Artist Spotlight — Jon Marro, Love Artist and Graphic Designer

Jon Marro is the owner and operator of Blend Apparel, a graphic T-shirt company unlike any other due to their strong environmentally friendly focus. All their shirts are made from bamboo or organic cotton. Not only is bamboo a renewable resource, it grows much faster than cotton, is breathable and soft. Even their servers are run using wind power. This is a company going above and beyond, truly displaying their love for this planet and Jon was eager to chat with us about their contributions.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

My professional life currently toggles between doing graphic design work and Blend Apparel. A typical personal day (which mind you, almost always involves some sort of professionalism) tries to incorporate at least one activity under the Mind, Body, Soul categories. Mind could be reading, writing, or meditating, body could involve working out, running, or doing yoga, and soul is something gratuitously creative, for myself or another.

Explain your art- what exactly is it you do? How do you describe it?

I create images which are my iconographic question marks aimed at the world. Some are meant solely to bring a smile or levity, others intend to raise awareness or self-love.

Do you find your imagery is a good conversation starter with people you have never met before?

Completely. And friends of mine who have worn the shirts have told me on their various travels around the world-the shirts always provoke questions. That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do, is snap people out of their world, if only for a second to smile or ponder the cleverness in the design. I see them as “coffee table shirts.” Eliciting interesting conversation, and in the best case scenario they will bring people/strangers together to talk about the bigger questions the shirts pose.

Who or what influences your work and why?

I’m pretty heavily influenced by cultural icons. Dylan, Marley, Lennon. Andy Warhol. The Dalai Lama, Gandhi, MLK. People who have been thrown into the public eye by just being who they are and standing behind their passions. I’m completely inspired by people following their dreams, being a bold stance for love and higher purposes, and people who try to make a difference with revolutionary compassion.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Funny, I’ve been asking myself the same question recently about true love. I really don’t know. I’ve heard of people just looking at an instrument and it makes sense to them. I guess it’s whether or not they apply that understanding, or actively follow their intuition or interest. Personally, I’ve always been insatiably curious. So my quest for deeper understanding of things (the universe in particular) and my own pathology, allow me to ever deepen my applied skills. I find the more I’m open to knowledge and new ways of seeing the word, the more I can grow as an artist. I don’t just have limited questions to ask, I can ask bigger and more diverse ones. SO… to answer your question: I feel the pursuit or free will to explore creativity, skill, or personal potential can meet and possibly overcome any innate talent.

When did you first discover your talent and artistic ability?

When other kids would go out and play-I just wanted to stay in and color. I LOVE to color. Even to this day. Coloring is such a cathartic process for me. So I guess that, but also I’ve been told that my first grade teacher told my mom that while other kids were drawing stick figures, I was rendering with advanced detail. Like form, and shape and minutia that other kids weren’t yet. I’ve always love details too. And I can see now in retrospect, that my youthful fascination with the microcosm has turned into an adult fascination with the macrocosm.

Who or what inspires your imagery?

The universe. The world. Humanity, and international icons. Not the celebrity kind, but the visual communication kind. I love international icons. They fascinate me. They have the power to communicate beyond any written or spoken language. They are like modern day hieroglyphs. Any of my designs that use only image (no words), you could take to Japan, Brazil, or Lithuania and people could make sense of them. They could construct a message or a question with it. They very much are art in that way.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

Usually it involves a problem that I want to try to make sense of or get others to join me in wonder about through the use of image. My images need to communicate. They need to provoke, and they need to ask bigger/deeper questions about humanity or it’s collective psychology. (side note: I’m writing two films right now, and they both do the same thing. Get the audience to look at their own humanity and how they could live a more fulfilled and connected life).

Where did your first inspiration come from?

I was designing a ton of merchandise for bands and musicians, and really enjoying it, but there were a few images that I wanted to put out there into the world without someone’s name attached to it. So, I initially started with four designs. The first of which was “Love Fuel.” Someone once referred to me as a full-service love station. I took it as a pretty great compliment and the image on the back of the shirt first came to mind, and then I added the front “Love Pump.” Pairing images and icons like that to give new meanings to banal objects is a fairly constant theme in my work.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

I grew up in Vermont, so I remember 1 day a year in school we’d always have Green-Up day, where we’d all go and clean up and pick up litter. So, growing up in nature, I’ve always been super sensitive to the environment. We knew we were going to go green with our shirts, and since we started the green movement has definitely sky-rocketed. Its everywhere now, and we’re so glad. We never were in it for the fad. We were in it (as you can tell by the designs) because it’s the lives we want to live, and the difference we want to make.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I have an eco-friendly toilet that has an up flush (you know, for those bigger flushes you need to make) and a down flush for the regular flushes. I have a compost and recycle every week. I’m a vegan. I only buy organic foods. And green products for house and business.

