Create to Destroy! SF artists’ co-op Everlasting Love
Everlasting Love is a DIY artist co-op in San Francisco’s Mission District. I thought the concept was so interesting, and there are some respectable punkers involved, so I interviewed Ami LawLess and co. for your pleasure. (Click here to read more in our Create to Destroy series!)
MRR: How many people are in your co-op?
Currently we have about a dozen artist and artisans in our co-op who are all showing/selling their works in the shop on Treat and 24th St. in SF. These works range from paintings, one-of-a-kind jewelry and Dia de Los Muertos art to handmade candies, zines, buttons and t-shirts to just weird and curio-type items. We also have a really cool plant/succulent selection, with the plants potted in off-beat items, like in sea shells, glassware and terrariums too. We also work with musicians to come in for special event “pop-ups” and perform acoustic sets. So far we’ve had John the Baker from FUCKTARD, Mykee Ramen of ILL GOTTEN GAINZ and Burnt Ramen, Revik and Eric of JACK KILLED JILL, BOBBY JOE EBOLA AND THE CHILDREN MACNUGGITS and we have Blag from the DWARVES scheduled to do a rare acoustic set of Dwarves songs next month. The main coordinators of the co-op are Sandee Lawless, a.k.a. Sanderella, Angela Lazarich. a.k.a. La Calaca Loca and me, Ami LawLess.
Can anyone join?
We’ve had luck with knowing everyone that’s been a part of this so far. Once we put the word out about what we were doing, it all fell into place as far as people wanting to get involved. Seems like the local punk community here is chock full of artist/artisans that share our passion of bringing art into our community for a fair price. If folks are interested in getting involved we’d like to hear from them.
Why did you decide to do a co-op versus a more typical business model? Do you think punk ethics played a role?
Punk ethics and nurturing a DIY community definitely played a role. It’s who we are, where we come from and how we live our daily lives. We live in a greatly gentrifying neighborhood and want to preserve the art that this hood is known for and is made here. We have a couple of artisans who have looked into selling their wares in other stores in the Bay Area only to be met with the capitalist attitude of having to mark their prices up and give a higher percentage to the shop. We created a business model that works for both the artists and the co-op as well as the customers who support us. A co-op gets everyone involved and that’s what our vision has always been.
Have any of you been in co-ops previously?
I’m a DJ at Radio Valencia, which is a local radio station collective here in SF, and was involved with Food Not Bombs in the North Bay about 15 years ago. As for being part of a true co-op, nah, this is our first rodeo.
The Mission is rapidly gentrifying, like all of San Francisco, and has for the past few decades been a predominantly working class Latino neighborhood. Do you feel that you are contributing to the neighborhood?
My mother moved to this neighborhood in 1957 in order to be around more Spanish speaking people, coming from Mexico it was the community she was looking for, a haven…so yes, seeing this hood gentrifying at such a rapid rate was a definite reason we wanted to have our shop/co-op here. I hope we’re contributing by preserving the art that we all love and get inspired by. And it doesn’t hurt we live four blocks away. There’s a definite neighborhood pride here and I’ve even felt it from some of the newer neighbors that have moved in over the past few years. I mean where else in this amazing city can you see such diverse street art as you can strolling through Balmy Alley, 24th St., Lucky Alley, Clarion Alley and of course just wandering around this hood? We are so fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best street art in the world. This neighborhood is on par with Berlin, Mexico City and Athens, Greece, in regards to the vast amount and quality of street art.
What shifts have you seen in San Francisco? Have any of you had to move over the past several years due to rising rents and the cost of living?
Sandee and I are blessed to have been able to buy a house here in the Mission some years ago. After a lifetime of renting it was a nice change. But yeah, we’ve seen the rents soar and sadly have had many friends and family get priced out and leave the city. It’s a true shame. We were here during the dot-com boom and that was a surreal time to be in SF. It seemed as though overnight some of the least desirable, sketchy neighborhoods went from the cheapest rents in the city to an astronomical amount. But I feel a personal connection to this hood and while some folks might joke about how there’s now a lot of trendy boutiques, high priced cafes and hipsters….. I say fuck it, you have that same stuff in every major city regardless…we’ll still be here when they move on and gentrify the next neighborhood.
How did you find your space?
There used to be a Salvadorian bruja that did readings here — Sandee and I used to come to her. When she moved out we saw the For Rent sign go up and called the landlord. He had been inundated with calls from folks wanting to do cafes, restaurants and boutiques. When we presented him with our business model and explained what we wanted to do, he offered us the space. In an area where rents are going up, he gave us a decent deal. He too is a long-term resident of this hood and didn’t want to see another fucking cafe open up. It’s rad that he has faith in our vision. This whole experience has been one thing falling into place after another.
What events do you host at Everlasting Love?
We try to do at least one in-store workshop a month. For Valentine’s Day we set up a table loaded with colored and patterned paper, ribbon and all kinds of little trinkets and encouraged people to come in and make V-Day cards as opposed to shelling out $4-6 on a cheesy Hallmark. It was awesome and the response was good. We also do an evening pop-up once a month where $5 gets you a bottomless cup and an acoustic set by whomever we’ve gotten to perform that night.
What types of artists do you feature?
