Orlando Witherspoon, a designer and jeweler, has been creating T-shirt designs and handmade necklaces for more than 30 years.
After suffering a stroke in 2009, Witherspoon spent a year in a hospital bed. He had to learn how to walk, write, draw and speak again. Because the stroke left him with his left hand paralyzed, he’s been making his art one-handed for the last four years. The artist gets help with his T-shirt designs from Ape Do Good Printing on 15th Street.
“I feel like I’m part of their family,” Orlando says of the printing shop. “I go over there and just be myself, you know?”
Known to friends as “Lonnie” or “Lonnie Spoon,” he makes his products in his SoMa apartment, packs them up in his wheelchair and sells them in the Mission, in the Haight, and at concerts, festivals and baseball games.
Witherspoon, 58, is a native of Detroit, Michigan. He attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh from ’75-’76, and then jumped on a Greyhound bus headed for California. “I told my friends, ‘I’m goin’ to chase my dreams,’” he says.
Witherspoon hopes to get a grant to be able to sell his work online soon. “I’m tired,” he says. “I’ve been hustlin’ in the streets since 1977.”
He says that he may be a stroke victim, but he’s not disabled. “I’m a winner, you know? That’s a fact. That’s a fact,” he says. “I be tellin’ people I’m proud of what I do.”
Witherspoon has been sober since his stroke in 2009.