(I met Matt half way through last year. Bobby was doing a gig in Brisbane and a friend hooked us up to stay with Matt and his wife Sarah in their most fantastic apartment. From the moment we entered their eclectic home full of records, knik knaks and authentic vintage furniture I knew we were all kindred spirits. They are the epitome of Bowerbird.)
I recently caught up with Matt to chat to him about his screen printing art practise:
1) How did you first get into screen printing and what is it that attracted/still attracts you to this particular practise?
I was exposed to screen printing from a fairly early age. My first printing experience was at the age of seven for a school art activity. Straight away I was mesmerised by the blends of colours we used and loved the repetition of creating the same print over and over, yet each one was different from the last. I later got more involved in printing in high school, making music t-shirts for friends using a silk screen my sister had used during her high school art classes. This was around the mid nineties when the music T shirt reigned superior to all other forms and styles of clothing. I wanted to make bootleg shirts of my favourite bands. This is basically what kick started it for me.
I’d cut out all my stencils using thin plastic sheets, a lot of trial and error, I’d had no proper training at this stage. Later after I finished high school I started working casually helping out at a textile screen printers down the road from where I lived. They set me up with my own batch of screens, and learnt all the basics of textile printing. From there I moved to Brisbane and started working full time in the industry. I always found inspiration in the work place and took that home with me to work on my own designs and prints.
What still attracts me to it today is that it has become a niche market and really is an amazing craft. Screen printing is unique in it’s look and technique and is the most diverse of all printing styles.
2) What are the basic steps you take from idea to completed screen print?
First thing I do is design the image in photoshop and illustrator, whether it be part of a photograph or an idea from scratch where I’ll draw the whole thing, I try to get as much design time in as the printing.
From there, I’ll print the filmwork to go to screen. For fine detail images I have high mesh screens which hold detail very well. These are measured in lines per inch and generally I use a fairly fine mesh for graphics to be printed to paper. The screen gets a coating of photographic emulsion. The filmwork which has an opaque black image of the design gets taped onto the screen and exposed under UV light. Where the black area is on the clear filework , the light can’t get through to expose and harden the emulsion, so once the exposure has finished which takes around 2 or 3 mins (depending on the detail of your image and mesh type) the screen gets washed out with a high jet of water. The soft emulsion falls out of the screen (where the opaque black was) and the rest become a hard coating, from here you have a completed stencil.
From this point the screen gets blocked out for pin holes and the oputer edges where there was no emulsion. Once it’s dry, it is ready to be set up in either a carousel or a one screen bandit. A squeegee is used to pull the ink through the image. There are a few different types of inks for different types of substrates, but I’m normally working with solvent base and water base for posters.
3) Where do you find your inspiration and who are your main clients?
Inspiration comes from a few places. When I was younger I was a fairly competent drawer, but these days I don’t do a huge amount of drawing with my design. I prefer to find an image that I can play with or take a photo of something and perhaps trace parts of it and pull it apart. I’m also drawn to abstract shapes and patterns. Colour is my main inspiration. A lot of the time, I’ll see a colour somewhere, and just build an idea purely from that. My ideas almost always change in the design process but I’m used to working that way, not quite expecting whats going to come out of an idea.
I have a few different types of clients, mainly bands. I enjoy working with musicians and artistic types. Sometimes they might want me to design something for them and other times they have art ready to go and just want me to get shirts and print them.
I spent about 3 years once, in a printing job, where I was printing a lot of weirdly shaped stuff. I learnt a lot about making jigs for hard to print objects. From that experience I have printed on just about everything from refrigerators to TV remote controls.
4) Which is your favourite piece and why?
I don’t really have a favourite piece as such. I have been enjoying the poster work I’ve been doing over the last 6 months because I have been getting a lot more into blends. I think it’s the most joyous thing! I can make art even more multicoloured! It’s not great on preserving ink as you wind up with a couple more colours each time and the trick is not to let your blends blend completely and turn to a mud colour. So there’s a bit of technique involved but I’d have to say that I’m quite happy with my most recent work.
5) Can you describe your ‘creative space’/studio?
I work out of my garage. There are quite good garages where I live, nice and dry and well built, which is a very difficult thing to find when renting. I have a 4 colour printer made by an excellent engineering company specialising in screen printing equipment here in Brisbane which has done me well over the last few years. A lot of my other equipment I’ve built myself. I was lucky enough to get some things for free, like a fantastic old light table and other bits and pieces like filing cabnets etc.
6) And finally, on a side note, from the first time I met you & your partner Sarah I could instantly see you both possessed Bowerbird instincts – do you have a favourite collection that you could share with us?
Well I had a bit of a fascination with chrome and vinyl kitchen chairs from the 50’s and 60’s for a while (which you were lucky enough to see) I had about 90 or so chairs I’d collected over a few years from curbside and junk stores. Well… they had to go.
I made this fun game for myself putting different colour combinations of them out in the street (over a three week period) and would see how long it would take for them to go. They always went within half hour. I’d like to think I redecorated most of the houses on my street with these chairs we collected. As for an on going collection, Sarah and I just love beautiful looking things. We’ve ditched the idea of having too many of one thing (although if you see our place there is pretty much 2 of everything anyway) Sarah is a product and furniture designer so I’m interested in the next wave of displaying to be some of her own work.
A big thanks to Matt for sharing his art practise.
If you would like more information or would like to hire Matt (he does interstate orders) you can catch him on: firstname.lastname@example.org
*All images and artwork by Matthew Deasy please credit if used.