James Oleson on Carving Out Artisan Buds

By David Silverberg on July 30, 2018

When you first look at one of James Oleson’s Incredibuds, you might want to smell it… maybe even grind it, roll it up and smoke it. But you won’t be able to because these cannabis sculptures don’t contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Instead, they sport cartoon-like faces, and they are attracting cannabis enthusiasts thanks to the dank nugs that inspired them. The St. Petersburg, Florida-based artist even created a backstory for the Incredibuds.

“They are magical beings looking for crystals and planting seeds in the Garden of Weeden,” says Oleson. “I picture them collecting all these crystals that glow when the Buds all congregate together, helping them become more powerful. There’s magic there, and to me marijuana is a sort of magic.”

But the Buds’ harmony is threatened by the evil Skunk Brothers, who act as henchmen for Don Santo, a menacing seed thief.

As you might guess, Oleson would love to develop a comic book or graphic novel series for the Incredibuds, but for now he’s happy to sell them for $25 to $35 per sculpture.

Made from clay and resin (not that kind of resin), the Incredibuds come in 20 different varieties, from mustachioed older gentlemen to glow-in-the-dark Buds to some sporting cannabis leaves for tongues. They all come with a blissed-out look on their faces.

“I want people to smile when they see the Incredibuds,” says Oleson. “My approach to creating the Buds is starting with a basic shape and intuitively finding the character of the Bud as I sculpt.”

Some customers have requested custom Incredibuds to resemble their likeness, which Oleson will do for around $250. When asked if he’s ever made toys of famous people, he admits that he’s considered it, but he prefers keeping the Incredibuds to their casual look and feel.

Oleson admits he's used cannabis to help him “create ideas and then look back at the whole artistic process and really think about it.” And thanks to the popularity of the Incredibuds, he’s thrilled with how enthusiastic the cannabis community has been about this artwork.

“I didn’t think that culture was so big!” he exclaims.

Oleson, however, is also famous for other forms of art. He brings a psychedelic look to some of his murals and large-scale paintings, which coincide with part of his website's artist statement: “I want viewers to have a reaction, to take a journey of imagination and perspective that makes them feel encompassed by a different world.”

He’s even dabbled with airbrush art, thanks to a gig he secured at Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which runs September 21 to late October annually. He applies airbrushed makeup to the participating artists to help them get into the skin of the monsters they play in this kid-friendly event.

Beyond selling and working on Incredibuds, Oleson is also busy working on a 17-foot-tall effigy he calls Transcendence of the Hippocampus. This interactive art installation, set to debut in the fall, will let participants mark their intentions, wishes and dreams on the fabric that will cover the effigy. Then they can walk inside the structure to view its dynamic colors and light display. He adds, “In the finale the paraffin-dipped fabric is ignited for a beautiful 30-minute burn leaving behind only the reusable steel pencil rod frame.”

With the many mediums at his fingertips, which one is most fulfilling?

“Sculptures,” he says immediately. “From that moment when we’re kids, we love toys, love holding 3D objects. You can turn it around, touch it and really, really feel it.”

Nick Georgiou Channels Colors and Codices in New Exhibit

Poetic Reflections of Humankind in the Work of David de la Mano

How a Peeing Child Became the Mascot of Brussels

Getting Corporate Brands High with Tommaso Bordonaro

Junko Mizuno Reflects Herself and her World Through Art

9 Must-See Art Installations at Desert X

Go Cross-Country with Keith Haring

Tom Herck: From Crucifying Cows to Appreciating Trump

Hiba Schahbaz Retakes Ownership of the Female Figure

Soey Milk Paints the Color of Feminine

Introducing Andy Warhol for the 21st Century

Inside the Colorful Imaginarium of Ricardo Cavolo

Maureen Drennan: A Compelling and Intimate Glimpse into Removed Communities

Mexican Muralism: Art as a Vehicle for Change and Rebellion

Artist-Driven Ads Celebrating Female Sexuality Banned from NYC Transit