STUDIO VISIT – AUGUST, 2021
Interview between Amy Boone-McCreesh and Dan Isaac Bortz
A: It’s so nice to reconnect with you since the last time we spoke in Philadelphia. Can you talk a little bit about your transition to Cleveland and starting up TCG?
Its been quite a whirlwind since then! In 2017, Lynnea Holland-Weiss and I were living in Oakland. We were getting pretty tired of the cost of living and were ready to try something new. At that point it was either moving to an even more expensive place with potentially more opportunity (LA, NYC) or move somewhere with infinite space that didn’t come with the looming threat of sporadic displacement.
So in the midst of making work for our show in Philly at Space 1026, we decided to just pack it all up and move across the country, for the second time! After that summer we stored all our belongings in Cleveland for the better part of a year.Mostly that year we were working for our friend, MOMO, assisting with mural projects. We also did a nice residency in Mexico for a couple weeks.
At some point in this year of traveling we were back in the Bay Area to work on a mural project, and on one of our days off, I was hanging out in Oakland with my friend Cannon. He asked me to decorate a pair of pants for him using only black, red and blue sharpies. He was thinking of putting together a group show with a handful of people embellishing pants in this same medium. The show didn’t end up happening, but I was pretty happy with the pants I had made and didn’t quite know what to do with them.
Serendipitously, weeks later, my friend asked if I’d be in a one of a kind clothing items show at Harpy Gallery (NJ). The first pair of pants I made, which I named “Fuck Pants” were shown and sold right away. After I shared the pants on social media it pretty much took over my art practice and clothing became my focus. Eventually Post Malone’s stylist, Cathy Hahn, commissioned me to do three full outfits for his tour. I kind of used this big commission as a nice stopping point (or pause) for one off/ hand drawn clothing commissions.
Initially my goal in moving back to Cleveland was to get a larger space to build a studio for large scale textile/repeat pattern screen printing. Ever since first working in this medium in school, I’ve wanted to have my own printing studio for textiles.
Since building our studio, it has been a couple years of juggling different mediums and doing design/commission work to pay the bills, but at this point we are getting pretty dialed in as a textile print studio. Since I had done a good amount of printing years ago, but then had a large gap where I didn’t print at all, I’ve had to reintroduce myself to the medium. I studied printmaking at California College of Art in Oakland and ended up spending most of my time in the textile department, learning to screen-print yardage. That’s when I fell in love with the medium. But after graduating in 2013, I had the opportunity to do an apprenticeship at Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, where I feel I learned more of the methods I have been practicing in my own studio today.
A: How long have you been in your current studio and what was it like getting that space to be what you needed?
We found this space about three years ago, in April 2018. It took a good two months to clean it up, it was a super raw space, and it’s 4200 sq ft… so that’s a lot of raw space, and yeah, it is still in progress. I’m still learning so much about my medium and what it calls for. I must accept that I’m not an expert printer and there’s always room for improvement. There are only so many people who do the kind of printing we do, and they don’t really share information publicly, so you don’t have an infinite wellspring of information to guide your learning process, so a lot of it is trial and error. I feel like we’re always going to be rebuilding and fine-tuning the studio, including acquiring different equipment, organizing materials, inventory or supplies, as well as navigating the way we approach our process altogether.
A: You’re a really talented painter and artist; how does that part of your practice feed into TCG?
Thank you! I’m painting a lot now too actually. At the beginning of 2020, I started like 50 little paintings that I’ve been tinkering with every day. It’s been a healthy process for me because I’ve taken the pressure out of my fine art practice in that I’m not making pieces for particular exhibitions or projects and am just making them because it’s like second nature to me. And because of that, I think I am exploring a new place with my painting, being a little bit looser and having more fun. I’ve been trying to introduce that into my printing on fabric, so it can be the same language as my painting.
As I learn more and more about repeat pattern design, printing, and fabric, I’ve been focused on printing very pattern-forward stuff. Since My work has always incorporated pattern, I’m kind of in this stage of wanting to print all of those patterns that are a part of my visual language I’ve developed over the years.
Also I have been playing with a process where I’ll have tons of screens around the studio with drawings and shapes I’ve made previously, and I use them to layer and compose unique pieces, either on clothing items or yardage. It’s been a fun process that feels like an exploration merging painting and printing (not that this is new territory).
