You could say that Two Crows began in Welzie’s parent’s garage, back in Santa Cruz, California. He and Carl Olsen shaped their first boards together over fifteen years ago- business proposals and ideas scribbled in the pages of a notebook that Welzie’s mom still has tucked away. A precursor of the balance that was eventually to come, Carl’s first shape came out perfect while Welzie was more focused on the painting and glassing part of the process. Needless to say his board turned out terrible.
Or you could say Two Crows began in Charlie Walker’s shaping room at the sugar mill in Waialua. Here Carl and Welzie were given total creative freedom to doodle, drip and draw from floor to ceiling. Charlie was Welzie’s number one mentor as far as surfboard building goes, but he also provided the space for the pair to be sloppy and experimental. Charlie was the one who allowed the creativeness to flow. And thus a uniquely loose style emerged from Welzie, resulting directly from those carefree work days in Charlie’s shop.
You could also say that Two Crows began right before the death of Welzie’s multi-talented and inspiring grandfather. As a veteran, cartoonist, multi-lingual, amadextrous, musical kind of man, Grandpa Welzie lived an incredible life. During one of their last visits together, Welzie asked his grandfather what he was going to be when he came back. “A crow,” the old man replied. On the flight back to Oahu from California, Welzie was thumbing through the in-flight magazine when he saw an article on the Hawaiian crow, which was nearing extinction. An unmistakable sign, Welzie began a series of designs and paintings with the crow silhouette.
The very first Two Crows board was designed during a wave lull on the North Shore. Welzie had convinced Carl to visit, telling him to bring all his big wave boards from Santa Cruz. But when he arrived the waves were almost completely flat. So Welzie figured they’d make a longboard at Joe DeMarco’s shop. But the artists ran out of cloth and fiberglass and had to cut up little scraps to piece together. Gray, black and red, this board was the first to sport the classic Two Crows ‘splooge’ (big white spot) and the crow logo.
“Carl is a wizard in the shaping room, he’s been doing it for 15 years and can shape anything, even sharks,” describes Welzie. “And then adding that loose color, the freestyle, the sloppiness, there was this weird contradiction between the perfect lines of a surfboard and the craft.” And the partnership between Carl Olsen and Welzie stuck.
“It felt like we opened up Pandora’s box,” explains the artist. Welzie and Carl realized that they could change up how the board was glassed. Add colors here, add patterns there… the two really wanted to take the idea to a new level, now they just needed surfboards to practice on.
In the beginning, the duo worked long days for less than minimum wage, making boards as cheaply as possible. Craigslist was their number one market, but making rent at the shop was still a struggle. “We’re constantly gambling on ourselves,” Welzie remarks. Now, the gambling has paid off because Two Crows surfboards and Welzie Art are becoming more and more popular on Oahu. And Welzie finally has the workday dedicated fully to the art portion of the business. “I still do art on the surfboards, but I don’t have to do all the tedious labor of it. It’s kind of the same thing, but now the tedious labor is in the painting. With Two Crows, anything where you get freed up creatively is a good thing.”
Freesurf interviewed the man behind the colorful craft at the Two Crows shop (at the Waialua Sugar Mill) for a little more insight into the personality and inspiration of Welzie Art.
Describe Welzie Art.
Fun. Loose. It’s so much about the process than anything else. Stuff isn’t really thought out too well or planned out, it’s more just attacking the piece, moving fast and seeing what happens. Not being afraid to mess up gives you a lot more freedom.
How do you come up with your quotes for some of the pieces?
‘I like my toes hung over’, that came from a road trip in Malibu we did for a contest. And being extremely hung over. I like play-on words. ‘Happy Days’, I first heard in Australia. ‘Single as a single fin’ came from being single all the time. And then I just started writing ‘simple small days’… The quotes come from everyday experiences, straight from what’s going on in my life that week. It’s fun when there’s something to be said and people actually get it. I’m not trying to change the world with my messages, but a little laughter doesn’t hurt.
Who’s your inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of all kinds of street art. When I was a kid I first started drawing on boards with paint pens. It was Drew Brophy from Lost that inspired me, and the quickness of his drawings. I try to move quickly and connect lines, it gives it a more fluid and organic look, and that’s what graffiti is. So there are similarities. Also Jean-Michel Basquiat. He worked really fast and his style was loose and impromptu… spontaneous. And there was always a message in his work.
As far as local artists go, Clark Little and Heather Brown are totally inspiring. Anyone who can make a living for what they love to do is successful.
How’s your love life?
(Laughing) Being a single non-pro surfer on the North Shore is interesting… It’s not by choice I guess, but sometimes the swimming pool is a bit shallow.
Favorite spot to surf?
The Beach Park, when it’s firing. I love longboarding Chun’s. And I’ve been to Scorpion Bay a few times which is pretty epic waves.
What exactly is the process for your resin art?
They’re built just like a surfboard. Instead of a shaped blank though it’s a piece of wood. The paintings get a layer of fiberglass laminated with pigmented resin. And then the pigmented color resin gets painted on over the fiberglass. And then a hot coat gets painted over, which gets sanded, and then the art (doodles) get drawn on. Then there’s another layer of resin (a gloss coat), which gets slightly sanded and then buffed out.
Tell us your favorite part about winters on the North Shore.
The waves without a doubt. I wish I had something deeper and more insightful to say. There’s a certain energy when a swell comes in, you can just feel it all day. Surf has always been the focal point of everything.
Everything gets delivered to us, it’s a good place if you want to people-watch. We get to watch the World Tour right at our door steps, we get to see funny looking tourists, all the girls show up, all the pro surfers- it’s totally entertaining, and it’s just for a short time. It’d be intense if it was year round, but it’s such a short period of time that you can enjoy it when it’s here and enjoy it when its gone.
Wise Quotes from Welzie
“When there’s no restrictions, that’s when the fun things happen.”
“Do what you love to do and work hard at it. Don’t be afraid to screw up a few times along the way.”