To celebrate our owner Zissou from Fugscreens Studios having his 10 Year Anniversary show at the gallery on Friday, we thought it would be nice to interview him and get to know the man behind the work and the gallery.
You’re celebrating 10 years of Fugscreens. That’s such a huge milestone. What were your original plans and did you ever think it would get this far?
I started Fugscreens as a way for me to be able to print my own work, once I was done with college I needed a place to work. I’ve never really had a plan for the studio, I’m not one of those people who look forward ten years down the line. I tend to take thing as they come and then deal with it once it’s in front of me. This isn’t always the best course of action as I tend to overload myself with work and all sorts but I guess it also allows life to be a little more exciting. So in answer to your question I’ve never really had a vision as to what it would become or even what my plans are for the future but I will say that I’ve always had confidence that I could make something work professionally, I mainly didn’t want to work for somebody else. That’s always been my main motivation to have control over my own destiny.
How many prints have you created in the last ten years?
Wow! I’m not too sure about this one. I’d say over the past 5 years I produce on average around 150 prints a year, that’s my work and anything I print for other artists from all over the World. So if I were to guess I’d say around 700-800 different designs over the past 10 years.
Which is the print you are most proud of? And who do you want to work with?
There are lots of prints that I love and there are lots of prints that i don’t have any emotional connection to but are huge landmarks in my career, such as Phish or Muse. I think the first posters I did for Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello were both massive personal achievements for me. Obviously more recently working with Michael Jordan has been a huge thrill that I don’t think I could have ever imagined would come true. Some projects of note are the 75th anniversary of Batman for DC and posters for The Vaselines and Mudhoney. Dream jobs for me would be Neil Young, Patti Smith and PJ Harvey for the obvious reasons.
You’re quite an international guy, what brought you to Chicago?
School. I finished my BA at the Art Institute after leaving Central St Martins in London. I was born in San Francisco so I’ve been coming to the States to visit family since I was very little, we would go to Pennsylvania every Summer and I fell in love with everything the US has to offer. So when the idea of studying here came up I jumped at the chance, it just so happens it was Chicago, it could have been Boston, San Francisco or Philly but I loved the feel of Chicago. Once done with college I didn’t have much to leave for other than my parents so I stayed and continued to build a life here. Now I own two businesses, a house and have a 5 year old who was born here so it’s home now. It’s a great city and I’m proud to call it home, but I do miss Europe a lot especially London and Paris for many reasons.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement in the last ten years?
This one is tough. There are always little wins and personal achievements that I’m proud of but without sounding corny my biggest achievement is being a father to the smartest little boy I know. Inka has changed my life in so many amazing ways over the past 5 years. I think most of the big professional achievements I’ve had, my drive to work and continue to grow are spurred on by him. If you look at my portfolio over the past ten years it’s only in the last 4 or 5 that I’ve really come into my own and found my footing creatively and professionally grown. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
You started off as a commercial printer, what gave you the idea of stepping out from behind the curtain and creating your own work?
I actually started off as a fine art printer, just printing my own art and then I fell into teaching private lessons for individuals or couples who were looking for a creative outlet or just wanted to learn how to screen print. From there I started working for local bands and friends. That took me into doing gig posters full time and then I started printing other people’s work and things have been pretty consistent since then. I’d say at this point I print about 70% for other people and 30% for myself. I’d like to get it to 60/40 printing my own designs so I guess thats one of my goals moving forwards, to concentrate more on my own work.
Your work has evolved but you are best known for your series like the Fuggin’ Revolution prints, the sports jerseys and the more recent Air Jordan series. How did these jobs start?
The revolutionary series is now about 6 years old, I’ve always been fascinated with pop culture as most of us are and I also love history so melding those two ideas was pretty fun. I can’t really remember why but the idea was to do a continued project based on facial hair starting with Lenin, Frida, Patti and Lemmy but that changed once I did Steven Colbert which sold out in a matter of months. Then then it became anyone fictional or real who has made an impact on my life one way or another, Marge Simpson Jordan etc. It will be a series that will ideally will never end, so far i have 18 done and I already have a list of around 30 others that i would love to get stuck into.
As for the jerseys and Air Jordan those are connected. The fine folk at Nike found my jerseys and liked them enough to ask me to create a series of prints based off of all 29 original Air Jordan sneakers since 1984 for the opening of their new store in Chicago. It’s been a huge thrill for me to work with such a massive brand, and they have been such a pleasure to work with. I’ve always been a massive sports fan so its a joy to work with people who share my passion.
You also own Galerie F, tell us a little bit about how that started and your plans for the future.
Galerie F was instigated by Billy Craven, he sowed the seed a few years ago about starting a store that would have a print shop and a space for selling prints and street art. For over a year we spoke about it and slowly that seed grew into reality. Even though we had been speaking about the idea for a couple years, the whole thing happened within the space of a few short months and like most things in my life its been something that has grown and changed quite organically. We are constantly trying to find more interesting and new ways of doing things. It’s a very fast growing flower that has surprised us all in how quickly it has blossomed, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting. at this point I’m not certain as to where it will go and how it will evolve but I’m very excited about what we have planned for the future.
You are officially the busiest man I know, if you had to get rid of one aspect of your business life, what would it be and why? Gig posters? Art Prints? Commissioned Work? The Gallery?
I do tend to stay pretty busy and I keep telling myself I’m going to slow down, you might not believe this but I have started to do so this year. Hopefully I can keep it up and stop taking every job that comes my way. As far as all the different aspects of what I do I would say that I enjoy them all equally and its’ kind of what keeps me interested. I’ve never been one for monotony so keeping active with different projects keeps me excited to see what the next project has to offer, what sort of challenges it will bring and how well I can execute the final project. I will say that I’d like to be able to take more time over each print that I work on, I don’t like doing things half assed so not being able to give everything I work on my full undivided attention bothers me.
What was the idea behind getting other artists involved with your solo show?
So something I have always said is that no matter what I do or have done the studio would not be what it is without all the people I have met throughout the years. They have helped me grow stronger and more confident about myself and my work. a lot of them have become great friends , business partners & more. People like Billy Craven, Michael Lauritano, Sean Mort, Justin Santora , Allie Whalen , lefthandedwave and so many more have been instrumental in making the studio what it is today. so to not have some of those people contribute to the show for me would be leaving out a large part of what Fugscreens has been for the past 10 years.
What is the plan for the next ten years? Do you plan to keep on trucking or do you have any new tricks up your sleeve?
Well as I said above I’m not a big planner of sorts, but I will say the older I get the more I think about the future as we all do I guess. So for the next ten years I see myself trying to slow down and find a good work life balance, finding more time for those I care about and doing more things for myself. Professionally I have all sorts of goals for Fugscreens and Galerie F but I will keep those thoroughly tucked up my sleeves for now.
Fugscreens: 10 Year Anniversary opens on Friday 19th February 2016 at 6pm CST.
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