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Chris Bettig, a day in the life and The Darjeeling Limited


Hello Mr. Bettig, how are you? We’ve known each other for quite some years now. I think the first time we met, probably in 2003, I was down in LA for a visit and stopped in Four X Four Gallery where you were putting up your show. It wasn’t totally installed yet, pieces were on the floor, but, it just looked incredible. I remember I gave you a Poketo wallet and we’ve kept in touch since and have become good friends. You were part of one of the first few Poketo series we came out with. You do a lot of different work now, everything from painting, screenprinting, drawing, sculptures, paper cut outs, computer work. What inspires you to do all of those things? Do you have a favorite medium? Do you love working with your hands?

Hello Mr. & Mrs. Vadakan-Myung! Yes, it’s been several years now… I was setting up for my solo show at Four X Four Gallery…

I’ve always been sort of all over the place, I never really stuck to any one particular medium. I like variety and just working with whatever is around me, and I’m always learning new processes etc, so it’s really just a constant evolution. That being said, it’s really hard to pick a favorite medium, I’d like to eventually be doing large scale mixed media installations like Phoebe Washburn or Jessica Stockholder, but for the time being I’m really enjoying working with paper. Yes, it’s totally about just working with my hands, I do enjoy designing things on the computer but it’s not as satisfying as physically constructing it by hand.

You have a home studio. I love your place, it’s so well designed and laid out. Tons of great books, toys, sculptures, artwork. What are some of the things you neeed to keep around you to stay creative? What inspires you? Are there things you look to for ideas and inspiration?

Thanks! Cindy & I are always moving stuff around and changing it, it’s a work in progress…. I think the simple answer and the most realistic answer to the inspiration question is the internet & Google, but having all sorts of books etc. around does help.

How do you manage life and work? Do you ever need to get out? What are some of the good things and challenges with having your studio in the house?

I’ve always had a home studio, except for one year in college and it was a disaster. I love being able to just work on whatever whenever. The immediacy of being able to create is something that is important to me, and don’t like the idea of having to plan out my day and force myself to go somewhere and force myself to be creative. Sometimes I’m not in the right mindset and trying to force it just isn’t the answer.

The only real challenge with the home studio is that we tend to run out of room quickly and it seems that every other month I have to purge a lot of stuff…


What does a normal day in the life look like? What is your perfect day?

Those questions have two completely different answers. A normal day is waking up around 10am going straight to the computer and checking & responding to email etc. which usually takes an hour or two. Then making lunch and watching soccer highlights. Then it’s working on design projects or in the studio on art shows until Cindy gets home. We grab dinner and hang out for a bit then it’s back to work until around 3am, then it’s TV time until I fall asleep.

A perfect day is doing nothing. I think the movie Office Space was actually about me.

Your design studio is called The Mountain Label. Tell me a bit more about The Mountain Label. What do you do via TML? Is it more commercial work? Where did the name come from?

At first it was going to be all my corporate work only, the design studio I worked through on projects that didn’t necessarily have my name overtly aligned with or projects I didn’t want my name on. A separator from my artwork and exhibitions, but the more projects I started working on the more people wanted it to look like my artwork. Most things I make are all tied together so seeing everything together makes a bit more sense to me now. Although I may launch a new site which just features my paintings…. I’m not sure when I will have the time to take that project on though.

The name came from reading British music magazines in high school like NME, Select, Melody Maker etc. and how they would refer to new releases on record labels, like for Ninja Tune Records they would say “new on the Ninja label” and I always really liked that for some reason. I always used to have screen names on AIM and stuff that was theMTN and so I just put the two together.


You love traveling, your Flickr has pics from Japan, all over the US, and you are going to India soon. I remember you loved the movie, The Darjeeling Limited, you saw it multiple times in the theater. What is it about that movie? Is it India? What are you looking forward to when you’re there? Do you draw or do any art while you are on the road?

Traveling is awesome… I love all Wes Anderson movies and I tend to see them all multiple times in the theater, it’s the characters and the way they are always in this downward spiral and then try to redeem themselves. India was rather beautiful in the movie, but Cindy and I have always wanted to go to India, the movie may have been an enabler…? I’m just looking forward to the adventure, it’s our least planned trip, we are just going to sort of roam around the country for a few weeks. I always bring my sketch book when I travel but sad to say I rarely do use it, we are usually so busy going all over the place, our vacations are not really vacations. To compensate I just take way too many photos… I think I have about 1200 pictures from the last time we were in Japan.

You’re like me, I take my camera everywhere. Your work can vary from the abstract to character driven pieces to patterns. Is there anything in particular you really love doing? Does it depend on mood or projects that you are working on?

I Like the more abstract and pattern stuff, the figurative or character stuff is fun but my love has always been abstract / landscape work. The figurative work tends to be for more design-y things or corporate work, which is not to say that it’s bad or lesser work, I’ve just used it for more client work… maybe I should change that! Unfortunately, what I make is dictated by the project I am working on, maybe one day soon that will change….


Tell us a bit about your wallet for 826LA. How did you come up with the collage and drawings? What did you think of the story? How did you decide to create and work that piece the way you did?

I was working on some collages when you guys emailed about it so I just went right to work on it… but it was feeling a little impersonal, and I really wanted to have some obvious hand drawn elements to sort of tie in with the story. I wanted to make it all look like it could have come from one person, like how I thought the author might have made the illustration.

I love how responsive you are, I can always count on you for great design. I look forward to seeing your pics from the trip. We’ll have to have a part two to this interview. Until then, what are some things you are working on now that you can talk about? Are you excited about anything coming up?

I’ve got a few awesome projects in the works, I’m working with a new company doing a line of watches, I have an agent and we work on designing and licensing fabrics and I have a bunch of things involving my fabrics coming out in 2009, holiday cards this fall with a nice small company in Minnesota called Artists To Watch, I’m releasing some new prints soon, and some more group shows with Giant Robot and a few other galleries…

Check out all the wallets from Poketo + 826LA.
Visit Chris at

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