Chris Lewellyn wants me to allocution to anybody but him. The tall, acquiescent book boutique er walks through the architecture on Elm Artery area he and his coworkers architecture and book merch for their clients. Best of them are artists of some variety. Half are from Deep Ellum.
Lewellyn’s Book Boutique occupies a characterless architecture in that eclectic, divisive, progressively gentrified neighborhood, and inside, the advisers of its namesake clutter about paint-splattered confines, generally bamboozlement several projects at once. They actualize aggregate from business cards to hats and posters. But they are best accepted for the active shirts they accept advised for anybody from Hank Williams III to boyish banana Saffron Herndon. The shirts are generally blithely black tees with vividly accomplished animation characters and block lettering. Best of the ’s shirts are evocative of the murals for which Deep Ellum is known.
“You absolutely accept to allocution to the kids,” Lewellyn says. “They’re the ones accomplishing all of this air-conditioned stuff.”
Lewellyn, 44, assassin these “kids” as designers. There’s artisan Hunter Moehring, who is additionally a affiliate of the Dallas jailbait bandage Sealion. Nathena Hampton is a agenda artisan and longtime Lewellyn collaborator. In total, there are at atomic 10 part- or full-time employees. None are absolute kids, admitting in the accomplished Lewellyn has assassin bodies as adolescent as 15.
“My action is to accord bodies a adventitious to do what they love,” he says.
It’s a action that has taken a assessment on his brainy and concrete wellbeing. But he sees that as the amount of advancement a book boutique that is a business in, by, and for Deep Ellum. There are a few added book s still around, namely Bullzerk, Doppelganger, and Anchor Screen Printing. Those businesses await on their Dallas-themed merch to survive. Lewellyn and his book boutique has remained in the more big-ticket Deep Ellum by architecture relationships with the adjacency and bounded artists. The boutique is an island in the city’s bigger celebrated neighborhood, but the canteen building are encroaching. Lewellyn is the active patriarch.
When the book boutique was low on funds, he slept in a closet or his car, bent to accept abundant money to pay his “kids.” He is a acknowledging appearance in his own life. In pictures, he advisedly stands in the aback or off to the side, ceding the absorption to his employees. Lewellyn eventually runs out of agents to blow about. So he takes a bench and rolls up his sleeves to acknowledge easily and accoutrements formed by tattoos.
“So,” he asks, “where should we start?”
There was the time he got shot. There was the time he got affiliated on the blooming altitude and afar two weeks after. There were the two times he approved to booty his own life. But Lewellyn doesn’t like those belief actual much, and not for the accessible reasons. Those belief don’t absorb added people, or at atomic not the bodies Lewellyn loves dearly: the “kids,” his girlfriend, his parents.
Chris Lewellyn was built-in in Belgium, the son of a ambulant aggressive officer. The army brat lived in Germany as a child, afore his father, Daryl, retired and confused the ancestors to Oklahoma. Raytheon bought the aggregation area his dad worked, so the ancestors confused to Dallas.
“That was a ability shock for me,” Lewellyn says. He abounding Rockwall Aerial Academy for his inferior and chief year, an ambiance he likens to the television alternation Beverly Hills 90210. “I was so acclimated to actuality lower average class, so I was an outsider.”
The alien begin his bodies amid Dallas artists, abnormally those from Deep Ellum. Amid adolescent artists admiring to accomplish a blade off their creativity, Lewellyn—a burst and tattooed metalhead with a aftertaste for Queensryche shirts—finally acquainted at home.
“I anticipate he sees the brokenness in anybody and everything,” says his girlfriend, Monique Champagne. “When he started blind out with musicians, he accomplished he had bodies to beam with, bodies to allotment with.”
After aerial school, he played in a few bands and advised music briefly during a five-college adventure that concluded with no degree. He interned for the Dallas almanac characterization Last Beat Records. In 1999, Reverend Horton Heat arrive him to administer the band’s affairs on tour. That aforementioned year, Lewellyn launched a book boutique alleged The Clandestine Project out of his parents’ garage.
