Let’s pretend for a moment, shall we? Here’s the scenario: Creativity, Ingenuity, Possibility and Camaraderie are sitting in a room together and they’re deeply entrenched in a discussion. On the coffee table lies a deck of Polaroid cards, each representing a “turning point” in the time-space continuum of Life. All night long they’ve been shuffling the deck, cutting it, then taking turns drawing their next subject.
Their game? To decide which of them was most influential in the particular scenario at hand. Their current discussion revolves around this card, a snapshot of a red haired teen at a rock concert. Here’s the turning point:
George Salisbury is a seventeen year-old kid who had been working in a screen-printing shop. He had just produced a good number of Flaming Lips t-shirts, gone to one of their shows, somehow got to Wayne Coyne and said, “I’ve got this box of Lips shirts here, um, I just want to sell them and split the profits with you.” And Coyne replies, “Well, we’re out of shirts – so, okay.”
Possibility suggests it was him, mixed with a degree of Risk. He made that moment work, turning it into what eventually became a long-standing relationship with the Flaming Lips as the contemporary driving force behind all their visually creative production (posters, videos, Gummy Skulls, etc.). Creativity and Ingenuity roll their eyes and posit that there wouldn’t have been a product in the box had it not been for them. Camaraderie, however, argues that if Coyne hadn’t seen something in Salisbury he either recognized or could trust, he would have just lived without t-shirts that night. They argue profusely until Chance (their mother) walks into the room and plays her trump card to shut them up. “Without me,” she states, “you all don’t have a game. So, give it up and move on.”
But was she right? If she had been arguing with Wayne Coyne, she might have lost the debate. In an interview for “Entrepreneur Online,” Coyne summarized the idea of entrepreneurship in this way:
“I would say that a very lazy, unambitious person could get very lucky ten times in a row and would be like the greatest, you know, entrepreneur there is. And a very determined, smart, hard-working person could get UNlucky ten times in a row, and look like the biggest loser ever. BUT, if they keep going, a determined, smart, caring, loving person will eventually get lucky. ..In the past, when I was younger, I would internalize that – it [making something of oneself] – wasn’t about being kind or being generous…and it SHOULD be.”
Let’s leave the four philosophers with their cards for the time being and turn our attention to George Salisbury who approximately twenty years later is now the cornerstone of Delo Creative (prounced dee-loh), established in late 2009. I sat with he and three members of his team in Elemental Coffee a couple of weeks ago. Over Blood Orange tea, espresso and laughter the story of their company began to unfold.
The Delo Creative’s founder has a long history with the Flaming Lips. Recently featured on the cover of DV Magazine, his work as Art Director for the band’s print media and video productions is well known and a foundational complement to why their concerts are heralded as a full-blown, five senses experience. A little over 18 months ago, however, his relationship with the Lips had matured to the point of creating a company to take on other work. So he did.
“I had been working for the Lips forever, and it got to the point where I couldn’t do everything we needed to do. So, I started building a team of some sort. I pulled in [David] Bizarro, and that was still under the [Lips] umbrella. But we kept growing and kept growing…and we got to the point where we started Bryan [Baxter]. So we then started the company; we raised the capital, filed the papers, and all that stuff.” Salisbury quickly tutored me on a two-decade history that he and the rest of his team collectively agreed was easiest to recall “in t-shirt chronological” order. Some people recall their personal or corporate history in events; the Delo team recalls it in images…which makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Each team member has a story of how they eventually came to work with Delo. Bryan first met George back in the Moore and Westmoore High School days. He brings with him a long-standing history of t-shirt print experience, skills as a musician and videography work that ranges from music videos with an acid-psychedelic, hard-core feel to the trendy and educational pieces put out by Ludivine restaurant covering locally grown food and those who produce it. He is personable, self-deprecating and adds a gentile spirit to the group dynamic. He also has a keen interpersonal compass and seems to exude a peaceful core.
David started first as an intern, then gradually moved from a few days per week to spending the majority of his time on Delo projects. He’s the one member who is still on the Lips payroll, however, and does a good chunk of their hand-drawn graphic work seen in their videos. When talking with David, it’s hard not to smile. He’s extremely endearing and says, “Yeah, yeah…” punctuated like the character Yeah-Yeah in The Sandlot. Remember that kid? “Smalls” had been rescued by Wendy, his lifeguard muse, and was laying on the side of the pool. “Yeah, yeah…he looks pretty crappy!” said Yeah-Yeah, assessing the situation. But I digress. Where Bryan’s creativity may be more internalized, David wears his like an aura. There is an edge to him, almost as if he’s chomping at the bit to get back to work and make more dreams come to life. He eyes are penetrating, his personality is open and vulnerable, and man – can he crank out some cool stuff. We’ll get to that later.
