Stickers rule, ok

2012-03-09 08:27

Hi, my name is Janine-Lee Gordon and I’m a closet sticker addict.

It was in 1987. I was six years old and playing with my Barbie dolls and toy cars in my bedroom. My mom had just handed me my latest packet of stickers. It was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle heroes from the animated TV cartoon and, excitedly, I stuck them on the corners of my diamond-shaped bedroom mirror.

Twenty-five years later, those stickers are still there and deep down inside, I carry a strange obsession for stickers.

And because of that, I can somehow relate to what my fellow addicts are experiencing with the stickerbombing on the Cape Town car scene. During the 2010 Fifa World Cup, team stickers were sold as collector’s items.

Collecting car or sports stickers and putting them in albums is not as big as I recall in the past, but it has crept its way back into another playing field.

Posting stickers on a car or covering it with sticker sheets is fast becoming a cult practice.

It is known as stickerbombing and is the latest trend car lovers have found themselves enthralled by.

It’s a way of expressing your personality on your car. The stickers read like a comic strip.
Instead of starting a fight after a minor accident, it gives people a reason to add another sticker blaming “haters” for the damage.

The most absurd are the plaster stickers. They are used as fix-me-uppers. Where there are scratches, dents or even holes, car owners cover them up with bright stickers that resemble actual plasters as temporary solutions. They poke fun at others and tell stories about their car experiences.

The sun is out on a Saturday morning in Retreat on the Cape Flats, children are still playing in their pyjamas while neighbours are standing outside at their front gates catching up on the latest gossip. Everyone looks up and waves at the cheery driver in the noisy, chugging white modified VW Citi Golf adorned with stickers as he cruises by. The smile on his face is as bright as the yellow TK signs and graphics T-shirt he is wearing.

Gershwin Breda is the stickerman. He leads us to the back of his home and into his workshop. To the right is a white plastic garden chair behind a sticker-covered computer monitor. This is where he designs all his artwork.

In the centre of the room is a covered pool table piled with all sorts of stickers. His three-year-old signage business has become lucrative enough for him to buy the imported R20 000 shape cutting machine in the corner.

Breda grabs a sheet of black vinyl from a rainbow selection of colours, and also takes a smaller white sheet.

He moves over and gently places the white piece after printing two black circles. The machine is hardly noisy and swiftly cuts out the shape of a shimmer reflection. His eyes gleam and every muscle in his face relaxes as he flashes a smile. With precision, he layers the artwork to create a eight ball sticker, a snooker ball replica.

This is why Breda is different to the rest of the sticker sellers – he creates layer by layer, while others simply print and sell.

He explains what the stickers represent and which are the most popular. This fixation has brought new meaning to his business of making signs and graphics.

“I was looking for who I was, and I found myself in stickers,” he says.

Breda also uses his car as a mobile business card. “I made a sticker out of my BlackBerry barcode ID and stuck it on my car.

“Already 300 new customers have added me as a contact,” he says. “Stickerbombing has become so demanding with constant orders that I needed to employ someone just to deal with it as a unit.”

Kurt Pelston strolls into the room wearing a chequered black-and-white shirt, a bright orange tie, black slacks and shoes with dark sunglasses – and a Colgate smile. He sits down on the rickety wooden chair at the door.

He lives around the corner and should be on his way to church, but joins in on the conversation. He helps his friend, Breda, brainstorm ideas and tests them out on his pink Golf parked outside.

“Stickerbombing is an addiction, and most people start off with just one sticker on their car and then they’re bitten,” says Breda.

He explains this craze hit Europe a few years ago and made its mark locally only last year.

“I don’t think it’s just a phase. It’s only going to get bigger,” he says.

Although he makes all sorts of custom-made stickers, the only ones he refuses to print are those containing vulgar language.

Pelston says some people use stickers to cover up bad spots on their cars, while others just use them to give character.

After speaking to Pelston and Breda, I rush through to Kensington to meet up with another stickerman, Eric Leeson (27).

He is a financial adviser during the day, but after hours he’s known as the go-to guy within car clubs for custom car stickers.

His father owns Ye Old Signs and youngsters kept asking him to make custom stickers here and there.

Naturally, Leeson took over from his dad and has been selling car stickers for the past five years.

“Quality stickers are not easy to come by and most sellers don’t have what the public want so I go the extra mile and make them.

“Demand is high,” he says. “And I probably sell about six sheets a day. They cost between R50 and R120.”

He adds that individual stickers cost anything from R10 to R30, depending on their size.

Both Leeson and Breda say some of their biggest sellers are “Not sponsored by mommy and daddy”, “I love haters”, “Built not bought” and “eat, sleep, JDM” stickers.

JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market (the after-market products).

I had to fight every urge not to buy any stickers that day because I knew I would go overboard.

I struggled to put down the 20 stickers I already had tucked under my arms.

Even though I like the idea of it and love posting stickers on closets and other ornaments, I love my car too much to turn it into a moving canvas for stickerbombing.

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