How we met:
Preston is a staff flow artist, he loves sharing his passion for movement, and hopes others find their true art. It’s less about him and more about what he can give. He loves to practice in parks purposefully so others will see him and be inspired.
I met Preston at the Portland Saturday Market. I was there with my visiting family wandering and eating good food. As we sat with our falafel plates, people watching, and admiring my sister’s ring from the Spoonman (I have their clock and love it!), I noticed Preston behind us flowing confidently. I kept glancing back at him and loved how he owned his movement and was confident in it.
As I approached him, he was very open and quickly asked me if I wanted to try flowing. He always brings extra staffs with him to teach people. I don’t know the moves, but I did overhand spins, backward spins, large arms movements, and even did one where the staff rolled down my arm. It was really fun! I definitely recommend asking for a demo lesson if you see him in the Portland parks.
Preston is Dynamo. He is joining the community of Carrot Bowl Dynamos. These are people who are trying their best to move with purpose and direction. Our directions can be different, our movements opposite from one another, but we’re all moving forward in some way. When we share our stories, we hopefully give room for understanding, patience, and kindness around us.
***If you feel the need to comment please do so respectfully and positively. Comments will be monitored and not published if they do not fall into this category. Thank you for lifting where you stand, living mindfully, and always looking for the good.
What does healthy living mean to you?
The terms are kinda synonymous. Healthy living is an expression of the energy and vitality you feel. For me it’s when I’m out spinning the staff, essentially 2 or 3 or sometimes 4 hours go by and you don’t even notice it. It’s not like exercise. It’s not like I’m going out to live healthy…because it’s kinda so fun. You express yourself through it. In a sense I think of it as an art. Someone may find their art is writing or music, but for me it’s a motion art. So part of it is just a self expression thing.
How long have you been doing yoga?
I just started doing yoga in October of last year. They started classes where I work, they brought in a yoga teacher and she was awesome. I’ve been going to every class there and it’s free! You can’t turn that down! I also saw with my staff, that I’d already been doing for several years, that I started breaking through some plateaus that I’d hit. Particularly in respect to balance and some with a range of motion. There were things that I thought were a limitation, where all of a sudden there’s something around that corner. I didn’t realize the arm could turn just a little bit more, I had a whole other rotation there.
Besides staff flow and yoga, what else do you enjoy doing?
I like running after the first mile.
Running is one of those things that the first mile I just don’t enjoy it. I get over it and then it hits something and all of a sudden I get in the groove and it feels good. I’ve never quite gotten rid of that. I don’t know if people who run all the time can just hit the ground and instantly are grooving on it. I think those three are the main and staff is by far the most number of hours.
I’ve done staff for 4-5 years. Part of it was I’ve been spinning and doing simple weaves for maybe decades because the staff has always been interesting to me, but I didn’t really do that much. It was kinda an internet thing. Once the facebook groups, youtube things, and even though there aren’t many of us in the world we will post videos and tutorials. Someone will say, “have you tried reverse steve” and then they’ll post a video. You play it over and over and over again. 15 years ago when I was just picking up the staff, you just got what you got unless you ran across another person that did it. It was hard. Now we can share so easily. I have trouble now saying I did it then because it’s so much more to me now and I do so much more. I think “then” I felt the pull. Everyone feels the pull to their art, whatever is theirs. I always had the staff sitting there and had done simple weaves and stuff, I always knew it was there for me. There just came a point where the time was right. In the summer I’m out here pretty much every day. I travel to different Portland parks. You can see on my website where I list a bunch of the parks, what I like and don’t like about them. Saturday I like to do it because often kids will come up and I have my training staffs and they’ll give a try. So I can kinda promote it. I know all the parks in Portland pretty well.
How has your example motivated or inspired other people?
Certainly here! The kids are willing to try it. I notice a lot of men my age looking. Maybe not brave enough to come out and grab a staff, afraid that they’ll look silly. Kids don’t have to worry about that. But people kinda giving looks like, “he is probably my age” and that “maybe my excuses are invalid.” Maybe that’s inspiring. Often they’ll get their kids up there and then they’ll do it and I’ll hand them a card. They’ll be able to make their own staffs. I hope people are taking it from there or picking one of the other flow arts. There’s hoop and there’s poi [example] too.
What piece of advice do you like to share?
Find something that’s fun. And one part I really believe is the art piece. I didn’t understand it at first, but when you find something that is your art, you’re already probably drawn to it, you may not feel like you’re good at it, but you’re always like “I wish I could write, I wish I could sing…” whatever. There’s something in you that’s drawing you. That’s the staff leaning in the corner there. I always knew I was drawn there. I wouldn’t over-stress about when the time is to get into it, but if you feel like the time is to try. Maybe it’s running, it could be a physical thing, it doesn’t have to be, then go for it. It’s fun! If exercise is a pain in the butt, you’re not going to keep doing it and you’re not going to inspire anyone else in the process. If you can really feel that joy, people can’t help but catch up on that. “Wow, that looks like fun! I wish I could have fun like that!”
Here in Portland, have you ever seen the silent discos that happen? It’s called Heart Beat Silent Disco. They have a small local broadcast transmitter and you get some head phones and they play music at local Portland parks. A lot of people bring their props and you’re spinning and you’re dancing; you’re watching it and it’s a bunch of crazy people with headphones. But if you’re doing it you’re all plugged in. It’s WAY fun. That I highly recommend. For a $5 donation and 3 hours of dancing in the park!
What’s a goal you have right now?
Spinning regardless of how old I am. I’m 53.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I don’t know if I want people to spend time remembering me per say. If people put a staff in their hands and it’s part of who they are too, I think that’s cool. Remembering me for it is kinda less important.
What do you want to feel like you gave back to the world?
1000 people may pass here and they all have their own art, but there’s going to be 1 or 2 of them that are flow artists, be it hoop, poi, or staff. They’re going to see it, they’re not going to pick it up right then, but it’s going to have that spark. If I just expose it to somebody…I feel really good about that. I brought them that much closer.
What do you feel like you’ve learned about yourself as a staff artist?
It’s tough, because when you’re doing a sort-of self-expression thing, in a sense you’re discovering and also expressing something new. I guess whatever that thing that’s getting expressed is there.
About a year ago I stopped getting tired as I spun. I go 4 hours and I’m still good. I guess I learned that those boundaries don’t really matter. I would say that in my 40’s I was in very poor shape physically, you don’t have to take that. That turns around. I learned that I could follow my heart. I’m still an engineering geek at heart, that’s my day job. But I’ve got that other side, the other expression, and that’s important to me.