He had a laundry account of music audience from his canicule at Last Beat and leveraged those contacts to body his business. Hank Williams III anon enlisted Lewellyn. Alike admitting The Clandestine Project got best of its acquirement from those two musicians, Lewellyn bare help. He looked to the Deep Ellum association to body his team. Best of the artists he assassin were about out of their teens.
“Sometimes I feel like a vampire,” he says. “I get activity and activity from adolescent people.”
Mariel Pohlman recalls how a adventitious appointment with Lewellyn led to a career-changing opportunity.
“I was walking bottomward the artery in Deep Ellum, and I run in to Chris, who I had met a few times but didn’t apperceive too well,” she says. “He told me he admired my work, and offered to put it on a shirt for this anniversary he was a allotment of.”
That accident was the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, a three-day anniversary of the neighborhood’s arts and music that has taken abode anniversary year back 1994. Organized by an accident aggregation endemic by a man who lives in California, the anniversary has been criticized for claiming to abutment bounded artists but curating a calendar that is far from local. Lewellyn has fought to ensure Deep Ellum creators get their due. Anniversary year, he prints and sells shirts with designs by bounded artists like Pohlman, whose architecture that year led to a accord with the electric scooter aggregation Lime. Lewellyn handled the negotiations chargeless of charge.
“I was aloof accepting started with murals, so to accomplice with this big cast and get royalties off of that is so, so huge,” Pohlman says. “Being an artisan is all ebb and flow; you never apperceive back the abutting buzz alarm is activity to come, or if it will appear at all. So you charge bodies like Chris in your corner.”
Artist Daniel Yanez has a agnate story. Lewellyn helped Yanez get his art arcade off the ground, generally giving his time and shirts for free.
“He’s the apotheosis of what Deep Ellum is declared to be: a association of artists acknowledging one another,” Yanez says. “I accept accompany who can’t survive there because the rents accept skyrocketed. Maybe I wouldn’t be actuality if it weren’t for Chris.”
Sometimes Lewellyn’s selflessness inspires atheism in adolescent artists and Deep Ellum residents.
“It’s weird,” artisan Kelly Saunders says. “I don’t get how he can accord so abundant of himself and apprehend annihilation in return.”
If you ask Lewellyn why he does it all, he will avert the catechism and acquaint you that added artists would do the aforementioned for him. But accumulate asking, and he will eventually accept that he cares acutely about anyone and everyone. He devotes himself to every relationship, whether it’s a adventurous partner, acquaintance or addition he afresh met. That akin of charge has kept his aggregation around, but fabricated his claimed activity turbulent.
“I consistently capital to accord all of my adulation to one person,” he says. “So I went all in on love, alike back I shouldn’t have.”
That meant marrying addition aural a anniversary of affair her, as he did in 2007. They wed on the blooming knoll, dressed “Casablanca-style.” They batten like spies throughout the ceremony. Agent One (Chris) took Agent Two to be his accurately conjugal wife, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in affection and in health, to adulation and to cherish, till afterlife do they part. But Agent Two capital out appealing quickly. The brace breach a few weeks afterwards the wedding, and Lewellyn spiraled.
“My abasement has consistently been about love,” he says. “When I lose love, that’s back I’m at my lowest.”
He went to bed with a scattering of sleeping pills and a canteen of vodka, praying to a God he hated that he would never watch up. He did. Years later, afterwards addition accord gone awry, he approved the aforementioned thing.
When he talks about suicide, his aberrant amusement vanishes. His bendable articulation avalanche fainter. His eyes about-face to a boom on his appropriate wrist that reads “Make Bits Happen.”
“This is my reminder,” he says. “It’s my disciplinarian to accumulate working, because attending around. We’re all dying.”
A few years afore Lewellyn’s aboriginal suicide attempt, his best acquaintance Luke died unexpectedly. Not continued after, Sam, addition friend, took her own life. Lewellyn never approved therapy, alike afterwards his additional suicide attempt. He affable added into his assignment with The Clandestine Project. But that was taken from him, too.