For a long time my paintings have been really flat and illustrative. I’ve wanted my printing to reflect my painting as much as possible, but the technical barriers are so different. The hardest part about this project is coming to terms with the fact that personally I don’t have the anal-retentive printmaker mind. I’m not exacting. I’m not precise. And I do not strive for perfection. I love the loose, painterly things that can happen with printmaking. When you let go of it being production printing, the coolest shit can happen.
Also the printing process we do is a two-person procedure to be able to print anything. And we haven’t yet been able to afford a full-time employee, so to answer that question, it’s kind of the struggle for me. I wanted to create this collaborative process, but I’m also a self-centered artist.
In the future, I see myself doing a lot more large scale screenprints that are simply images or a resembling of a painting, instead of repeat patterns designed to produce clothing items from only.
Side note: I also do a lot of commissioned drawings for other companies, or musicians and such. That has been keeping me pretty busy and fed!
What has the learning curve been like, or what have you learned in running your own apparel company and screen printing business?
I feel like I’ve probably already answered this question, and pretty elaborately, but to continue, I’m spread really thin right now. Hopefully we get more help in the studio so I can spend more time on my independent projects, And everything can run a little smoother. I’ve learned one thing for sure, this is a multiple person venture. Overall, the business aspect has been really challenging on all levels and I think as artists we have this DIY mentality ingrained in us, that I’ve been learning my way out of. It almost always pays to consult people with more experience than you, or to find people more equipped to help you through certain roadblocks.
I’ve also learned you must take losses to get anywhere. I’ve learned that the path I’m on, is a gradual one. Unless I try something maybe a little more disingenuous (in my opinion), it’s going to be a long road, and that’s cool. There really is a learning curve everyday, with every new idea, every new print, and pretty much with all that is involved in creating a clothing project. It’s all learning and I’m having fun with it!
Can you talk a little about some of the artist collaborations you’ve done and how that works?
To quote one of my favorite San Francisco legends: Xara Thustra, “Friendship between artists is an equation of love and survival.” To me that is the real reason to find ways to collaborate with new artists all the time.
Everything we make specifically credits the artist who designed it and this is very intentional. Most large clothing brands don’t do so, and my mission is to specifically highlight the individuals.
As of now we have made collaborations with a nice amount of people and there’s always talk of more and more. The best experience is having a resident here in the studio with us. When somebody comes and stays for an extended period, we get to spend time printing together and they get a good understanding for how everything works. Outside of collaborating with other visual artist to make graphic designs/illustrations for prints, we also have been collaborating locally with our friend Aaron, who has a brand called FAAN WARE. Aaron has been kind enough to share many of their silhouettes with us and help us design new ones.
For future collaborations with resident artists, my goal is for them to choose a silhouette they want to produce out of our repertoire, and then we can source material to print on, they then come spend some time with us designing and printing the repeat pattern together.
For the most part we just want to bring artists from a large scope of practices and different corners of the world to Cleveland. Since anchoring here, I’m trying to be a magnet for all the friends and acquaintances I’ve made around the world.
Any pandemic entertainment or coping tips?
Make as much work as you can. I feel insanely lucky that I developed this studio before the pandemic and had this playground for myself. Making collaborative things remotely with other artists has been super awesome. I feel like I’ve made a lot of friends and connections that way.
Anything coming up you’d like to promote?
Very soon we will be releasing this new line of clothing, where every piece is from has our screen-printed yardage onto salvaged material or 100% organic cotton and then the garments themselves are made in Cleveland as well. We’ve been trying to be really intentional about the material we’re using. We have pants, shirts, jackets, and hoodies coming! And these new pieces really encompass the full vision of TCG.
I also really love selling stuff in person and meeting people, so more events definitely. I’m currently loading the TCG cannon to be able to consistently fire off monthly small editioned items, so there’s always something new and its limited. Hopefully something for everyone. Also, like I said earlier, I’m building a new body of work that is mostly small paintings, hoping to finish soon and maybe show somewhere.
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about what i’m doing! Thanks ahead of time to anybody buying and wearing our clothing! It makes me so happy!