David must have needed to “bring one along,” like he had been brought because he reached out to Tate James and suggested an internship with their group. According to the group amid conflicting reports, he was also posing the idea to George at the same time, much like a friend trying to get other friends they know to go on a blind date. But, regardless of how things eventually came together, they did. Tate recalls first meeting David at a Flaming Lips Halloween skeleton parade downtown. David mentioned that he was struck by one of Tate’s creative projects wherein he had taken a photo of the galaxy, blown it up to an 8’X8′ size, and was recreating the pattern with a hammer and awl, sometimes punching 100 stars per square inch in his work in order to get it right. When I asked the group what attribute Tate brought to Delo’s balance, they joked: “His mustache; it’s his panache.” Well, he does have that. But he also seems to have a good dose of potential energy.
By the time we got to Tate and his story, I realized a common key component to the group dynamic, their camaraderie, was essential. They would finish sentences for each other, play off one story to another, give and take with the conversation…and no one dominated. Alana Salisbury wasn’t able to be there, and as I understand it, Matt Duckworth may be working with them too. But I’ll bet they don’t change the dynamic to any different or extreme degree. It was as if they had been together for much longer than they reported, and that negotiation as well as regard for each other was pervasive. I was still dwelling on this group dynamic when it was time to head over to The Compound to check out their work turf.
We arrived, and when walking through the gate to visit their office space I heard the peacock. I had been forewarned that I would get to see it, but I didn’t know I would get to hear David and the peacock calling back and forth to each other. I could see how easy it would be to hang out with the Delo team. The fun didn’t seem to hint at stopping anytime soon. For example, have you seen their video where a local brain surgeon cuts into their Gummy Skulls in order to surgically remove the Flaming Lips music? And, speaking of the Gummy Skulls…
Through one door, down a hall, and into another, we were finally there. The first room was full of trade secrets and “things that were soon to be introduced.” George shared a little bit about the Gummy products development, procuring the right producer, the consistency, taste and shelf life. It’s as if every story George tells in a few moments has a backside to hours and hours and…hours of work.
Past the room full of projects was the Delo group work space. In the blink of an eye, the team manned their stations and began pulling up current work. David was working on a few drawing projects, Bryan was working on a music video, Tate was exploring the pros, cons and possibilities of Google+ and George was sort of in the captain’s chair, guiding the process along.
Here are a few shots of the team and their projects…
When asked what he might want to share with the public that hadn’t been covered, George mentioned two things. First, they are ready to “hire their next clients.” Tate and George explained that things work best when their style and that of their clients is a good fit. They tend to push the edge on creativity, and not every project is up for that sort of thing. But if they are, Delo Creative is ready to help them realize their vision. Their website hints to this good fit attitude:
We are a small collective of visual generalists working in Oklahoma City.
We make music videos, podcasts, visual identities, motion graphics, and websites.
We solve problems.
We work hard.
We make shit happen.
We embrace chaos, change, order, and reality.
We clean up after ourselves.
Secondly, they have a project that was described as “basically, a lot of the freaky, weird and bizarre” things happening around Oklahoma City. It’s called Change Yr Life and you’ll just have to check it out in order to understand (or not) what it’s all about. I think my favorite piece on that site is a discussion of the “AT-AT for America” concept. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll love it.
Now, back to the card game. We’ve dealt the Bryan and George’s friendship card, David’s internship, Tate’s second-generation internship, and the growth of what began as a Flaming Lips ancillary support and grew to its own company. So who won? Did Creativity, Ingenuity, Possibility or Camaraderie take home the cash? Maybe it’s like Coyne said. Maybe since they kept going, determined, smart, caring artists got lucky, and they all won because of the combination of who they are…a creative cocktail of potential energy who turned into a smart operation. It’s not a “time will tell” story – Time has already told. However, the Delo generation is now creating the second book. And, it’s definitely worth a read.
*Warning, this demonstration by Delo Creative video contains graphic images and lyrics not suitable for some audiences. I would tend to rate it PG-13. Thanks.