Geoffrey Holstad

I wish I could remember how I found my friend, Geoffrey Holstad. I think I saw his stuff on some sorta website, maybe an inspiring illustration or interesting looking lettering, and then followed the bread crumbs back to his blog. And a damn fine blog it was. Page after page after page. Images and illustrations. Camping crap and all kinds of other cool shit. Then, after I'd browsed to the back of his blog, I sent Geoffrey an email and asked if he'd be interested in designing a new banner for the top of this here blog. Something inspired by surfing and camping and cold waves. Fast forward a few weeks and guess what was waiting in my inbox? That business! (points up). Along with lettering, illustrating and printmaking, Geoffrey is also the founder and director of Cabin-Time, a roaming creative residency to remote places. He's also a surfer, a self proclaimed optimist and someone that likes to listen to jazz! So, what else is there to say about my friend from the mitten? I suppose I should let him tell you about surfing on the Great Lakes and what inspires him to make art in the middle of nowhere.


When did you start surfing?

I've only been surfing Lake Michigan the past two years but have lived near it my whole life. I've skateboarded for over 10 years, and the lake has always played a big role in my work. I pour over NOAA maps, check the cams and buoy's daily, year round.

Tell us about your first surfboard...

A 6'2" short board, rough, rough shape with a duct-taped nose and mushy, glassed-on fins off Craigslist. This one went between me and the cement pier one too many times and it shows. It's the buddy board now.

What sorta stick are you currently surfing?

I am currently riding a cheap, super thick, made-for-the-lakes 6'4" fish, super chunky and insane float. So fun though. This is the board that I really started to feel comfortable on. It's seen snow, ice, and the pier once or twice.

There are some great shapers in Michigan and Minnesota, making great lake boards. Check out Burly Surfboards.

What makes surfing the Great Lakes so unique?

Admittedly, I've never surfed anything but the lakes. A lot of people liken surfing the lakes to surfing BC, Oregon and Washington. Dark, cold water, always. Waves in the lakes are built by fetch, or winds traveling a distance over water. Thus, no real, predictable swells, no reefs, no tides. Waves in the lakes get big. Big enough to snap a freighter in two. Buoy readings over 20 ft. aren't uncommon in the fall and the winter in Superior and the south end of Lake Michigan. Waves are usually sloppy, huge, steep, choppy, freezing, and at real quick intervals. Storms blow in for sometimes no longer than a couple hours, so surfing the Great Lakes turns you into an amateur meteorologist. The best waves come with cold air, low pressure systems moving over warm waters in the fall and moving into the winter. This means surfing in blizzards.

Now, in November, out in 5 mil everything. It's a rare day when you can take the hood off.

I like that surfing the lakes has this quirky, folky mystique. Almost everyone you meet that surfs the lakes is just happy to be out there, an awesome bunch. No one fighting for waves, just having fun, freezing together at dawn.

Tell us about your surf wagon...

Former: 1986 AMC Eagle 4WD

The American predecessor to the Subaru Outback, a true Northern Midwest machine. This was/is my dream car. Transmission was toast and was forced to sell it. I will buy one again someday.

Currently: 2000 2-door Jeep Cherokee Sport 4X4

Got it last summer with 50k miles off Craigslist. My dad worked for Jeep for over 25 years so it's in the blood.

How did you get into typography?

Like every 16 year old skateboard kid, I was really into graffiti in my teen years. I stuck with lettering into art school, and drawing words has always been the constant as my work has developed and changed. Now I get to make a living drawing letters, what a life.

Tell us something we don't know...

Sophomore year of college I won a freestyle rap battle at my alma mater, hosted by the Black Student Union. I won $100 in small bills.

What have you been listening to lately?

Jazz after 7pm on the local AM dial and NOAA weather radio. Oh, and BBNG.

Where do you find inspiration?

I am inspired by a strong work ethic, rural America, folk traditions, craft, weather, the Great Lakes, Nordic patterns and Nordic design, all things North.

Working on getting better at woodcuts and woodcut printing.

Tell us a little bit about Cabin-Time...

Cabin-Time is a roaming creative residency to remote places. Cabin-Time invites artists, designers, photographers, writers, musicians, craftspeople, scientists, cartographers, bird-watchers, wood-workers, planners, organizers, schemers, and dreamers to join in cooperative intentional isolation, to make site specific work based on location and theme. Following each week-long residency is an exhibition, where work made during and following the residency is shown and documented. A trip specific Field Guide is published, compiling and archiving the work made during each expedition.

Cabin-Time has been the most rewarding project of my life, and just keeps getting better.

What's next for Mr.Holstad?

Cabin-Time 4!

I'm also in the very beginning stages of building a cabin. Taking some classes at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN in 2013.


Click here to learn more about Geoffrey Holstad.
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