When we decided to start Deaths Head Designs, we knew it would be tough. We didn’t have much money, barely enough to cover a little bit of equipment and a few supplies. Freddy even built the poster press out of materials that we scrounged up or already had. We didn’t have enough to rent a real art studio to work in so we started out printing secretly in the shared basement of Freddy’s apartment building in Staten Island. The landlord wasn’t crazy about the idea but we had to get started somehow. So we were illicit screen printers for a while, printing in secret and hiding all the evidence after we were done. It was a huge pain. But now all that has changed! Clandestine silk screeners no more. We are coming out of the closet.
A band we work with, The Saints of Pain (who are an awesome band, btw), have gotten a big new rehearsal space and generously offered to share it with us. We do all their shirts and stuff anyway and they even have paid us to learn on their shirts in the beginning! And we had a lot to learn.
I had done a little silk screening before. Back in Texas I worked for a silk screen printer doing artwork. And when we (Jim Shooter, myself and the crew) started Valiant Comics we had absolutely no money to spare so at one point I bought a Speedball hobby kit and screened up some t-shirts for us employees to wear to a comics convention. And when my friends David and Maria Lapham started publishing their own comic, Stray Bullets, we got together and screened their first t-shirts in their kitchen in New Jersey. All with great results! So I knew this silk screening thing was totally do-able.
For many years I’ve wanted to start a company that would allow me to use my art for what I wanted, instead of doing what other people wanted and not even owning what I do. I live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn with too much stuff so doing it all myself just wasn’t an option. I tried doing some designs and having other silk screeners print them, but the results were just never what I wanted. Most silk screeners use that plastisol ink that sits like, well, plastic on the surface of the shirt. It’s very easy to print, but I don’t really care all that much for the feel of it. I had this one really cool shirt that was different… softer, more subtle and like there was no ink on it at all. And I knew that type of high quality style was what I wanted to do. But it was all just a vague yearning to create with no way to make it happen. Until I met Freddy, fell in love, saw Freddy’s basement and a few things clicked.
See, Freddy is an artist too. He used to draw and paint and do all sorts of things some years ago, but life got in the way and the art in his life had gotten edged out. But he has an incredible artistic sensibility. He has a keen eye for art and fashion and wonderful taste. And he’s as picky as me! (I do a little dance of delight) And he had mentioned more than once that his dream was to own his own business. Me too! So, in the fullness of time (we had been dating 5 months) I pitched my idea for us to start silk screening posters and t-shirts. I may have slightly exaggerated my experience to him but, c’mon, I’ve always been a quick learner and I am, after all, “Research Girl”.
So I figured out how that cool shirt of mine was made (it’s called discharge ink!), did ridiculous amounts of research on the internet (I have many homemade instruction booklets and printouts to prove it), got tons of advice from my helpful buds on gigposters.com (thanks especially to Andy and Luther!) and we bought instructional books and dvds and dove right in. A good many very frustrating mistakes later we started to get a clue or two and produce some good results. Freddy is turning into a great screen printer and it’s so nice working together. We both love it. He can always see just what needs to be improved in one of my drawings, too. Most of the time something will be bothering me about a drawing and I can’t figure it out and he’ll take one look and say “the flames are too wide” (or something similar) and it’s exactly what’s wrong.
Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. And isn’t that what a good partnership should be?