This was a collab of a lifetime: Umami Mart x Mike Cerwonka x Black Stamp Studios! Mike Cerwonka, Umami Mart part-timer and renaissance man, designed our 10 year anniversary logo, and we asked his friend Eric Kneeland of Black Stamp Studios in Half Moon Bay to screen print our anniversary shirts

We initially just had long-sleeve shirts made and launched them in August for our 10 year anniversary matsuri, but lots of folks kept asking if we had a short-sleeved version.

So, by popular demand, they are now available as a short sleeve tee, screen printed by hand by Eric!

I asked Eric a few questions about his studio, process and inspirations:

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how Black Stamp Studios was started?

I started Black Stamp Studios in my German grandma's garage. Inge had a two car garage and only used one space. This was back in 2008 and I was very close to my Grandmother and loved getting to see her more often. She would come down and make jokes with my friends over Coors Light. My family then moved out to the coast and a student of mine (I was teaching printmaking at Foothill College) found me my current space in 2012. I have been here ever since and absolutely love the zone I'm in. Princeton by the Sea has all walks of life working here and you can't beat hearing the fog horn and barking seals playing melodically in the background.

What was your process in printing our anniversary shirt?

We hand print everything at Black Stamp. I feel closer to the print when printing by hand which enables me to keep an eye on each layer we print to maintain quality control. Mike provided us with his wonderful design separated in Adobe Illustrator. We then exposed the screens using an UV exposure unit. Each color requires a separate screen and your Anniversary Shirt calls for five screens in total. We then registered the screens on the printing press for both the front and the back prints.

Mike provided us with Pantone colors for the design which we mixed by hand using water based ink. Once the colors were approved we added the discharge agent to the ink which is the process of using water-based inks to bleach the manufacturer's dye out of a shirt and replacing it with whatever dye color you choose. This kind of discharge screen printing is done with water-based inks that soak into the fabric, instead of just sitting on top of it. I personally prefer the finished print using the discharge process because you don't feel the heavy print on the shirt and it will never crack once the shirt hits the dryer.

What part of the process in your work do you enjoy the most?

That's a hard question to answer because each project I work on at my shop is different, Sometimes I will be printing shirts, posters, painting signs or designing logos, etc. Despite these processes being different from each other, my favorite moment is when I become fully saturated with the process and lose track of time and space.

How do you invoke your creativity? Do you have any rituals or a special process before starting a project?

Since screen printing and sign painting are very physical acts and require muscle memory. I try to stretch every morning before I go to the studio. Along with riding my bike to my shop, stretching helps get my body and mind aligned for the day. And if that doesn't work I will apply Salonpas as needed ;0)

I invoke creativity just by going for a walk and observing my creativity and taking photos of my discoveries. This helps refresh my mind and gets me motivated.

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Yoko and I were lucky enough to visit Eric at his studio in Princeton by the Sea, near Half Moon Bay, where we were able to get a glimpse into the artist's creative mind. I love studio visits, they really put everything into perspective. All of Eric's colorful hand-painted signs, memorabilia, and materials – just a hop, skip, and a jump from the glittering Pacific – was a delightful mix of play and work. 

Eric is a kind soul, who grew up in the Bay and has steadfastly pursued his art through sign painting and screen printing. He is a jack of all trades and we are in awe of his ability to turn any ol' piece of cardboard or cloth into an art piece. He is a lover of vintage signs and typefaces, which we saw many of at his studio. 

I sheepishly asked how screen printing works, and Eric was kind enough to actually make a screen print for us!! He teaches screen printing at Foothill College so is very thorough and patient when explaining the steps.

This was my first time seeing this done and it blew my mind! It's so intricate and process-oriented.  

After the tour, we all walked over to Barbara's Fish Trap for awesome fish and chips. Thanks so much Eric for your time and screen-printing lesson. We can't wait to collaborate together again.

Column: Studio Visit

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