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10 Questions: True Marmalade

Erik Binggeser is a designer based out of Austin who has his hands involved with various projects including Team Beard, DreamIt Ventures, and Underground Skateboards among others. Additionally, Erik produces amazing works in his spare time – one of those projects “Fork In The Road” is a pixelated image of Luke Skywalker (seen Below) that caught our attention as it was being passed around online through various blogs. We sat down with Erik and spoke with him about his day to day, “Fork in the Road,” and how skateboarding has played an intricate role in his life.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself
Grew up in Michigan, about an hour north of Detroit. Moved to Savannah, GA for art school. Got a BFA in graphic design and then moved to Austin, TX in late December 2012. Most days are spent working at my internship where I do various design work for a variety of startup companies, making progress on whatever personal projects I have going on at the time, or going out skateboarding if my legs aren’t too sore from biking to/from work.

Where’d the name “True Marmalade” come from?
Way back in the day when everyone was picking their aim screen name, I had recently purchased a slang dictionary and flipped through it a few times. I must have randomly fell upon the page where truemarmalade is and liked the definition behind it so I chose that for my screen name and then kept using it as my handle on every social network website that I joined after that. It’s nice and unique and is never ever taken.

What’s your connection to skateboarding?
Back when I was in middle school, about 12 years old, there were two kids who lived behind my house and every new toy they got, everyone else in the neighborhood had to get. They got skateboards one year for Christmas so everyone else got them too. We all spent afternoons having street luge contests down hills and trying to learn tricks. Everyone else eventually got bored with skating and moved on to the next fad toy, but I stuck with it. Fifteen years later I’m still skating at least one day a week and it’s still the one activity that will always put me in a good mood when I’m having a shit day.

It looks like you’ve really involved yourself with a wide range of projects – what would you say gives you direction in all of your work?
“The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a creative person is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from, really. And especially, you don’t have any idea about where they’re going to come from tomorrow. ” is a quote by Hal Riney that I feel really sums up the problem with being an artist. It’s impossible to guess where an idea will come from, so I try to consume as much inspirational material as I can, whether it be from the internet, things I see around town, or conversations I have with random people while sitting at a coffee shop.

Can you tell us a little bit more about “Fork in the road.”
I think the original idea started with me just wanting to do some sort of big Star Wars related stencil. I first thought of a storm trooper, then went to a combo of R2D2 and C3PO, then found the screen shot of Luke when he’s looking at the burnt out remains of his uncles house. It’s a part in the movie where he’s realizing that his life is about to completely change to a new phase and I was feeling somewhat that feeling after just graduating college and being forced to think about paying bills and getting real jobs and having to deal with real clients rather than just the hypothetical scenarios that my professors invented in class. I was originally planning to paint it on a 4ft by 8ft sheet of plywood but decided to do a smaller version on a skateboard first to test the method. I’m really glad I went with the smaller form than the big one since it resulted in something that I can sell and ship anywhere in the world, when if I did the larger version it would be technically impossible to get anywhere other than a wall in my house.

We also saw that you have your hands in some other projects, Team Beard being one of those – we’d love to hear more about TB and what you guys are trying to do over there?
The Team Beard project started as a joke in a class last year when I had a year and a half long beard. We had been assigned into teams and needed to pick a name for our group, one girl jokingly said “Hey let’s be Team Beard!” while pointing at me. We all laughed and decided to stick with it. By the end of the class our group name was the only one the professor remembered so I decided to keep it going and use it as an outlet for some of the creativity floating around in my head. I learned how to screen print because of TB so that I could make my own shirts and stickers and send them all over the world. I think Japan or New Zealand is the farthest they’ve gone.

How would you say that skating has influenced your work?
Obviously the art style of different skateboard companies has always had a hand in giving me a certain amount of inspiration. Each company has their own branding style and I like to think that my projects have a consistent style of their own. For 5-6 years before I got sponsored by a board company (which I ended up also doing design work for) I had been buying packs of 10 blanks on ebay and painting them with my own designs. People online who followed my work were always amazed that I would put so much time into creating a work of art on the bottom of a skateboard, and often the grip to match, and then would destroy the design by skating the board.

What has skating has done for your life in general?
Skateboarding is definitely the main reason why I’m where I currently am in life. If the kids living behind me when I was 12 hadn’t gotten their skateboards then I wouldn’t have started skating, then I wouldn’t have met the artist skater guys in college who I ended up moving in with, who ended up inspiring me to start stenciling in the first place, which then wouldn’t have caused me to become interested in graphic design, which then wouldn’t have pushed me to go back to school for art, which wouldn’t have let me meet the amazing people I met in Savannah, or met the people who suggested that I check out Austin after graduating, and then I wouldn’t have had the conflicting thoughts about starting a new phase in my life which inspired me to do the Luke board which caused you to get in touch for this interview. It’s such a crazy butterfly effect of causation leading up to where I am, but also no clue of where it’s going to lead next.
Also skateboarding is the reason I got into photography as a hobby which also allowed me to expand into other areas of photography and make a good bit of side money from that.

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Are there any other projects you’ve got going on?
Last night I finished cutting out my latest big stencil of an owl on some old plywood (that was originally going to be used for the big Luke stencil). The full process of that can be found here.

Do you have any words of advice for people out there?
Never stop making things, ever. Sometimes I’ll get in a funk where I can’t think of anything worth painting so I’ll start a papercraft project and build some weird little robot out of cardstock. Or I’ll see something online and try to solder together some LED lights that spell out my initials. Or I’ll throw my camera around my neck and spend a night out on the town drinking and shooting random pictures of people I meet and occasionally will turn out with some pretty epic shots.
Make friends who do the same things that you do. I know incredible people all around the world who I have been friends with for years and we all bounce ideas off each other and invent new techniques together. It’s a good feeling knowing that if I’m ever in London, Paris, or Tokyo that I’ve got a couch to sleep on.

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