Most people would say the art in out shop is of the Low Brow genre. We have some really cool woodcut paintings by Reesenik who’s made quite a name for himself in the Tiki scene, amazing one of a kind jewelry by Katie McMuffin and Freelance Apocalypse that always draws oohs and ahhs, killer t-shirt designs by Andrei Bouzikov (who’s done art for a ton of bands, including MUNICIPAL WASTE, CANNABIS CORPSE, SKELETONWITCH, etc.). Leasa Catera of INSTANT ASSHOLE has a wall of one of a kind buttons, our neighbors have also gotten involved, Claw from Praxus has some of his apocalyptic toys and paintings and Victoria of Our House has vintage planters and feathered items. Sanderella and La Laca Loca have a huge appreciation for Dia de Los Muertos art and have created some of the most unique pieces that put a new twist on traditional Mexican art. Our good friend Yvonne Jurgens offers up some warm and comfy hand made afghans and throws. Nik Nik and Mama Donna have found a true calling with their cool nicho boxes and Mexican lanterns. We feature home made tarts, cookies and hand poured candies that are not only delicious but also made with organic and exotic ingredients. I also have a line of all natural wheat/salt/sugar-free dog biscuits and Lawless’ Bad to the Bone BBQ sauce.
What are some of the bands you have been in?
Sandee played drums and Angela played bass in SCHVITZ, Angela was also in LA CALACA LOCA. I’ve played bass in TxTx69 and the GUTMONKEYS, sang in the DAIRY QUEENS (who’ve recently started playing again after taking 12 years off). We’re all die-hard music fans and try to incorporate this into what ExLx is about. I believe SCHVITZ might be playing again so Sandee and Angela will be busy with that project. I scream in a ultra-core band called VOETSEK (who have come off a year plus hiatus) and I recently started screaming in a new doomy stoner-metal band called BEDRUCKEN. For a new Bay Area band we’ve been playing a lot, and recently recorded for some comps and a flexi pressed onto an x-ray, and are planning on doing some weekend jaunts up and down the West Coast.
I understand you have lost two close friends in the past year…what did you do artistically and musically to raise money and to honor them?
Yeah, this past year has been brutal as far as the loss’ we’ve experienced. Our homeboy Jesse Morris, a.k.a. the Punk Johnny Cash (guitar and vox of JESSE MORRIS AND THE MANCOUGARS) committed suicide November of 2011, and our other homeboy Jef Leppard (guitarist of VOETSEK and vox in S.T.F.U.) was killed in a motorcycle accident leaving the Haight Street Fair June 10th of 2012….both have not only left a hole in our hearts but were also great losses to our Bay Area music community/family. Ain’t a day goes by I don’t think of them both. I know they’re keeping an eye on us and kind of helping things fall into place for us. ExLx really came about from us getting together with a large group of friends/family who all came together to honor and remember our fallen brothers with Dia de Los Muertos alters at the big Day of the Dead celebration/march here in SF. We held weekend workshops for the weeks leading up to Dia de Los Muertos; creating a healing environment for us all to share stories and create art to be used in the alters. After Dia de Los Muertos on November 2nd (Jef Leppard’s birthday), we had friends ask, “Now what are we gonna do?” That’s when we decided we needed a space to throw workshops and then thought about the healing effects of creating art. Incidentally, ExLx is located about two blocks from where we had the alters. In the coming months the people involved with ExLx will be going out into the community, to long term care facilities and hospitals, bringing textiles, tools, etc., to teach patients who can’t get out to do simple art pieces that they can keep. It’s a great feeling to create a piece and even allows some escapism from a failing health situation. We have a permanent alter in our shop that is made up of pictures and memorabilia of not only Jesse and Jef, but also Sandee and Angela’s abuelas, my parents and sister and several other friends/loved ones who are dearly missed. In this spirit ExLx is also a tribute to the people we’ve lost. As for musically, Lennon Rehearsal Studios (where Jef had his recording studio and also worked for the past 13 years) here in SF hosted memorial shows for both Jesse and Jef. The coordinators of ExLx also put together The Big Ass Benefit for Jef’s widow Nikki Davis, a.k.a. NikNik (who’s nicho box’ and Mexican lanterns are for sale at ExLx). We brought together a bill of bands that Jef had either recorded or was good friends with. The line-up was AUTOPSY, GHOUL, NOOTHGRUSH and ACEPHALIX and was held at The Oakland Metro Opera House (also where Jef worked as a soundman). Many friends donated amazing items for raffle and it went off well. There have also been a couple other benefits friends held. We’re in the midst of organizing a Jef Leppard Memorial Motorcycle Ride in June.
What are your future plans for Everlasting Love?
To get art out to our community at a fair and affordable price, get our workshops on healing through art out to those who need it, work with more amazing artists, hopefully build up enough cliental that we can afford to expand to a larger space with a venue…and to keep remembering and honoring the friends/family that have left this mortal coil. In the coming month we will be featuring our first international artist; our dear friend Marald from the Netherlands. Marald has quite a cult fallowing in the punx community. This guy has been doing cover art/t-shirt art for many years for bands like PISSCHRIST, SCORNED, DISSYSTEMA, WARCOLLAPSE, STATE OF FEAR, BOLT THROWER, VOETSEK and many others. We are very excited and honored to have him contributing to our project!
Do you think you’ll outgrow the space — it’s pretty small!
It is, and yes, we hope we do — keep your fingers crossed! Its pretty amazing how much stuff we’re been able to display in this cozy space….its all ergonomics.
How can locals get involved?
Locals can come by Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and check out what we have going on. We rent out space for artists to sell their works and even come by and pick up a calendar. We’re also on Facebook and can be easily reached there. The SF Sunday Streets is coming back on April 14th — the city is allowing us to have amplified sound, so we’re taking advantage of this. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for line up.
Any last words?
Thanks so much for helping to spread the love! If you’re a local to the Bay Area come say hello, if not check us out on FB and come visit when in town. If you’re an artist/artisan who’d be interested in showing/selling works here, get in touch.
How can you be contacted?
Glad you asked! You can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/everlastinglove but really just stopping by the shop is a great way to get us in person!!! Also, we finally got our website up at everlastinglovesf.com.