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Malibu resident builds business from grassroots

Daniel George sews a handmade patch onto one of his hats from the Flying Uke apparel line. Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Pictured is an original, handmade patch from Daniel George’s Flying Uke collection.
Daniel George stitches a patch onto one of his hats. Photos by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Pictured are ceramics designed by Daniel George.
Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
2:57 pm PDT June 9, 2014

Daniel George and his siblings fell asleep to the sound of their father’s guitar every night in their home in a sleepy southern town just outside of Gainesville, Florida. 

“I’d always imagined being able to do that for my family when I got older,” George said. “When I picked up the ukulele, it just became a theme that followed me throughout my life.”

The significance of the ukulele made itself apparent again as George traveled throughout South America in 2009, camping along the Chilean coast, immersing himself in the culture and teaching the instrument to those he came across. Soon after George completed his 45-day journey along the coast, a massive earthquake hit the very spots he’d been exploring. George decided to provide aid in the only way he knew how — through art.

“To help raise money for relief, I designed a poster-sized linoleum block depicting help traveling from the US to Chile in the form of flying ukuleles,” George said. “To me the design symbolized creativity, intuition, freedom and the story of the ukulele following me throughout my passions.”

Now, as George works from his Ramirez Canyon home in Malibu, settled in what he believes to be the ideal crux of “beach and country living,” the ukulele continues to serve its inspirational purposes for him as the namesake and the image behind his apparel and design company, Flying Uke. 

As an experienced ceramics maker with a master’s degree from Cal State University Northridge, George incorporates hands-on techniques in his designing processes. Using hand-carved, hand-inked linoleum blocks, George applies his designs to recycled textiles which he sews onto hats and uses as pockets for several styles of men’s and women’s T-shirts.  

“It’s really important to me that it’s obvious that it was all handmade, not mass-produced in a factory in some anonymous place,” George said. “It’s all produced in a replicatable but soulful manner; you can see the imperfection. My art, for me, is less about precision and more about expression.”

Having come from a long line of artists — his family includes architects, glassblowers, painters, welders, musicians and shoemakers — George has always maintained an affinity for transforming the functional aspects of his life into art. He believes that Flying Uke, as well as his work with ceramics, are the physical, functional incarnations of that lifelong passion. 

“I’m attached to form and function; what I seek is a balance between the aesthetic and the function,” George said. “I’m also very much an analog kind of person — the handmade aspect is what draws me in. As technology gets more and more advanced, I feel like there’s a vein of the population that sort of goes back to the grassroots, and grassroots is really what I try to embody.” 

Officially created in 2012, Flying Uke is “still in its nascent stages,” according to George. But he hopes that the company’s eventual growth will develop in a grassroots way as well, mirroring the way he lives his life — surrounded by repurposed, recycled and redesigned items in his “paradise found” Malibu. 

“It’s still kind of a one-man band, but I’d rather build it slowly and maintain the integrity of what I’m doing as opposed to finding the quickest way to get rich,” George said. “It’s about having a positive energy exchange with the world. We’re here on the earth now; my goal is to put out good vibes. If I can accelerate that and make it more profound and far-reaching, then I think the world will reciprocate.” 

Currently, George sells his wares in several locations throughout Malibu and Southern California and has just confirmed receipt of his first international retailer in Japan. For George, Malibu as a home-base has been inspiring both in the relationships he has fostered in the community and in the physical location in which he designs his pieces. He feels the soul of his product corresponds with the soul of the community, a feeling which helps him to see his entrepreneurial pursuits in what he considers an “idealistic” light.

“The main focus of my life is art — when you’re purely channeling yourself, people will see that in what you produce and it will resonate with them,” George said. “A lot of people want to start their own business so they can eventually have more time to do what they love. But once I get more time, I’m just going to make more art.”   

Flying Uke is available at Cafecito Organico in the Point Dume Plaza in Malibu, 29169 Heathercliff Road.

For more information about Flying Uke, visit www.flyinguke.com.