We had the good fortune of connecting with Louis LaBelle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Louis, how do you think about risk?
Every time we step into the unknown we feel like we are taking a risk. For a large part of my life I felt like I was stepping into the unknown everyday. I grew up on a small island in the pacific, Guam. I went to 4 different high schools from Guam, to Sacramento, and to Moreno Valley. Some of these things were a bit difficult for me when I was younger but as I got older I began to relish the unknown. I ran for little adventures where ever I could find them. I went to Dallas for school and awhile after that saw what Virginia was like. Some of these adventures included giving up the wanna be rock star life, working in heavy equipment, buying a home and supporting a family. Through the years I always felt like I could do more, I wasn’t satisfied, in fact I was miserable. I always wanted to have my own business but I never knew what It would be. Then I discovered woodworking. I loved to create things. My island roots came out in my work. I fell in love and felt it was something I could do the rest of my life. I had to take a shot. That being said, this is one of the most difficult things Ive ever done. Its scary and its exciting. I’ve made mistakes and try like hell to make decisions that minimize risk. Im constantly learning and looking for ways to make things better. I wouldnt trade what im doing for anything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
It all started with the guillotine. I had always wanted to build one. I finally started my plans. In my research a video popped up of a guy filling the cracks of a live edge slab of wood with resin and pigments. I loved the contrast of color against the wood. My thoughts immediately went to doing inlays in wood. I started shopping online like a bored housewife with an unlimited fuckin’ budget. I found a hand-carving tool, bits, pigments, a small air compressor, and other odds and ends and I went to a home improvement store and got a pre-made tabletop and did my first inlay. I carved out a hammerhead shark, stained the table-top dark like walnut and covered it with epoxy, I loved it ! and I wanted to do another one. I went to buy another premade table top and they were out so I shopped for one online. The reviews I saw said they were put together while the wood was wet and would warp as it dried so I decided to learn to make my own. This is when I discovered many different species of wood, using a lot of walnut and curly maple. From here I guess it got a little out of control. I didn’t like any of the prefab legs for sale so I started designing my own. Then it went from tables to wine racks to custom frames with island scenes made with different exotic woods. One of my favorite things to do was to frame “Endless Summer” movie posters. During this time, if I got an idea I just fuckin’ made it. I was experimenting with alot of different things. I started making table top shuffleboard games and they sold. People liked them. Shuffleboard is just one, two, and three points and one day I thought maybe I could make it more interesting. Instead of points I made categories of all the basic rules of drinking games we have all played over the years. I was talking to a client of mine about the game and he bought it from me sight unseen. I was talking to another client and they had me ship one to Illinois. I called the game BEERSHUFFLE!. I made a few more and they sold. People were coming back to me telling me how much fun they had with my game. It was at this point I thought I had something. I was selling alot of them down at the beach. Nothing gets me more stoked than when people come back and tell me how much fun they have had with my game. I love meeting my cutomers at shows. Since then BEERSHUFFLE! has become my main focus. The thought of leaving something behind that gives people a good time and a few laughs really brightens the day.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love Venice Beach. I used to like getting a room right on the boardwalk. I love talking with the local street artists. to name a couple. Lee and Vern. What’s up guys?! I have met some of the most interesting people right there on the boardwalk. So with drinks mixed in hand from the room we would go for a stroll and see what’s going on. Definitely check out the skate park. I know Venice has gone through some changes but its one of my favorite places on the planet. It was the first place I brought my work out in public. I will always love Venice.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have had the love and support from my entire family. My family has always stood by my side even when I’m sure they all thought I was fuckin’ nuts for leaving the security of a well paying job to follow my dream. I had lots of help developing my game by my shop neighbors. Nate at Native Print Co. and Chris at All Pro Graphics. My friend Dan Kubat was really cool with helping me with some art for my games and my van, the rolling billboard. I have got to mention Wild Bill he was there for me alot when things got rough. Bert at Reel Lumber in Riverside is always there and a great help. I wouldnt be where I am without these incredible folks.