Reverend Horton Heat and Hank Williams III alone him. Neither artisan responded to appeal for comment, but Lewellyn says they anticipation he was too baby to abutment the appeal of big touring acts. It was not personal; it was aloof business. Lewellyn acquainted like he had let bottomward anybody in his life. The alone affair befitting him afloat was a job at a bounded book . And alike that job would about amount him his life.
In backward 2011, Lewellyn was wrapping up a day of deliveries. In atrocious charge of gas, he pulled off the artery and into the aboriginal base he found. His car fabricated it into the parking lot, but not abutting abundant to a pump. The base was a bedimmed Texaco on Ferguson Road and Interstate 635, a armpit that City Hall has back accustomed as a hub for drug-related crime. As he absolved central to a carry and a can of oil, Lewellyn noticed a accumulation of bodies watching what appeared to be a fight. Moments later, while walking to ample up his car, he anesthetized one of the men who had been complex in the parking lot scuffle. Lewellyn noticed the man’s watch was on the ground, so he best it up to acknowledgment it to him. The man grunted, took the watch, and Lewellyn proceeded to his vehicle. Seconds later, a agent screeched into the parking lot, and shots rang out. Lewellyn was addled in the larboard arm by a ammo meant for addition in that car. The ballista was the with the watch.
“So, yeah,” Lewellyn says, account the adventure nine years later. “I gave a his watch, and he attack me.”
The cutting larboard him with abiding assumption accident and PTSD, but he was able to beam about it anon afterwards in a Facebook post. He quoted Monty Python and the Holy Grail, calling his abrasion “merely a beef wound.” He action about it to this day, and he isn’t the alone one. His friend, Rasheed, who formed with him at the time, calls it “serious, but affectionate of laughable.” Champagne calls it “funny, because it’s so weird.”
Nowadays, Lewellyn downplays the incident. He has been through far worse, he explains. And, well, it was funny. Yet it is bright that the cutting had an appulse on him. Surviving two suicides and a accidental act of holy-shit-that-happened abandon got him thinking. Like his boom says, it was time to accomplish bits happen. So Lewellyn absitively to put calm what was already broken. And he did it in Deep Ellum.
He rededicated himself to the book boutique with abundant of the old team. The boutique would no best await on two clients; they would accompany in bands, performers, and companies, while additionally creating their own brands and designs. Lindsay Bartlett, Lewellyn’s longtime friend, abutting him for the relaunch. He capital to accommodate abutment to the ability that fabricated this adjacency what it is.
“He knew I hated my job, so one day he asked me, ‘How abundant do you charge per hour to live?’” she recalls. “I gave him a number, and he gave me a job. I anticipate that’s how a lot of us got started with him.” (It is.)
Lewellyn began to acquisition his happiness. It helped that he had additionally started dating Champagne, who, like Lewellyn, has a addiction for giving all of herself to others. She is a distinct mother, a counselor, and a assurance accent interpreter.
There was aloof one accessory botheration in Lewellyn’s life: the name of his business. Lewellyn capital to accumulate “The Clandestine Project.” Bartlett and the aggregation capital to go with “Lewellyn’s Book Shop.” Naturally, he let the kids accept their way. Still, Lewellyn says he does not apperceive why they like the name. He wants the absorption to be on the kids and their work, not him. Anything else–compliments, acclaim and annual stories–make him uncomfortable. He has begin his family, he has begin love, and if there has to be a adventure about his life, he wants his admired ones to accept the advance role.
But the acumen abaft the name is simple: bodies apperceive Chris Lewellyn, and bodies like Chris Lewellyn. He is a cast name in Deep Ellum, and alike admitting he will never accept it, the adjacency needs him if it hopes to absorb the actuality it appears to be losing. He wasn’t the alone one who dodged a ammo that night in 2011.
“I aloof can’t brainstorm Deep Ellum after Chris,” Saunders says. “He’s alloyed himself into the bolt of this place. It’s like he is Deep Ellum, and what are we declared to do after him?”
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