Artist runs display printing studio for native companies and punk rock scene

Rock music booms as a bearded man works hard and prepares a printing press for use. Dark graphic t-shirts and posters are strewn around the studio’s walls. A blue and white hand-painted sign reads “Get Sh * t Done”.

The same process he’s engaged in is also used to make the buttons on a microwave, the back defroster on a car, or the design on a band t-shirt. Screen printing is a technique that is ubiquitous but seldom thought about by the people who use these products.

For Aaron Jenkins, screen printing is more than an overlooked detail – it is his artistic technique and career. He owns a screen printing company, The Black Arts Studio, which specializes in printing textiles and graphics. He prints t-shirts, clothing, and posters, often for local companies and bands. This year he’s set a new goal: to print his own artwork every month.

Screen printing is a process of transferring an ink design onto a surface using blocks or a stencil.

The actual printing process itself, once you get started, is like a meditation. Once you go through the printing process, you don’t even notice how time goes by. Aaron Jenkins

Jenkins is located in the Delavan Center, a multi-purpose complex near the Nancy Cantor Warehouse with several studio spaces, and has no shortage of artistic neighbors to share his work with. Cayetano Valenzuela is an artist working at the Delavan, a good friend of Jenkins and a cooperation partner.

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Valenzuela’s business, Black Rabbit Studio, specializes in hand lettering and graphic design. Some of his most popular works are the handcrafted signs he creates for local businesses.

The latest collaboration between the neighboring artists is The Black Days Project, named after the word “black” in their two company names. The sequence of Jenkins’ works tells a story, while Valenzuela’s pieces stand on their own, but also function as a collection.

Jenkins’ January print is a black and white scratchboard illustration of a burning house with a small portion of a fictional story written below. For the same month, Valenzuela created a four-color drawing of a burning ship with the words “sink or swim” in Gothic script.

For his art, Jenkins typically uses a pen and ink, a scratchboard – a material used for etching – or Photoshop. He takes inspiration from album covers and says that he likes to incorporate skull motifs into his work.

Jingyu Wan | Contributing photographer

On Saturday the couple printed their second pieces. They plan to have an art exhibition for the project by the end of the year and sell all of their prints as posters. Currently posters are sold online, in each of their stores, and at craft fairs.

“We can really push each other to create works of art that people can afford,” said Valenzuela, adding that an original work of art could cost around $ 200, but a reproduction like a poster is typically $ 30 .

Although Valenzuela and Jenkins are now neighbors, their relationship began before they worked in the same building.

Years ago they were both involved in the central New York punk music scene, with Jenkins in a band and Valenzuela frequently appearing in shows. Both get their aesthetic from dingy, gothic album covers and add another layer to their shared passion for creating art and collecting posters.

Jenkins’ music career in the hardcore metal band Ed Gein originally took him to screen printing. He and his friends named the band after the serial killer because they spent the weekends watching horror movies. Gein was the inspiration for some of the villains from her favorite movies like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

After high school, when Ed Gein toured extensively, Jenkins, who had a flair for drawing and art since childhood, wondered about printing the band’s t-shirts and artwork, “Why are we paying someone else to do it?” I could do that. ‘


Jingyu Wan | Contributing photographer

He soon began teaching himself the basics of screen printing and doing part-time printing jobs between tours. He took a job as head of a screen printing company, which he carried out part-time for seven years. Eventually he reached a point where he could make a greater profit independently.

“The more I learned about (screen printing), the more I realized how versatile it is,” said Jenkins. “It’s a very simple technique in one way and complicated in another. It’s this crazy mix of art and science. “

Even today he prefers to print for local musicians than almost any other customer. He said that when given the opportunity, he doesn’t take jobs that don’t interest him, like printing for sports teams or schools.

It’s kind of a close-knit community around music that I mainly print for. Aaron Jenkins

Black Arts Studio prints for Strong Hearts Cafe, Recess Coffee House, Gorham Brothers Music, and local hardcore metal / punk bands – a list of clients that often overlaps with Black Rabbit Studio’s. The two companies work together and often refer customers to the other for Jenkins to print Valenzuela’s designs.

Just as the two know each other from the punk scene, much of their business comes from it. Jesse Daino and Graham Reynolds, Jenkins’ bandmates, are the owners and managers of Recess Coffee House. The owners of Gorham Brothers Music, a guitar shop right on Erie Boulevard, also played in a band called The Engineer when Jenkins’ band was on tour.

Valenzuela said this group of local customers and business owners share the values ​​of punk culture with him and Jenkins, as he described them as their “DIY ethics”. Many customers that you know from the music scene have developed into self-founders and entrepreneurs. While they all started making music or going to shows, many of them graduated to start their own businesses and work for themselves.

Valenzuela said, “When we’re young we go to punk shows and when we’re older we build things.”

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