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In 2007, Britney Spears shaved her head and had a breakdown. In 2016, Junior Gonzales put her image on a prayer candle. It might seem like a crush, but that doesn’t mean he’s serious.
Inspired by Local Landmarks
Junior Gonzales is the founder of Casual Glitz, a handmade housewares and home décor company that has taken the nostalgia and familiarity of pop art to another level for Fresnans. Many of his most popular pieces reference local landmarks from the past and present. There are magnets with Downtown Fresno buildings on them, ornaments featuring the Astro Motel, and pillows with the Clovis “Gateway to the Sierras” sign on them.
Before he put Britney on a candle, Junior was known locally for his Christmas ornaments. If you miss the Sands Motel, you can stare at its image on your tree all December, honorably encircled in glitter. These are obviously seasonal items, but there is a plethora of other ways to decorate your home with Fresno nostalgia all year long: Casual Glitz also creates coasters, magnets, keychains, pillows, candles, notebooks, and posters.
Junior says he gets his inspiration from Fresno’s history. “I remember shopping at Gottschalks on the Fulton Mall as a child, and going to the zoo, Playland and Storyland, and the Fresno Fair. I also like to feed off my fellow artists in Fresno. There’s so much talent in this town that hasn’t been exposed yet.”
Since he opened his shop six years ago, he’s used a wide variety of materials. Everything from wax, paper, confetti, fabric, glazes, glues, and especially glitter has been used to create his playful pieces. There’s often a lot of glitter in Casual Glitz pieces.
I ask Junior if he has a favorite work, and he says right now he’s excited about his jewelry line. He’s begun experimenting with Art Resin, and uses a dental vibrating plate to get the bubbles out. (Some crafters use heat guns, but Junior finds it blows dust.) His resin bracelets are available in a spectrum of colors and evoke a modern vibe with a comforting throwback to the 70s and 80s.
The Juxtaposition of Britney Spears
Although Casual Glitz has been around for years, it recently gained national attention when Buzzfeed added the Britney Spears prayer candle to a list of 19 Perfect Gifts That Every Britney Spears Fan Will Love. Although some Britney fans refer to her as “Godney” and the “Holy Spearit,” the singer admits she’s not that innocent (hey yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah) and wants to remind people that she’s just human. “It’s really flattering, but I don’t know if I can set the bar that high,” she’s said in response to the nicknames.
Despite Spears’s disclaimers, some people still look to her for inspiration. Once I had the flu and stalked her Instagram account for entertainment (in those dark times, I wanted to see some glitter), but that was as much Britney as I needed in my life.
Junior says he was inspired to make celebrity prayer candles when his friend’s longtime idol, David Bowie, died in 2016. “When I started getting requests [for candles], I realized this wasn’t just a novelty item. People actually looked up to these icons as if they were their own personal saint. Like, [there’s] sort of an attachment and meaningfulness because of how they look up to this person. They are by no means making fun of religion in any way,” explains Junior.
The publicity from the Buzzfeed article has been great for Casual Glitz. In December, its Etsy sales doubled. But there has also been some criticism from folks who see the prayer candles as offensive.
Whether you agree with its message or not, pop art is diverting. It’s often colorful, and uses instantly recognizable images from pop culture, so there’s a comforting familiarity that one might not get from, say, an abstract painting. Maybe you don’t get the splatter paint mess of a Jackson Pollock, but you’d definitely recognize Britney Spears’ face. For some, it might be confusing to see her plastered on a prayer candle, but that’s the ironic nature of pop art.
Fresno Ingenuity: The Local Arts and Crafts Scene According to Casual Glitz
As Junior continues to create fabric designs and use photographs that pay homage to Fresno, I ask him what he thinks of the art scene here.
“Being an artist in Fresno can be intimidating because there are a lot of amazing, creative people in our town alone,” he says. “I love the art scene in town. We have a huge group of diverse artists and crafters. Many of them go unnoticed. So much talent in such a small area.”
Where to Find Casual Glitz
You can find Junior’s work at various craft fairs around town and at Art Hop. It’s best to check his Facebook page for updates on upcoming events. He also sells his work from his Etsy shop. Locally, you can find his wares at Yoshi Now! in Downtown Fresno and The Art Shop inside The Vintage Market at 601.