Five years ago, Michael Coon escaped the grey skies of a Midwest winter, bound for Charleston, where he had work for a lawn care company. The Southern sun and smiles seduced him, and Coon quickly got a taste of the sweet life on Folly Beach.
“I had never seen the ocean. I got a spot out there and it changed my life,” he says. “The sun was shining and it was an eye opener.”
Inspired by the sky, surf and sand, the graphic artist, who says he’s “decent at doodling,” revisited creative roots with a local screen-printing class, and the rest is history.
“I have a friend who does vintage clothing down here and we signed up together,” he says. “But the teacher never showed up, so they ended up giving us a personal, week-long, one-on-one class.”
With his new knowledge and purely as hobby, Coon made a small run of a Happy Thanksgiving-themed T-shirt design for some friends. “It sold pretty quick,” he says of the comical illustration of a pilgrim passing a joint to a Native American.
Then Coon made another one, which became a holiday tradition, and has gone on to design prints and posters for local bars and restaurants. He also helped Nectar with a clever holiday card design, and continues to refine is screen-printing skills at Redux, downtown Charleston’s most innovative spot for artists.
But lately another project, no less creative, has been keeping Coon busy: outfitting his 1971 box truck. Luckily, his dad is a carpenter and volunteered to help Coon convert the wonky wagon into some pretty rad quarters.
Although he’s in the process of moving to a bigger lot, where he’ll be surrounded by artists he can collaborate with, Coon is feeling comfortable in his little cocoon, no matter where it ends up.
“I can do most of my design work, like hand drawing, from my truck," he says. "Having the creative space to do that anywhere is so cool."
The rig is a work in progress. In between camping trips and long-boarding sessions, Coon continues to add new features and functions and hopes to get it up and running for longer-distance treks and weekend getaways.
When he’s parked, Coon says he’s found in Charleston a place that feels like home. For now it’s where he’ll continue to hone his craft—designing, screen printing and, well, making T-shirts and signs for a growing network of friends and clients.
We just can’t wait to see what’s down the road.