Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lonny Love, Airbrush Artisan and Entrepreneur

Lonny Love is an airbrush artist who started out spraying graffiti on walls. After many run-ins with property owners and police, he realized that he could make money from his art. He's been a professional airbrush artist for 18 years.

His canvases are t-shirts, sneakers, jeans, hoodies, "Tims", fitted caps and trucker caps. He quite talented and much sought after. Lonny's significant customer base are jewish people. He airbrushes at bar mitzvas and does vending at JCC events.

I watched him work his craft in a mall in New Jersey. He was always busy doing his art. Alongside him was Hope, his mate. She made and sold bars of soap and pie- and cocktail-shaped candles. She also put glittery messages on Santa caps. They had a good business, although they say business has been much, much better. Hope lovingly packaged her soaps and candles and restocked her display shelves. She kept her head to the grindstone to prepare those glittery Santa caps. When she's not doing caps, soaps and candles, Hope is braiding hair or doing manicures some place else.

Seeing the industry, cash and public apreciation, had me think about the youth and their career options. Lonny and I chatted about it. There are options; no one needs to starve. People can consider airbrush artistry, candlemaking, soapmaking and eBay. Yes, eBay. Young people could walk through more affluent neighborhoods and pick up cast aways. After setting up an account. After setting up an ebay account, sell what's collected on through their store or an auction. The candles and soaps could be sold through vending or merchandising to smaller retailers. I mentioned that selling drugs and prostitution were unnecessary. Lonny said, "People do that because they're not thinking."

Lonny Love, commissioned artist and vendor, has been at this for 18 years. He says he's been all over. In fact, from December 24 through early January, he's in St. Croix working a festival.

A family friend visited him at the mall. They spoke about the economy. The quagmire of credit card debt and mortgage foreclosures across the nation. The friend described a dinner party wherein most of the couples in attendance were grossing six figures. The friend said three men disclosed that they recently lost their jobs. The friend encouraged Lonny to maintain his entrepreneurial endeavors. So the next time you see a vendor ask for some business advice.
About the Santa caps: they bought them at a discount store for 99 cents each. After glittering, they sold for $12.

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