Local Spotlight: Surfer & Artist Daniel George

It takes quite the perseverance and passion to manifest an existence as a working artist, so don’t let Daniel George’s laidback energy fool you. George is without a doubt someone who can take you on a tour of Malibu’s best surf spots and help you perfect your form on the board, while at the same time extolling the beauty of ceramics and printmaking.

A native of the Southeast, George made his way west to Southern California after having picked up surfing and just before enrolling in an MFA program at Cal State Northridge. If ceramics was George’s first love, he’s kept adept at maintaining an equally successful relationship with a second love: his clothing line, Flying Uke. The two romances coexist peacefully, the former allowing George to create timeless one-of-a-kind works of art, while the latter lets George play with a more scalable concept of reproduction–a throwback to his introduction to printmaking during an undergrad stint in Florida.

We sat down with George to talk breakfast burritos, the ocean as inspiration and his current motto, KISS:

How did you get started surfing?

When I was in Florida graduating college I had a couple buddies that took me out to St. Augustine, which is a little beach break out there an hour and a half from my hometown and I rode the whitewater a couple times and then sniffed out that I would be interested in it and took a six month trip to Central America and really got my feet wet in the surf and the culture. It was pretty profound and then I moved out to California after I came back.

What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

At 22 wrapping up college, I had yet to learn to surf but was passionate about art and I ended up studying other things. I think If I would have known, I would have been more committed to my art and creativity earlier on. But I think it’s an organic path that I have gone on and I’m ending up doing it. But yeah, I would say, “Hey this is your thing, stick to it.” I did it anyway organically.

What is your current motto?

My Grandfather always said “KISS: keep it simple stupid” and I feel like with my art and my design that keeping it simple, but effective and functional is really important for me. Also, one of my designs for Flying Uke is a picture of Gandhi and it says “Follow your Heart” and following my intuition, my heart and my passion has really led me to where I’m at living a good, simple-going life.

Photo by Bruce Klumph

Favorite surf spot?

The surf in Malibu is rich, and we have a lot of it. There are a couple of local spots right up the beach from here that I like a lot. It’s really hard to narrow that down but yeah I have a little local spot here that I surf with my buddies that I’d say that it’s my home break.

Favorite post surf snack?

The Breakfast burrito at Lilly’s. It’s amazing!

When you’re not surfing, what is your favorite place to be outdoors and why?

I’m pretty Myopic when it comes to being outdoors and it’s usually west of the Pacific Coast Highway. If I’m not surfing, I love to be down on the beach in the shade at some of these magical spots in the canyons around here. There’s a really bucolic tranquility that really reminds me of home.

What keeps you in your flow?

My interaction with the ocean keeps me in my flow. My water time inspires my land time so I’d say my interaction on a daily basis with the ocean keeps me in the flow and it’s a great one to be in!

What life lessons has surfing taught you?

It’s interesting, I think it’s sublime: our interaction with the ocean is very raw and straightforward and at the same time in those in between moments in the water I can draw a lot of parallels with the way I interact with the ocean and how that teaches me to live life on land. I feel like there are a lot of lessons in the ocean; it teaches you a lot about who you are simply by how you react in the moment, which can really determine how things go for you in the water. So, I think that just to be in harmony with nature and also to be humble about your interaction with it because it’s always going to remind you that you’re much smaller but significant in your own way.

What is your favorite thing about goFlow?

I like that for one as a surfer can keep me in touch with what’s happening in the ocean in a more profound way than a lot of other forecasts do. I also like the diversity of the platform and how someone like myself – a self-employed artist – can supplement my income by helping folks learn about an area and have a local experience where they would normally have no idea where to go and what to do. So facilitating that I think is a really cool aspect of it.

Photo by The Superslice

Tell us about your pottery and clothing line Flying Uke?

When I was a Sophomore in College at the University of Florida in Gainsville, where I grew up, I subbed into a ceramics for non-majors class. Clay has been my main squeeze for the last 16 years. I moved to California and then got my Masters Degree in ceramics at Cal State Northridge and that sort of affirmed and locked in my path of creativity and art. While I was studying ceramics I was ultimately given a bunch of other classes to learn other processes which would ultimately form my body of work in ceramics. One of the most profound was printmaking, a way to create an image that embodies your esthetic that can then be replicated by running it through the press inking. So, because I learned printmaking, I started Flying Uke.

Photo by Bruce Klumph
Flying Uke is essentially born out of: one – my love to recycle; two – my love of creating an image and replicating it. Coming from a background in ceramics, each piece is one of a kind. So, printmaking is a neat way of expanding on that and making multiples. Flying Uke is an ongoing [5 years and counting] experiment on putting positivity into the world.

What do you love most about the process of pottery making and how do you source your inspiration for it?

Pottery itself is process oriented. I love that about it. Essentially clay is dirt – mud that you dug out of the ground in certain mixtures – and creating something functional that people in their lives can use on a daily basis and [associate] familiarity and positivity with that ritual… that’s part of the magic of it for me: to be able to take a piece of dirt and turn that into something that someone can use over decades in their life. I draw inspiration all over the place from music – from folk music to the bluegrass tradition of the south where I grew up. I would say that the ocean is my biggest inspiration for my work. Not that it’s about ocean imagery, but I think you can feel the salt in it.

What is one thing you always do before bed?

Take a few deep breaths and appreciate all the blessings I have in my life.

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