We have a pretty kick-ass team here at GRAV. Contrary to some unfounded industry stereotypes, our employees are hardworking, dedicated, and focused on providing the best possible experience for our customers and wholesalers. There are also some really talented people that work here. So we wanted to highlight a few of the movers, makers, and creators that we’re lucky enough to have on our squad.
Meet Ryan, Jake, and Maria — three people who spend their time away from the glass business expanding their minds and finding their higher selves.
Ryan Bell - Reaching New Heights
Ryan is an account manager here at GRAV, where he helps over 300 shops and customers to stay well-stocked on all the goodies they need to indulge in their favorite smokables.
But when he’s not selling glass, he’s finding his higher self, literally, at Crux Climbing Center. As a lifelong climber of things, it made sense to start a climbing hobby as an adult. After his brother got a membership at Crux, Ryan realized how much he missed climbing and became a member himself.
“I never cared for ‘working out’ in the typical sense. Lifting weights, running in place on a treadmill, that was always boring to me. Bouldering is a way to work out the whole body and keep me entertained. It's almost a game. If there is a difficult route that I have a hard time completing, I focus on that route until I can figure out how to complete it. It’s as much problem solving as it is physical.”
The hardest physical part of climbing for Ryan is grip strength. “Climbing utilizes muscles that most people don’t ever strengthen. Grip strength is always the roadblock for me when climbing. If I don’t stay on top of it then I’m peeling off the wall in disappointment,” he said.
Ryan climbs three to four times per week at his climbing gym and takes hiking and climbing trips to Colorado at least once per year.
For climbing newbies who want to take a stab at the sport, Ryan recommends getting a day pass at a local climbing gym. They provide orientations for new members with tours and climbing tips.
“And make sure not to overexert. You will be using different muscle groups and ligaments that don’t receive much attention, and you don’t want to strain these. Take time to build up the strength.”
Jake Lloyd - About to Break
Jake Lloyd leads a double life. By day, he’s the Quality Control Specialist at GRAV, making sure product standards are being met and tracking trends to look for ways we can improve.
And by night, he’s two-time Austin Music Award nominee Jake Lloyd, performer, songwriter, and all-around musical genius.
Jake has been playing publicly in Austin for the past ten years, but he started writing lyrics back in middle school when most kids were too invested in their Tomagotchis to do much of anything creative.
Coming from a family of musicians and music-lovers, he was surrounded by great music from a young age.
“My biggest musical influence is my father,” Jake said. “My dad showed me the nuance that is in every great song — down to the lick, or the lyric. He would hear a part in a song and rewind it 15 times, and ask me, ‘Son! Do you hear that?’ He'd point out things that you'd never hear by ‘casually’ listening.”
Jake finds inspiration for some of his lyrics in the movies. He says he’s always been drawn to cinematic themes, and loves to tell a story with his songs. But beyond that, his style comes from a blending of many musical genres, from hip hop to soul to pop to alt-rock.
Jake is always hustling, spending about as much time working on his music as he spends at his day job. “I'm always answering emails, working on setlists, doing the actual creating, rehearsing, curating content for social media. It never stops.”
And it seems to be paying off. Jake was nominated for an Austin Music Award in 2018-2019 for Best Male Vocalist, and again in 2019-2020 for Best Performing RnB/Soul Band. He was named an Artist to Watch by NPR’s “Here and Now”, and has played in KUTX’s “The Breaks” SXSW music showcase for the past two years.
Here at GRAV, we’re conflicted between wanting him to blow up and reach mega-stardom, and wanting him to stay with us.
Maria Hansen - Artist After Dark
As Head of Marketing Maria Hansen has a tough job to do. She’s responsible for the messaging of the GRAV brand, launching new products and packaging, overseeing social media, creating promotional materials, coordinating trade shows and events, this blog (hi Maria!), and more.
So it makes sense that she would have some artistic background. A self-described “art school dropout,” she later attended a four-year university to study Communication Design and Illustration. While there, she had the good luck to work with San Francisco artist Jeremy Fish on a mural here in Austin. Maria had been a huge fan of Jeremy’s as a kid in the 90s, devouring his art in Thrasher Magazine and Juxtapose. His success in the lowbrow art scene helped to legitimize this formerly underground style and was a huge influence on Maria’s early work.
After early careers in photography, graphic design, and magazine publications, fate brought her to GRAV where she leads the whole marketing team through project after project. With so many responsibilities, how does Maria find the time to also create art?
“The juices really don't get flowing until the sun goes down. Usually I'll put on a dark, cinematic score to set the mood. Then I'll fill up a cup of watermelon kombucha and take a few hits of some CBD to take the edge off.”
And then she’s free to go wild. Maria uses primarily watercolors, pen, and ink, although she also enjoys working with ceramics or acrylic and ink on wood. Her work has an element of pop surrealism, like argyle-printed bunny-fish or conjoined twins made of anthropomorphized ginseng.
“I also love exploring the narrative of certain places, sprinkling in some history with fantastical elements,” she said. She delved into this theme in a solo art show a few years ago that was exhibited in East Austin.
Creating her own art helps her to unwind from a job that, while rewarding, can also be high stress.
Check out Maria’s website to see her work.
These are just three of the ultra-talented people that work at GRAV. With close to 40 employees, who knows. We may have a yodeler, a competitive dog groomer, or an extreme ironer that we just haven’t discovered yet.