Canned Heat: A Conversation with Caleb Owens of Cro Customs and 805 Beer's New Limited Edition Can Designs
We at Juxtapoz have had a long history with the kustom and car cultures, so much so that our early days of the magazine were built on the foundations of art made from the garages and studios of southern California. It's in our DNA. So when we found out our good friends at 805 Beer had collaborated on a special limited edition can release with Caleb Owens of Cro Customs (as well as Nikki Lane and the Babes Ride Out event), it gave us a chance to not only talk about industrial design and brand identity design, we got to talk to a legend of the motorcycle world.
Juxtapoz: Always the first question.. how did the collaboration come about? How long did you know of each other?
Troy Powell (805): We originally met Caleb Owens through a mutual friend Daniel Silva who is a tattoo artist based out of Southern California. D. Silva was a friend with Caleb and told us about his annual motorcycle event “the analog run” we were instantly intrigued as this was one of the original social media lights out event. We looked into the whole thing and realized that Caleb’s story aligned with 805 and we made a short film to feature Caleb and Cro-Customs life story in 3-5 minutes. The best part is that the early relationship turned into a lifelong friendship and we went on to re-build a 1951 Harley Davidson Pan Head that Cro designed and created for us with inspiration previous endeavors and a whirlwind of his own idea’s.
Caleb Owens (Cro Customs): The process from meeting to collaborating was very organic and not forced in any way.
When you are doing a design for a recognizable brand, and a logo that is well-known, what sort of process do you go through as an artist?
Troy Powell: This is more of a question for Caleb to answer but here’s our take... When we first met Caleb we were not quite the recognizable brand we are today in the west, we were a small prototypical regional beer brand from the Central Coast of California with big aspirations :) We did not do anything except ask Caleb if we could join him on the Analog Run and eventually build the 805 motorcycle with him because of the simplicity of what bike culture has had on our community and beyond. The logo that Caleb created existed long before it was an idea to appear on an 805 can. We loved his original logo art and why not put it on a can, I guess that’s the whole idea to the concept of our limited edition can series, we were already working with so many amazing people that had created cool artwork and logo’s so why not put it on a limited beer can.
Caleb Owens: Agree with Troy here as well... I’ll add this. Cro Customs was started in and around 2000-02. It was merely a side hustle of my serious hobby of building bikes. I never had larger aspirations other than hopefully making a few bucks to fund the addiction. I created the Cro Customs logo a few years into the biz. I wanted it to be somewhat mysterious and not literal like most moto related brand identities are, with that nod to a nostalgic feel of course.
On the 805 side, does it ever get scary when you say, "Hey we are giving someone our branding to mess with!" or is it always exciting to see the result and how people interpret your brand?
Troy Powell: Everything you do these days is a calculated risk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Oh yeah…. for sure we had a few that wanted to kill this project before it ever saw the light day, and we believed in it enough to push forward on the project. We were not really messing with it, we were just putting our heads together and collaborating on some fun idea’s. It’s always scary or exciting to see how people interpret your brand, but we pride ourselves on having our feet on the ground, I think we have a good pulse on the people that identify with 805 and enjoy our beer, if we don’t shout at us and let us know.
Caleb, you work more in industrial design, but what sort of art and design background do you have? And how do you apply what you do with Cro Customs to this 805 special project?
Troy Powell: This question is designed for Caleb but we will answer with this: Caleb (Cro- Customs) is a hidden talent that will never talk about himself :) He is a seasoned 3-D and CGI artist that bowed out of an illustrious Hollywood career to focus on building award winning custom motorcycles and teaching his talent of art to his collegiate class of students. He’s a true original that will design or work with anyone just based on the true principle of the project. I would bet if it doesn’t mean something to him, he will not do it.
Caleb Owens: I started out as a traditional artist. Earned a BFA in Art from Florida Atlantic University, with an emphasis on illustration and Computer Graphics. Small school when I went. I worked for over 25 years in the film and game industries doing CG animation. I worked on big summer movie vfx and the like. Great experience, but left very little time for life and other creative pursuits. I slowly left the business to do more bike work, teach, and occasionally work on projects that wouldn’t kill me. Working on bikes or other creative projects, the most important thing I look for, or hope for, is meaning, inspiration, reciprocity and altruism. Making anything that has meaning takes time, and I feel like why spend time on things that have little to no meaning? Everything I’ve done with and for 805 has had meaning to me, and them. Outside the commercial aspect of the work, I’ve developed meaningful relationships with the 805 crew. As cool as the brand stuff is, what matters to me most is those relationships. After all, that’s all we have.
Does 805 have more art and crossover collaborations coming up? Is this something that you hope to always do?
Troy Powell: This is limited edition “Version 2” and in addition to the (Caleb) Cro-Customs can it will feature the female motorcycle legends of Babes Ride Out, and outlaw singer/songwriter music legends Nikki Lane, and Gethen Jenkins. “Version 1” featured the California low riders of Deadend, the dirt bike legends of Fasthouse, surfboard shaper Joe Yee and the infamous Born Free Motorcycle show. “Version 3” and upcoming versions are in the works and we haven’t fully decided which direction we will choose, but we are excited with what opportunities will come with incorporating art and design into packaging.
How long are the cans available? And where?
Troy Powell: The current limited edition run is only available for 3 months and available everywhere 805 beer can packaging is sold, through December 31st! Go to 805beer.com and click “find our beer” to get it at a location near you.