Holiday Gift Guide

What I love most about our community is all the creativity that grows here. I love talking to our friends, colleagues, and customers, who are always working on different projects across various industries, and I look to them for creative inspiration. The Bay is such a vibrant and eclectic mix of people – I love hearing about people's creative endeavors, the music they are hearing, movies they are watching, art shows they are seeing, and cities they are traveling. 

Mike Cerwonka has been with us since 2018, making him our oldest employee. You likely have never see him cause he comes in to pack our online orders in the evening. He is a Renaissance man with a wide array of interests – be it sign painting, graffiti, vintage arcade games, the Pittsburg Pirates, art house films, old cars, or Bluegrass music. Get him into a conversation on any of these topics and you'll find yourself captivated and sure to learn a thing or two about an artist you've never heard of before. I love these sort of meandering, enriching, artful conversations!

Yoko and I were thinking we needed something commemorative for our 10 year anniversary and thought immediately to talk to Mike about collaborating. We didn't exactly know what we wanted but knew Mike was the person to design it. We had one brainstorm session where we spitballed ideas: optical art! Medetai! Hausu movies! Tadanori Yokoo! Posters from the Showa era! It was everything, everywhere, all at once.

From there, Mike began texting us these images and we were floored!

Behold, the final design for our 10 Year Anniversary:

And we unveil to you, dear friends our 10 Year Anniversary Shirt!

I asked Mike some questions about his creative process. I've been interested lately in how artists find creativity and actually sit down and get to work, which is to me the hardest part of creating something!

What inspired this design?

Cerwonka: This design was inspired by my interest in vintage design/branding/type, Japanese optical art, and Umami Mart of course.

You've been working at Umami Mart for several years now, starting at our old location - how has your experiences here informed the design?

Cerwonka: Working at Umami Mart has been crucial in exposing me to all things Japan. From cultural aspects to packaging design. I'm constantly scanning all the products we carry for visual inspiration.

What was the process for this design?

Cerwonka: For this design I sat down with Yoko and Kayoko to discuss what would convey a nice 10 year anniversary graphic. Since I have been working with them for quite some time, I am pretty familiar with their brand guidelines and feel. After coming to some conclusions on visual elements, colors and verbiage, I grabbed some pen and paper and started clustering doodles together to see if anything would immediately stick. To be fair though, I already saw this one forming in my head based off our conversation. From there on out its just dialing all of the elements in and refining until fit.

You have lived in Oakland for a while now- what do you like about living here? How does it fuel your creativity?

Cerwonka: The Bay Area is a great place to live, most people here I think feel the same way. I have some family history tied to the East Bay, so it always has that Grandma's house kinda nostalgia feel for me. I like the low-key feel of Oakland (not so much these last few years), and it's nice to be able to pop into SF for some city perks. It's also nice to hop in the car and drive any direction for 2-3 hrs and be completely removed from it all as well.

How do you invoke your creativity? Do you have any rituals or a special process before starting a project?

Cerwonka: I wish I knew how to invoke creativity. That's always been a challenge, it just happens when it happens really. I don't try to force anything, and keep a balanced life with all creative outlets. Sometimes I get great visual ideas while playing music, other times a melody or rhythm gets in my head on a bike ride.

There is no rhyme or reason, I think that's a big part of it, being open to perceiving inspiration in the moment whenever and where it mind find you.

Thanks so much Mike for this RAD design. It truly encapsulates the spirit of Umami Mart – from Tokyo to Oakland and back again; from the past, to the future, and beyond!

Y'all need to get this shirt before it sells out. It is SO comfortable, you'll want to sleep in it and never take it off.

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