Amber’s American Adventure

Amber Gabelich, 2018 Trade

I initially started my career in collision spray painting due to the hope of the creative aspect down the track, so when I received my BBM award last year I knew exactly where and what I wanted to do, I knew that I had to go to California. I’ve always been interested in the low-rider and custom car and motorbike world, but the custom car scene is very scarce at home. The knowledge I’ve gained from my trip I will be able to keep with me for the rest of my life.

Julio’s Kustom Studio, Fresno

Julio’s Kustom Studio in Fresno was my first stop from 7th of October until the 18th of October. During these two weeks he had been able to teach me the basics of everything, from pinstriping to laying our tape designs to kandies and also leafing. Julio had a few projects on in the time that I was at the shop, I was able to help prep and paint other jobs that needed doing too so we had more time doing the “fun stuff”.

The first 2 jobs I got to do was spray the first clearcoat on a custom Harley Davidson Road King, Applying the clear coat is similar to what I would usually do at home but it requires a few extra layers to ide all the bumps from the tape lines, when you finish a custom paint job, there is about 3 different sessions of clear on it, to ensure a glass like finish for a final result.

For that same job that I cleared Julio taught me different tape layouts and how to correctly apply so there will be no bleed throughs, ripples or lines that aren’t sharp. Those three things are most critical about making a custom paint job a good one, without doing those 3 things it can cause massive havoc for the rest of the job. I learned this the hard way a couple times where I didn’t push my tape down firm enough and there was bleed throughs, luckily there is always a way to fix something. There was so much to take in and making sure you have the right product for the job is always a big advantage.

Being under Julio’s wing was a great learning curb, I was so nervous about going to the states by myself and especially staying near Fresno was what made it even more nerve racking. But being in his shop working made it feel normal.

Whilst working with Julio he also took the time to explain the business side of the work, we went to Valley Nationals (A car show in Madera) and he showed me how to run a booth, how to set up and draw potential customers in. The knowledge that I was able to take in from Julio has taught me that you have to be business minded in this line of work, you cannot let your creative mind get a hold of you, which is quite easy to do.

Danny D Pinstriping, Los Angeles 

From the 21st of October until the 2nd of November I was working with Danny D at his shop in Baldwin Park, East Los Angeles. Danny is a world-renowned custom painter and has been in the industry for almost 40 years. I had always admired his work and then when I was able to have the opportunity to work alongside him, I was over the moon. Danny is a phenomenal artist and such a fantastic teacher. He also had quite a few jobs on at one time but he has a helper that comes from El Paso, Texas every 3 weeks for 3 weeks, Albert Sepulveda, also owned his own shop but shut it down a few years ago and now he’s just doing his own work from home and helping Danny out. It was great with Albert also there because I got to learn off him as well. Danny also had more time to teach me because Albert was able to prep everything so Danny had more hands on time with me, I was so nervous at Danny’s shop at first, because I had always looked up to his work but as time went on and I settled in, we had such a fun time, being able to get all the jobs that needed to be done out and having fun while doing so.


When Danny would lay out a design on the side of a panel, he would have me watch and then I was able to mimic it onto the other side, by doing this I was able to encounter all difficulties for myself and when I didn’t use the right tape, or didn’t press it down properly I was able to learn how to rectify my mistakes, I learned the process it takes from the starting base colour, to clear, rub, lay out designs, paint, clear, stripe, clear, wet rub and flow coat. There is such a long process to custom paint compared to smash repairs and it does take a lot more patience, but the final result is far more rewarding.

My second week with Danny we spent a couple of days at Coast Airbrush in Anaheim with the owner David Moning. The first day Danny had to speak to Dave about a cooler he had painted for FBS Tapes for SEMA, and we got to talk about products and I was able to go shopping and buy products that I need for at home, and it was fantastic having advice from Danny, Albert, Dave and Rhyno on what to buy, and what products work best with what. Rhyno is also a custom painter and has done a handful of TV shows for custom painting. Being with Danny I have been able to meet so many great artists that have been willing to share so many stories and all willing to give me advice and pointers.

SEMA, Las Vegas 

The final week I had in the states was spent in Las Vegas for SEMA, my final week working with Danny we were doing long days to try get all the projects finished for SEMA that needed to be finished, I got to learn so many techniques in that time because there was so much work on and so many different things for us to experiment with.

I have made so many amazing contacts over in the USA that are willing to have me at their workshops for the next time I return, to help me expand my skills and if I have any questions while I’m at home they are all willing to help.

SEMA was the most amazing show ever, there was anything and everything you could think of. SEMA brings people from all over the globe to showcase their products, builds and what they are capable of. There is over 2,400 exhibitors and over 1 Million square feet of ground to cover inside the Las Vegas convention centre, that’s not including everything outside. There are 7 halls that divide up different sections of products and work types. I mostly tried to hang out around the areas that suited me, the custom paint, collision sections of the show but I did venture out and try and see the whole of SEMA but 4 days honestly wasn’t enough to cover it all. I did hang out with Danny a bit at SEMA and he was able to show me around and introduce me to some awesome people and take me to the after parties. Vegas is one big party city! I made some awesome friends at SEMA that I will continue to stay in contact with and meet up with them again one day.


From this experience I have been able to gain so much knowledge about the custom world that I would not have been able to learn here in East Gippsland, I have been practicing at home every day, customising everything I can, to help gain the skills I will need to eventually open up my own custom shop. My family and partner have been so supportive, and Jack has been amazed at all the skills I was able to pick up. The knowledge I have gained I will keep for life. I had my notebook that I was able to jot everything down on so that I can always turn back to it.

The painter that I work under mentioned that he has seen improvement in my work and productivity since I have returned, I feel now that from working in 2 very small shops, I’ve realised that everything you do matters, I feel like now that I’ve also been taught about the business aspect of a workshop I can understand more of where the money needs to be made and how much everything really costs, it’s made me a lot more aware of my surroundings and I aspire to be the best person I can be.

BBM have given me an opportunity I would have never dreamt of with such a fantastic award. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to pursue my goals and from now I will keep practicing every day and will hopefully go back to the USA again in 2 years to keep on expanding my knowledge.

I would like to thank BBM for having such an amazing program that helps people reach their goals in their careers. David Stevenson, my manager for being so amazing and supportive throughout the whole process and for allowing me to have 2 months off work so I can follow my dreams. Julio Hernandez and Danny D Galvez for having me and teaching me so many vital skills for the trade, showing me the ropes and introducing me to the custom paint world. Paul Polverino from Axalta here in Australia for setting me up with Danny though Axalta in the states. My family and boyfriend for being so supportive throughout the whole trip, the time difference made it hard to talk but we made it work. I couldn’t be more thankful for this whole experience.

Join our Mailing List



Search BBM Youth Support