w: ajleon

The Artisan, the Alchemist and a Chariot fit for a Misfit

There is a concept in religious metaphysics and theology called creatio ex nihilo, “out of nothing, creation”. This potent little Latin phrase means to create something where there was once nothing. To speak or birth something into existence that would have never been if not for the individual with the creativity and the courage to excavate it from the enclaves of imagination.

That someone is the Artisan.

The Artisan doesn’t make things, she breathes them into existence. She rescues nascent ideas that most would allow to drift off into darkness of “what if’s” and carefully assembles them into the real and the tangible, so that the world itself can witness and enjoy.


On August 16th, my 30th Birthday, I left on an adventure to travel across the wide world. To experience the world as slowly as possible – to taste, to touch, to smell, to hug, to nomad this beautiful planet and absorb every ounce of light I can from it in 1,880 days. Since the day I departed my home in the East Village of New York on a train headed West, I had a plan that once I arrived in Southern California, I would buy an RV or something akin to it and use this vehicle to sojourn the first and second legs of my journey around the world – 49 States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America.

My desire was to perform a bit of alchemy.

To buy something that was near the end, a vehicle that had been given up on, that had almost breathed its last and envisage a new chapter for it. As you may or may not know, I am a designer, which means I am obsessed with color, spacing and shapes. So needless to say, this was going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

I was looking for a bit of an art project.

I spent about 10 days on Craigslist sifting through creeps and scammers and driving hundreds of miles in SoCal just to look at possible vehicles. Thanks to both the anonymous and serendipitous nature of good ole Craigslist, I met a great deal of interesting characters, like Bob from Temecula, who almost talked me into buying a 40 foot bus that used to haul convicts to prison.

In the end, I settled on an old Washington State municipal shuttle bus that a small independent rock group (since disbanded) had been touring in for the past two years. When I met the poor bus, which I have since renamed The Pegasus, it was sitting lonely in a public storage lot for months getting repeatedly egged by some not-so-industrious local teenagers.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that she was the one. And thanks to some great negotiating advice from my cousin Mirko, I got a hell of a deal.

Like the Phoenix up from the ashes, this bus, (in just 10 days!) has been fully remodeled and re-imagined and is now fit for a Misfit’s adventure.

Below is a Flickr slide show with before and after shots. This is the first vehicle I have ever purchased and I could not be more thrilled. Also, for my fellow Earth lovers, don’t worry, it runs on Veggie Oil. 🙂

If you can’t see this slideshow you can view it here.

Of course I did not do this work alone. The only way such reengineering is possible, in so short a time frame and with such high of quality is to work with Artisans. People who are not driven by wealth or fame, but are driven to make beautiful things where nothing once existed. To make this world, with whatever gifts they possess, a bit different because they were in it.

From Patrick, the most honest, most passionate mechanic I have ever met, who single handedly saved this trip from cataclysmic failure when The Pegasus broke down two days after I purchased it. To Tito, who brilliantly reupholstered the entire bus in one day when it would have normally taken him four. To Raul, a Cuban immigrant with an eye for perfection, who relentlessly gutted the inside of the bus and laid a hardwood floor which would make my apartment in New York jealous. And Miriam, our Artist-in-Residence over at Misfit, who was willing to fly from New York to Los Angeles on last second notice for 48 hours to craft my vision for a Misfit version of a sistine chapel-like ceiling mural. And Paul, who printed and installed our Misfit decals and this sign so The Pegasus would be properly marked. And Steve, who installed a sound system that ensures we’ll be jamming for several thousand miles to come.

(Also, a huge thank you to my uncle Raul and my cousin Geni, who run an amazing tile shop in Duarte, and who know artisans of all types and were willing to ask them to become a part of this project on my behalf.)


With respect to one’s work, many people find the highest virtue is in self employment.

I am not one of those people.

I know many entrepreneurs who are miserable, locked in a prison from the inside in which they are holding the key and creating nothing they deem to be of actual value. Self employment is great, but only in so far as it empowers you to actually be a part of something special and do something that truly matters.

I believe the the highest virtue, in relation to one’s work, is in becoming an Artisan. To become a person whose handcrafted work is so valuable, so cherished that those whom you produce it for would miss you terribly if you were gone.

The Artisan can be self-employed, but he doesn’t have to be.

Because the Artisan has attained an attribute that holds much more weight than financial independence – the Artisan is irreplaceable.

And whether he knows it or not, is living out his very own personal legend and changing the lives of those he meets in ways he cannot possibly comprehend. And that, my friend, should be at the forefront of our mind as we ponder the significance of living a deliberate life and beginning to craft our own life’s work.

Your Fellow Misfit,


ps – One year ago this week, the Occupy Movement began to sweep through the world. In contemplating this interesting thread in the fabric of American history, I began sketching out what Melissa calls crazy AJ’s crazy ideas for a concept called “Occupy Everything”, a Misfit Art project. I collaborated with a local artist friend of mine to develop these concepts into canvas prints. I’ve printed very few and am planning on releasing some this weekend. These are handcrafted Misfit creations, you will not find them anywhere else. Each individual canvas is priced at $125 and the entire set of five canvases is $500 (20% discounted). I wanted to let you take the first look at them before I release them publicly. If you want to reserve one or the entire set for your house or your office or your coffee shop, just hit reply to this email, and I’ll get you sorted.

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