Soon after starting up their business, Race and Suring moved from grandma’s basement into a space downtown in the Emporium Mall. They’ve been there for more than nine years.
Part of history
The Emporium Mall, which stretches from Franklin Street to Shattuck Way, was built in 1901 on pilings, because at the time it was waterfront. Suring said sometimes at high tide he sees water under his desk beneath the floorboards.
The building was originally the old Alaska Steam and Laundry, one of the oldest and longest-running Alaska businesses, built by Ernest Jaeger. Jaeger added to his wealth with gold from miner’s pockets that stuck in his drain traps.
“Where we’re located was a wood shed to store fuel for the boiler,” said Race.
The space has hosted many other businesses in addition to the laundry. It was a blacksmith for knife-making and horse-shoeing, a tattoo parlor, a café, an outdoor gear swap meet and is rumored to have been a donut shop.
Lucid Reverie, meaning “clear daydream,” is located on the first floor of the historic building, and is divided into three rooms.
The Ruby Room, their storefront, was the latest addition to their space when they punched a hole through from their offices. It has rich colors and a playful feel with comic books, cards, humorous T-shirts, and their latest passion — graphic novels.
Race and Suring have desks in the adjoining room, as does Lou Logan, who joined the company a few years after it started. Suring thinks the lack of walls and vaulted ceilings create an open feeling good for project collaborations.
The third and innermost room is used for gear and general storage.
While the three don’t see themselves in this space forever — they would ultimately like a window with a view — they are grateful for it, said Race.
“It’s comfortable, it’s working and I’m glad to have it.”
After four years of offering commercial services such as website design and video production, Race and Suring realized they weren’t having any fun. Ironically, Race made a short film in college titled Lucid Reverie about an Orwellian cubicle drone escaping her dreary life.
In 2006, they decided to reject commercial work and focus on comics and short films. They had fun but eventually found personal projects alone couldn’t support them.
“After about a year of this we were almost out of money, so we decided to start taking commercial work again,” said Race with a chuckle. “The business has always been really good to us, depending on how much we want to work.”
With the creation of their film company, Alaska Robotics, which falls under the Lucid Reverie umbrella, they attempt to balance commercial and creative endeavors — and it seems to be working.
“We’ve been doing this for nine years now, so at this point I guess you can call us successful. It’s not a fluke that we are still here. And it’s not like I have income from somewhere else, so it must be supporting us,” said Race, who admits that he doesn’t need much.
“I never raised my standard of living after I got out of college so that helps.”
Finding each other
Race and Suring met while in school at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They met through the honors program and were both computer science majors, filmmakers and soccer players; they’d lived in Juneau before but never crossed paths.
Suring and Race also met Logan at UAF. Logan was majoring in natural resource management at the time but found science wasn’t his passion, and decided to join Lucid Reverie.
“Aaron and I met Lou when we were doing film festivals in Fairbanks, and he was submitting films to them and doing really cool work, and he took over the film club once his thing ended,” said Race adding that he was a welcome addition to their company.
“He’s really technically proficient. He’s kind of a genius when it comes to details, and he has a really good eye for detail and obsesses over it. He holds a strict standard but it’s really helpful when we are working on big projects.”
Logan is also a founding member of the UAF Film Club and the JUMP Society.
Sarah Asper-Smith is also a part of the creative team, but is currently away at school for museum exhibit design. She recently published a vibrant kids book “Have You Ever Seen a Smack of Jellyish?” through Sasquatch Books.
When it comes to tapping into creativity, Race says he has more ideas than he will ever be able to produce.
“I’m working on a script adaptation, a script for a graphic novel, several short films, several comics, then I have a list of other stuff I want to do. I’ll never do it all but it keeps me busy.”
Suring agreed, saying “Pat’s a wonderfully creative guy with lots of ideas that just keep coming.”
The jobs haven’t all been fun and light-hearted; the team has taken on some challenging projects dealing with heavier topics.
“We have recently finished the Taylor White film for the Taylor White Foundation, and we are working on a film for the University about Native students from rural areas attending UAS and some of the challenges they face,” said Race.
Suring says his favorite challenge was the Science on a Sphere project they created for the Alaska State Museum.
“There were a lot of technical things that were completely different,” he said.
The trio also love to bring up artists from the comic community to Juneau. Race, who created comics for JDHS’s school paper when he was a student, says the community is really tight.
“There’s this group of people doing things together and talking about story and art, and it’s more of a community than I’ve ever run into than anything else. Everyone keeps in touch, comments on each others work, and it’s nice to see that and be on the edge of a community like that.”
After the success of bringing up a well-known comic artist from Japan, Race is working with the library to bring up professional storyboard artists Chris Appelhans and John Clauson this spring.
“These guys are incredibly talented,” said Race.
Suring, Race and Logan don’t have plans to slow down any time soon. As for his inspiration, Race says it’s everywhere.
“It’s an appropriation of culture, you just live your life, see what’s around you and then try to tell your story.”
If that doesn’t work, maybe they can find gold under the floorboards.
• Courtney Nelson can be reached at email@example.com