Dock Stories: Jim Davis

For the very first post of our #Dockstories series, we’re featuring Jim Davis, creator of Chesapeake Soul. We’re inspired by his love of the Chesapeake Bay and his ability to turn art into a vibrant local business. Read Jim’s story in his own words:
My name is Jim Davis of “Chesapeake Soul” Apparel.
I grew up and currently reside in Sparrows Point, Maryland.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been intrigued by the water.

I have an entire family tree of grandfathers, father, brother, uncles, & cousins that are scattered along the east coast of Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina. Many of whom are fishermen, crabbers, scuba divers, and surfers. For some reason, some of the fondest memories I have with them seem to all date back to and take place in the Chesapeake Bay.

Whether we were getting up early and creeping out the door with tackle boxes, busting each other’s chops about missing crabs on a hand line, or simply being pulled around the bay by boat until our crazy uncle could shake us loose; it was always a good time out there!

I always loved drawing and painting as a child.
I used to dig drawing cartoons, and could really nail down a good still life or portrait on occasion. As a teenager, a few friends, my brother, and I used to swim and fish every other day in Jones Creek.
 
No matter where I was, I always found myself in nature. I used to enjoy hiking, being outdoors, and running quite a bit. I  frequented the marshy trails of North Point State Park just a few miles from my house. I used to admire the lighthouse across the water. One day I saved up a few bucks and bought a cheap canoe so that I could wander over there. I used  to drop in every chance I got! Sometimes with friends, sometimes by myself. I would paddle across the channel, to the lighthouse, and onto Pleasure Island often camping out over night. 

I ventured alone out there most times with nothing more than a tent, a few warm beers, and a curious blue heron to keep me company. I’d gather up a little driftwood and make a fire right there in the sand, fishing for yellow perch until the sun disappeared into the night sky. I’d kick back by the fire and watch the boat lights in the distance wandering silently across the dark horizon. In the morning, I’d wake up to the sound of birds singing in the trees, and the towering Craig Hill Channel Lower Lighthouse staring down at me. I’d sit there a while and watch the sunrise next to the smokey red embers that had survived the night. Really good times. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. It was so simple, peaceful, beautiful.
As the years went on, I found my cartoonish style of drawing evolving a bit.

I watched it turn into more of a realistic and natural style. My sketches and paintings became that of trees, plants, birds, waves, sunrises, and the wildlife that surrounded the Bay Area that I had grown up around. I painted them in acrylics on traditional canvas for years, and one day began experimenting with pallet wood, and driftwood. Often people would see them and ask how much? I began doing custom bay-themed pieces, which I truly enjoyed, and still do to this day on occasion. 

At one point I was approached by a T-shirt company about doing occasional side work for them, so I began goofing around and teaching myself a little graphic design via YouTube tutorials. With 30 years of old sketches and paintings cluttering my attic and various rooms in my house, I began to create images for what is now Chesapeake Soul apparel. I paid the local T-shirt company to print our very first batch of Chesapeake Soul T-shirts.

We did quite well at a few local festivals. If I recall, that was the pivotal moment in which my family and I decided that we should invest in ourselves and try to grow this brand into something more.

My wife and I created the website ChesapeakeSoul.com late one evening after putting our kids to bed.

We also began talking about the possibility of printing our own shirts.

We went online that night knowing zero about screen printing, but decided to roll the dice anyway and jump right in! It was humbling at first. I remember my wife and I putting some of the equipment together on the dining room table. There were boxes scattered everywhere. We looked at each other, “Don’t look at me, this was all your idea!”, we laughed. From there, we began our printing experience by way of YouTube tutorials, basic trial & error, and a boxful of accumulated tees we’d ruined in the process! But it was ok, we were having fun and looked at it like a cool new chapter in our lives!

Chesapeake Soul is going on 2 years in business, and we are having a blast with it!

My family and I own, operate, design, and print everything that is ordered through ChesapeakeSoul.com. Our designs are growing, and will continue to grow. We are a small local apparel company, but hope to expand our brand from shoreline to shoreline in the near future.

The Chesapeake Bay is for everyone. It is for all of us. Whether your a crabber, fisherman, hiker, cycler, boater, paddler, nature enthusiast, or just simply enjoy a nice cold one while watching the sun go down behind the cattails; Chesapeake Soul is for you! We hope that you will follow us along with the tides as we continue to grow our local brand and live our best bay life right here on the Chesapeake!

Cheers!
Jim & Family
-Chesapeake Soul 

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