Saturday, June 18, 2011

Done With Resin

It’s official: Leslie Anderson (Founder, President, CEO, CFO, Laminator, Sander, Glosser, Finner, Hotcoater, Pinliner, Ding Repairer, Head Chef, Delivery Lady, Love-Life Consultant, Hottub Custodian, Trampoline Enthusiast, Reptile Breeder, Cat Fanatic, and Zealous Lover of Specialty Cheeses) of Fatty Fiberglass is moving to Alaska.
She’s in love.
Leslie’s early reputation on the Northcoast was limited to the low-voiced murmurings of Those in the Know. I procured her email in 2004 (third-party client. Sworn to secrecy) and received a terse missive in response to my query: Full glass shop ready in a month. Call later.
Attached was a list of references: Wayne Rich, Clyde Beatty, Steve Walden, Gene Coope. Yater for god’s sake.
A month later, shaped blanks snug in their bubblewrap cocoons, I wound through vineyards, redwoods, and finally the Mendocino Coast. Her property was a zen garden-like gathering of outbuildings, each beautiful in its own artistic right—redwood construction, perfectly balanced yards, chickens, cats, dogs, a strawberry patch, and a deep sense of peace. A far cry from the industrial parks down south and their parking lots littered with bags of foamdust, layers of tough guy action-sports stickers plastering the walls.
Then, Leslie. She appeared behind a couple dogs. Walking slowly. Beer in hand. Shy smile.
As I wrestled with unloading the blanks, she produced two glasses of syrah—one for me, and one for my lovely lady.
She then pointed out her hottub.
“It’s over there,” she said. “I’ll unpack those boards.”
And she did.
We ended our first visit, as many who visit Leslie do, staying for wine, pool, conversation, and Leslie’s notable culinary talents. We left well into the night, promising to stay longer next time.
And we did. We took tours of her chicken coops and gardens and greenhouses. We sat in hottubs and talked about cacti. We played with dogs and ogled boards and listened to stories of the Heavies down south—Rich taking a chainsaw to a shaped blank because the customer requested an adjustment, Brom’s legendary grumpiness, Cooper’s white lab coats
And her glassjobs were insane. We’d always end up in her shop, hands fondling perfect glossy finishes, savoring the smells of local red wine and new surfboards..
Leslie loves surfboards as much as anyone in the industry, but what really spins her wheels are colors. The Fattyshack itself is awash in color—birds, boards, plants, reptiles. In fact, I’m sure her current obsession with chameleons stems not only from their amazing color patterns, but from their ability to change colors to suit their mood. She’s jealous.
Leslie’s a lady full of contradictions, too—the mark of complexity. She would belabor a board’s appearance for days. Call me several times in an hour, email me, text me, whatever. Then, if I would do the same she would quip, “it’s only a surfboard.”
“A friggin’ pool toy. A plastic hoo-haw. Go surfing and chill the heck out. Maybe then you’ll stop whining and get me some more orders.”
This from a woman who once called me in tears because a color of a tail patch came out a quarter shade darker than what she had in mind.
“Is the customer going to notice? “ I asked.
“No.” She said.
“Will anybody notice?”
“No,” she said, then thought for a moment before adding, “ but I will…”
It didn’t matter that the board was bound for the east coast in two hours and she would never see it again.
I sometimes wonder if other glassers do this. If they call the shaper with a catch in their voice when the creation doesn’t meet their vision.
Or if they ask their shapers to pick them up something at the farm supply store on the way over. Or if a board dropoff turns into a cafĂ© visit and conversation over coffee. Or if their favorite gratuity isn’t beer or weed but Idiazabal cheese and chai tea.
I wonder how many glassers sign off a phone conversation with ‘Love ya!”
And that’s the thing: when I first met Leslie, I had no idea we’d join in this adventure together. That we’d talk almost every day, that I would grow to respect and love her tremendously.
Of all the things that stand out about Leslie, one thing is standing out for me this morning: she always refers to the boards by the name on the stringer. It’s not the ‘blood-red quad fish with the yellow pinline,’ it’s Garrett’s Board. And even though she never met ¾ of the recipients of the boards she spent so much time working on, she always called to find out how they liked it. “How did Danny dig that abstract?” She cared because she put herself into everything she did, and I can think of no greater compliment than that.
In a culture where ‘whatever’ forms the dominant tone of many conversations, and ‘meh’ is used to describe something, to care—and to care deeply—is a rare gift.
So don’t worry about Les—she’ll be a bit chilly, but fine. And don’t worry about Fatty Fiberglass, it’s now in the capable hands of Leslie's right-hand dude Jake Sacks, family man, beard enthusiast, and stoked boardbuilder.
I currently have boards on the racks at Almar Surfworks in Santa Cruz, entrusted to the uber-talented hands of Mike, Tony, and Michel. They’re solid guys with amazing skills, and though the boards will be mindblowing, I doubt I’ll be signing off any phone conversations with, “lova ya.”
Still, you never know--Michel's about as nice a guy as them come.
The adventure continues for all of us.
I’ll shut up now and finish just how Leslie would want—with her work speaking for her. She glassed each of these from start to finish. The last one is Leslie('s legs) with my eldest daughter--one of her biggest fans.

p.s. If you see this rig anywhere between Ventura to Southeast Alaska, get her attention then buy her a chai tea. She's good people.