Do you try to discuss how to live a greener lifestyle at least once every day?

I don’t really preach it too much. That’s not my style. I just invite people into my world and lead by example. If I have friends or family come in from out of town-I’ll take them to my favorite vegan restaurant or my eco-friendly pharmacy. It all helps to open their eyes to how they could live a greener life if they chose too.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Well, I think most importantly this is what we have. We’re in an abusive relationship right now. We were born into this beautiful and divinely perfect situation: air to breathe, sunlight to keep us warm already abundantly provided. Soil to plant food, fresh water to drink. Without getting too biblical-earth was the Garden of Eden, and we’re completely taking it for granted. We can live such a life of harmony with it, if we use it in sustainable ways. But we need to think of the whole picture. Just pan back to space and see Earth from above. That’s what we’re dealing with. We’re all in this and on this together. It’s kinda that simple. Why not celebrate and share as opposed to separate and scorn? These questions are what I’m trying to ask.

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?

My favorite two shirts are “Home To All” and “Worth The Weight.”

What challenges have you had in your work?

We’ve run into the what I would assume are pretty regular trial and error-ing of manufacturing. Some sizes a bit too small, production snags, website has gone down, international shipping has been tough to figure out, we had a complete manufacturing break-down with a huge client…We’ve had a little bit of it all, but we look at it as ALL learning. We’ve learned so much and it’s only strengthened our commitment and bettered our product. We are grateful for all the opportunities life throws at us to build a thriving company, and look for the lessons in all of them. “Failure” is only what you make it to be.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

We love the internet. It provides us international visibility and it’s a 24/7 convenient parlor. In terms of art…it certainly allows you to have your finger on the pulse of the culture. We see it as just another medium to express yourself with, and a way to connect to people you might not have been able to otherwise.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To open up as many eyes, heads, and hearts as I can. And to become the Andy Warhol of the green movement.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

Um…world peace and lots more designs. We’ve got a great shirt going into production around the election and politics in general. I’m really excited about it.

What are your long term career goals?

To have a business that’s completely sustainable. A worker owned and operated, off the grid, organic farm that harvests bamboo, cotton, hemp, soy…and whatever else we’ll be making textiles out of. Having a storefront on every continent (though I’m not sure it’s ever t-shirt season in Antarctica). Providing scholarship opportunities and forming our own charity organization. And continuing to create love propaganda wearable and otherwise.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?
Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Phil Hale, Joel Sorren, Shepard Fairy, Ryan McGuiness, Banksy, The Imaginary Foundation, Jason Munn, Susan Waters-Eller, Eleanor Grosch, Christopher David Ryan, Me (I Really do love what I do!).

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
Create! Create! Create!

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
Aside from Blend Apparel??? I recommend buying your normal house wares, but the green versions. Whether it’s dish soap, toilet paper, garbage bags, or laundry detergent. Start with what you use passively and incorporate them into your livelihood.

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?
Buy organic. Please, Please, Please. I would also say eating two vegan meals a week.

How would your friends describe you?
Funny you should ask, for an assignment recently I actually had to ask my friends. Here’s what they said: “Inspiring, fun, creative, a great listener, honest, enlightened, open, a social lubricant, passionate, easy-going, ever self-improving, and all anyone would ever need in that moment.”
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

10 thoughts on “Artist Spotlight — Jon Marro, Love Artist and Graphic Designer

  1. Hey Harriet

    Wow! That was a totally absorbing read. The only part I didn’t like was the fact that it ended! Thanks for spotlighting such an inspirational (not to mention super talented!) individual. I’d never heard of Jon Marro before now, but I’ve just become a huge fan after reading this feature! What a guy! Great interview 🙂

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Shon

    Hey all, thanks for checking out Jon’s interview and for your kind words about him & his work! He already said taht he’s honored which really means everything to me for having interviewed him.

    I have a side note from the man himself that actually 7 of their shirts are organic cotton and not bamboo. Wanted to clarify that bit of info so as not to lead anyone astray 🙂

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Shon

    Trayce you are one of the reasons I decided to track him down for an interview! I was on MySpace & saw you in the Home to All T and went oh yeah JON! So thanks for inspiring this interview 🙂

    Reply

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