Stewart Celebrates a Long History with the Severson Family with New Co-Lab Collection
Posted on June 10 2023
We've created a new collection of goods, together with Severson Originals that feature a mash-up of art by Bill Stewart and Dan Severson. Stewart doesn't collaborate with just any brand, so why did we choose Severson? Here's a look back at the history of the Severson family's connection to Stewart Surfboards and why we're so excited for this new collaboration.
The Severson family has lived and surfed in San Clemente since the 1940's, helping to shape early surf culture through cinematography, photography, and art. John Severson made some of the first surf movies, founded Surfer Magazine, and was an established photographer and artist. He had a profound impact on his nephews, Benji who became a professional surfer, and Dan an artist. The two brothers later went on to found Severson Originals, with creativity and originality at the heart of everything they do, which naturally drew the young Seversons to Stewart.
Fast forward a couple generations from the 40's to the late 1980's, when Stewart Surfboards is gaining notoriety as one of the most progressive and eye-catching surfboard brands on the market. Dan recalls, "From an early age Bill Stewart's art made a huge impression on me. I’d ride my bike over to the shop as a kid, and go in and check out all the cool airbrushed boards and art on the walls. The dreamy waves and cool characters were really mind-blowing! It was like going into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.” Dan’s first shortboard was purchased from the shop back in 1989 at age 14, and his first custom longboard was shaped by Bill in 1994. “It rode so good, and I wish I still had it." Benji was equally impressed by Bill's boards. As a Stewart shop employee and team rider in the early 90's, Benji says, "Bill's airbrushes were so iconic. During a time when everyone was trying to outdo the next guy with the airbrush/colors on their board, Bill's were always the most outrageous." Benji served as a guinea pig for Bill's shortboard shape ideas and he had Bill shape him a full quiver of boards for the 1992 QS contest in Australia.
As any big bro with connections would do, Benji introduced Dan to Bill in 1994, just after Dan had graduated high school. Bill recognized his artistic talents and hired Dan to work at the Stewart screenprinting shop, doing artwork for Stewart and other clients. There, he learned the entire screen printing process: from the art, to photography and separations, screen preparation, and final printing.“I really enjoyed working for Stewart at the screen shop back then," Dan says, "I really learned a lot there, and got to work with some talented and amazing people." Along with creating some epic t-shirts alongside Bill, Dan drew the Jeff Kramer LSP logo which is still used today.
More importantly, Dan's time at Stewart solidified the connection between the two families. He remembers, "Our weekly Sano nights were epic. We had a great crew that was really tight and it felt more like a family." Dan eventually moved on to other jobs, but he stayed connected to Stewart and did art for another batch of t-shirts in 2010.
When Benji and Dan established Severson Originals in 2020 they knew that they wanted Stewart to be one of their first retailers. Benji showed their first line to Ashley (Bill's daughter and Stewart's retail buyer) who immediately recognized that Severson's classic surf styling would appeal to the Stewart customer. The Severson product sold well, and Ashley enjoyed talking business with Benji whenever he stopped by to check on the Severson rack or show the next season's line. So, when Benji approached Ashley with an idea for Dan to create an artistic frame for Bill's airbrush art, she saw this as a perfect match.
Dan got to work combining an iconic Bill Stewart airbrush painting with his modern retro frame. In October of 2022, he met up with Bill for airbrush and painting lessons with his former employer as his teacher / mentor. This lit a new spark for art and ignited the next creative phase for Dan. Not only did he create an epic Stewart/Severson collaboration series, but he also drew up designs for several new Stewart t-shirts.
We celebrated this co-lab with an art show featuring original art by Bill Stewart as well as Dan Severson. With drinks and live music, as well as live painting by Bill Stewart, we had a blast with the couple hundred people in attendance.
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