“You opened us up to a world we never knew existed!”

— Clare Buchs


Just one of the many things I learned at Design Ranch

With the lingering scent of BBQ on my fingers and the smell of campfire on my jacket, I’m doggone happy to report that Design Ranch No. 8 was phenomenal. I’m also sad to say that it’s over (insert dry wind audio and tumbleweed visual here).

Three of my fellow ranchers and I arrived after a 2-hour van ride from San Antonio just as the low-tech (imagine large transparencies and a classic overhead projector)/high energy keynote presentation by Ranch Bosses Kelly Stevens and Kellie Toombes got underway. I no sooner had my registration packet in my hand when I heard my name followed by “I don’t think he’s here yet.” Without a moment to spare, I doubled-timed it up the steps into the dining hall and shouted, “I’m here!”  The applause was loud and humbling as I shucked my backpack and stepped up to accept my kick-ass belt (with horsey buckle and monogram) from Kelly. I received an additional award of 25 cents for my ‘perfect timing’ (though in retrospect, that award should have gone to our van driver who had to stop and visit the privy on the way—thus delaying our arrival). For a brief moment, I felt like the biggest toad in the puddle!

belt12Oh yeah, I’m still wearing it! BONUS—the buckle can hold a silver dollar.belt21

After grub (insanely delicious), I moseyed on over to the hospitality room. It’s there that I met screen printing wizard hotshot deity wunderkind master boy wonder, Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine and his equally talented wife, Diana Sudyka. Both were (and still are) super nice SUPER NICE and I enjoyed the time we spent together. Better still – they live @2 hours from me so you can bet we’ll be seeing each other again soon.

3471242198_7b26db2761_o1(courtesy Kelly Stevens)

hotdamn_unicornJay’s HOT DAMN-IT’S CAKE (courtesy Kelly Stevens)

Diana’s HILLBILLY UNICORN (courtesy Katharine Bobbitt )

I also met Geof Peveto and Christian Helms of The Decoder Ring Design Concern, the masterminds behind the Design Ranch No. 8 identity. Smart design mixed with sharp humor and jaw-dropping visuals.



Friday morning found me looking for ‘Round Up’—the site chosen to host my 3 workshops. I wandered a bit and then saw a directional marker with my name on it. However, it was pointing toward a tree, which has me thinking about how fun it would have been to build a treehouse rather than tearing up flattened wood pulp! With a full room, sharp knives, tasty tomes and eager fingers, we saddled up and got down to work.

pulphandout(courtesy Kelly Stevens)

andreajratermann_meLook at how well they pay attention

sabrina_vega_heat_demo(courtesy of  Sabrina Vega)

After divulging the Secrets of the Knife (along with a variety of ways to flush the angry varmints from their covers), I stood back and watched the magic unfold. Many have heard this already, but I’m going to say it again: The results were astounding. Everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) wowed me by creating the illusion of 3D from the 2D characters that were given to them (I handed out the books with no real method to my madness other than having fun by heightening the suspense).

I have to admit that I was more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers because I didn’t think one-book-per-person would be enough, but I was purring with delight when my posse started putting books together to create their own tall tales. That’s when I realized that they truly got it! The other two workshops went just as well.

Since I had no room for my new Nikon, I brought my tired, old Coolpix point-and-shoot and wound up with more bad pictures than good. Fortunately, many of my new friends have generously agreed to share their pictures:

3018_1135776949399_1076597770_30417793_4111498_n1(courtesy Matt Fangman)

3018_1135776989400_1076597770_30417794_2549434_n1(courtesy Matt Fangman)

3018_1135777029401_1076597770_30417795_4357072_n4(courtesy  Matt Fangman)

3018_1135777109403_1076597770_30417797_36930_n2(courtesy  Matt Fangman)


3471237874_a2055e6905_o(courtesy Kelly Stevens)

3470424331_a11a3fcfd3_o1This is hilarious! (courtesy Kelly Stevens)

maya_lee(courtesy Maya Lee)

aaron_gibson_group(courtesy of Aaron Gibson)

mathew_sturtevantDoesn’t Blair look as sweet as a desert flower? (Matthew Sturtevant)

clare_buchs(courtesy Clare Buchs)

tom_keller(courtesy Clare Buchs)






Following a brief (and unplanned) nap after lunch, I hustled over and crashed  Grace (Ready Made) Hawthorne’s Sweater Ready workshop. Two hours later, I had a new pair of hats made from felted wool.


lauren_mulkey-wool-hat(courtesy of Lauren Mulkey)

Saturday’s finale included music under the stars. This was preceded by a silent auction that included several pages from the official Design Ranch No. 8 handbook—’dirtied’ specially by me (they sold for $50). :

kim_schlossberg_me_cuttingSwinging and cutting (courtesy Kim Schlossberg)

3470428885_7e27062a80_o1Kelly badgers James Victore (courtesy Kelly Stevens)

jason_puckett_cutouts(courtesy Jason Puckett)









blairkellyjudy(courtesy of Aaron Gibson and Kelly Stevens)

Thank you again to Blair Richardson and Kelly Stevens who twisted my arm to do this over a year ago. Actually, it only took 1 email (each) to convince me!!! Judy Schulz took it from there and had me chugging the Design Ranch Kool-Aid months before I got there (mmmm BBQ flavor!) Oh, and don’t forget:

  • Always drink upstream from the herd
  • Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.
  • Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
  • Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.
  • There are more horses asses than horses.

8 Responses to “Branded”

  1. Thank you Tom for being a big part of making Design Ranch so much fun! I loved meeting you and learning a whole new art form in your workshop. I hope to take what I’ve learned there and incorporate it into my dreamed-of future collages. I’m especially excited about what I’ll be able to do with the book of unfortunate food.

    And I love this blog post, too!

  2. Thanks Kim! Damn. It was fun wasn’t it? I’d love to see what you do so feel free to share them with me.

  3. Holy Cow, that KS pic of you in your own Illustration is great! Love it.

  4. I know. I can’t look at it without laughing.

  5. Awesome Entry! I hope there is more. That was like, only one day!

  6. Annalise Says:

    Truly inspiring. We were at a booksale on Saturday full of books I would never read – I wish I had seen this post before then – I would have bought up big and got cutting. My husband (who collects spaghetti western films) did buy the novelisations of the Dollars trilogy with great images of Clint Eastwood on the front. I wonder how he’d feel if I altered them a little.

  7. Scan/print them first and practice. Then, when he’s not looking, slip one over the cover and see if he notices!

  8. Nicole M Says:

    I love “Sin is Swell” what a riot! These are awesome.


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