will not last and I wanted to understand it, to see it and contrast it to our modern world. Bali was a place I could base out of, it offered easy living, beautiful and happy people, the best waves on earth, and key for me was the vast amount of small studio workshops that you could work with to create everything from silk screens to wood carvings. I could take the photos and move them to paper through silk-screens and so on.
Moving on to the company, what made you decide to get into the clothing market?
Stefan: Initially, it was my intention to direct the art and communication of my experiences, the things I felt vital to express to the world, into that realm of culture. I had been trained to be a gallery artist but felt it would be more effective to push art into consumerism. As a culture, we watch TV and buy things. Largely, we don't go to galleries so I took the road less traveled and pushed the art into this realm.
What’s the story behind how the name Spacecraft came about? All I know is that it happened in the back of a taxi in Bangkok.
Stefan: Yes, true. We were in a taxi in Bangkok, Sarah O'Brien, my partner in business, and I we were off to print something for the first time and we needed to cement the name down. We had been pushing on names for almost a year, we had a chalk board in the house full of names. Finally we decided on Spacecraft. For me, it's this idea of space: everything around us the world, and craft: making things. So together, it's this idea of making things from space from our environment, essentially the notion of invention and creation.
Tell me a little about Sarah O’Brien and what it’s like working with her.
Stefan: Sarah and I have been working on Spacecraft almost since the beginning. I had about 2 years of Asia travel before she joined in and we have been pushing ever since. She is a wolverine and smart as whip. I have heard her dad say she could push her way through a brick wall if she put her mind to it. She really brought the business sense to the table, as well as a large contribution to the creativity. She is an amazing painter and strategical thinker. We could not have made it happen without her.
What are the inspirations behind the designs?
Stefan: For me each one is a story, each one is meant to encapsulate an idea to be released into culture, to affect things for the better, to open eyes, to evoke thought etc. Often times, I'm trying to communicate with the part of us that is not completely conscious.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Tom Selleck?
Stefan: Magnum PI, being a kid and falling asleep on the couch dreaming of red Ferraris and beaches. And a broom 'stache.
What about pirates?
Stefan: Indian Ocean, the most pirated waters in the world, and the best waves on earth.
The number three?
I was flipping though the Fall ’09 catalog and noticed the carvings on the side of the mannequin used for the headwear shots. Is that something that you created yourself?
Stefan: That is the handy work of a Bali craftsman, with some art direction from us. They kill it.
A few of the designs look very urban influenced. How street is Spacecraft?
Stefan: Street art is a big part of what we do. I don't see the brand as a snow brand or any other designation. I love the art that has been going up in the streets the last 10 years. We are a big part of the scene in the Northwest. We have some stuff going in a street art book coming out soon.
This is probably the most serious question I have for you. The Cupcake shirt graphic shows a unicorn owning a van. If a unicorn were to meet a pegasus in an epic battle, who do you think would be victorious and why?
Stefan: They would most likely fall in love and have unicorn babies that could fly.
Would you rather charge a hit run on a pow day or enjoy a park lap on a sunny spring afternoon?
Stefan: What is a park? For me the hard choice would be good waves or a pow day, not sure on that one.
[caption id="attachment_1858" align="alignnone" width="482" caption="If I was there, I'd never leave!"][/caption]
Given your schedule, do you still get to actively ride when the snow hits?
Stefan: If it's good, I'm there.
Getting back to Spacecraft, what is your vision for the future direction of the company?
Stefan: I want to have more shows with the work, to push Spacecraft to stand on its own and to make it wildly successful as a means to transmit positivity and change where needed. To interact in profound ways with this life, to use it as a leverage bar to invoke beauty.
Lastly, anyone you’d like to thank?
Stefan: I would like to thank Sarah, the team at the Craft, and my mom for the wooden Indian.
I lied, one more for you. Do you think one of Chuck Norris’s lethal roundhouse kicks could take out a small entourage of slipper-footed ninjas?
Stefan: Hopefully we will be doing a film on just such a topic this summer. Stay tuned.