So come February, this will be how many months of you working on this project?
From the conception, let’s see man, I started that back in June, but didn’t start any actual physical work until the beginning of August. It was a few months talking to Travis, and then he pretty much was like just show me some cool stuff. It evolved from just doing a sign and a few interior designs.
It started with the fly island and developed into what it is now, with multiple extra build outs and a bit more of a designer approach. Normally I’m not in that position, but I really enjoyed that more with this project, especially with Travis giving me so much artistic freedom there to me to kind of just go for whatever I wanted to do. Essentially about six months from the time we started just with concept drawings and playing around with ideas.
This is a huge project. When you first started, did you think it was going to become something way bigger than the initial first drafts?
I had hopes that it would, just because from my experience working with my Dad...there’s always more you can do. And that’s something I always keep in mind.
There’s more we can do to create a one of a kind, unique look for a space that helps separate your presence apart from the rest. That was my hope. And Travis being a super cool dude, I knew he would be game with anything that looked awesome and helped showcase his product and make his business unique. I kind of first saw that as a possibility, and one thing I had to be careful with was that timeline.
I generally do the majority of the builds myself, so I kind of had to rethink a lot of it a bit because I knew the time constraints would only allow me to do so much work, so I was able to sub out portions of the desk, the Fly Island.
Maybe this is like asking you to pick a favorite child, but when you look back at the process and now the finished product, what are you most proud of in the store?
Man, if I had to… (laughs)
The overall answer is gonna be the entire project when it’s complete.
But one particular thing would be a toss up between the island and the rod rack, I really love how both of those turned out. I think that the island just because it's something I haven’t really quite built before, and I just love how versatile it is, how it showcases a nice variety of what I can do. You know, the really detailed cutout piece for the top, the wood trim, along with it being a functional art piece. I was most proud of that one, but definitely the most headache. Lots of head scratching and time for sure.
How do those time constraints limit you creatively as an artist? Does it at all?
It does. Yeah, deadlines on large projects can definitely be challenging. One thing I’ve had to learn with this project is that I had to, and have to, postpone and put other things on the back burner and focus on what is in front of me. As an artist, bouncing from project to project can be a negative distraction and a good thing. I do OK under pressure, but when you’re working on a creative level, it’s always in the back of your mind - ‘ this has to be done by this time,’ that sort of thing.
I maintained a creative state of mind, and didn’t let it hinder or slow down when I had to get things done. My metal cutouts are more instant, satisfactory, and can crank those out much quicker than those larger, more elaborate art pieces. The fly island took weeks to do, start to finish. Much longer. Staying focus and using available help is one thing I had to learn too, pulling in extra hands to get things done. There is stress involved with deadlines, but it also keeps me focused and keeps me motivated to get things done.
I think people in general need a break to clear their head and find inspiration and find that will to keep going.
What is your break? What do you do to keep you going?
I love solo time. It’s really important, and generally, I turn to nature. I love being outside. A lot of times I love just starting an art piece where it's something I’m just doing for myself to be creative, whether it's researching different techniques and stuff. But in general, I love to just go fishing. I can ground myself again and calm the nerves.
I’m sure there are other fine artists that are of inspiration to you. Who do you look at or pick up when you are feeling stuck? When you need a break but the deadline says you can’t have a break.
So I do have artist friends and artists that I love their work and have a ton of respect for what they’re doing, but with this build, I didn’t particularly need inspiration from other art. I was able to get as creative as I wanted to and then push my talent and level of work. I never really felt like I had a stuck point, more like, ‘can I get all of this done?”
Most of my work is commission based and I get a lot of different requests for styles of work. Something I’m trying to practice is not reverting back to just what I know and trying to develop and grow as an artist. I strive to keep my work original and authentic with a signature look that I have tried to develop over the last fifteen years or so.
I’m sure location also plays a big part in how you are inspired. You lived down here in the Keys for a while. What was your favorite part about living in the Keys and making art here? And what aspect of Keys living comes through in this project here?
Sure, I mean my initial reason for moving to the Keys was for inspiration and for my art career. I just wasn’t finding it in Western North Carolina, and it’s a beautiful place, but I have always had such a draw towards the saltwater lifestyle and I just love it. Moving there, the goal was seeking out inspiration. And man, it's there - everywhere.
The lifestyle of living in the Florida Keys can be challenging at times because there are limitations and there’s not as much diversity. As far as art comes, you’re surrounded in it. I believe that helped my art grow and develop over the last ten years. So I moved there in 2012, I believe, and spent about six years. In that time, it really got a lot better. Just because I spent so much time in the elements.
Getting inspiration for this project, I felt a lot of confidence going in because of the time I spent in the Keys, studying fish species...fishing and diving.
That's what I really tried to showcase...to give that unique look to the space. It’s not just about catching a fish, that’s not what fly fishing is at all. It’s to show new and avid anglers that it's more of a lifestyle and there’s so much more within that. The environment, the things you experience while you’re out there, awareness of conservation and how crucial it is to take care of the environment and nature.
I was talking with Travis, it’s like, man, what a cool way to introduce someone to an amazing sport, but also what an amazing opportunity to say ‘this is so fragile and we’ve got to take care of it. and here are some ways we do that.’ First of all, just becoming aware of what’s out the back door and what it takes to keep it safe and protected.
There’s killer flats fishing in the Middle Keys, it’s just really been beat up. Not to say just conventional anglers, but these guys are plowing in and catching so much bait in some of these flat shallow areas. It’s like, that’s habitat for all these inshore species.
That’s what this is all about. Having you do this build out...it’s not just a paycheck, or something to pass the time for you - it’s your life. And none of this is happening without the resource, without the water.
Most definitely, man.
If we just had a fly shop and made no mention of how important it is to pay attention and take care of what we have, we are no better than the guys who run around taking more than they maybe should be, or it might be wise to. I think you’re right on the money.
The Keys wouldn’t be what it is without the water. If we don’t take care of it, it’s not going to be there to enjoy, we can’t take advantage of it. You gotta give back, somehow.
Absolutely. Lastly, what is on deck for Caleb? Any more sleep? New projects?
Hopefully focussing on putting some attention into the website, grow and produce some more apparel and more affordable production stuff for folks. Cups, decals, stuff like that.
I think for this coming year, I’m going to be setting aside time to explore other styles of art. I’ve been wanting. I might even start painting more, it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. Yeah. Doing more stuff for myself, but I still have some catch-up to do. Not so much rest, but more creative time to continue to grow as an artist.
Maybe a good fishing trip or two...that will go a long way.
If people want to commission something from you or get a hold of you, what is the best way for someone to do that?
At this point, Instagram or Facebook is probably the best. My website is in dire need of updating, so that’s first on the list!
Any wise words or messages?
No, I mean I feel good about it! I know this shop is going to be a great addition to the community here. One of the main goals, what we tried to do is create an experience for locals and tourists visiting. Hopefully people feel very invited and welcome there, and leave the shop going ‘man that was something I’ve never experienced before, I want to know more about it and get involved.’
Whoever comes in the store is going to be wowed and inspired and ready to get into fly fishing and just understanding about the water and the species that live in and around it. That’s kind of been the main goal, is creating a unique experience while inviting folks to get into something new, or progress if they’re already into it.
Thanks for talking to me, Caleb! This project is pretty special, and I’m beaming to show off and brag about you and your work.
Definitely looking forward to hangin’ out and doing some fishing, Covid-pending! Hopefully this all wraps up soon and we can have some chill time.