This started as millennial stories do, with an email from a street artist that loved my book and wants to meet me. So I suggest The Hole in case he's actually a graffiti writer that loved my book and wants to cut me. There will be plenty of witnesses at The Hole so that should keep everything to a reasonable non-slashing level. The guy who meets me turns out to be Banksy and he's cool except he says "us graffiti guys gotta stick together," which makes no sense to me, and I tell him so, and he looks like I'm the writer with the knife. In spite of me being, in London vernacular, a rude git, he brought me in on a great idea to have a lineup of artists making inexpensive but well made prints. Cool, I'm down. Banksy says he wants to do a print out of EVERYTHING IS SHIT. Whoa whoa, pump your brakes, we just met. I needed a proof of concept, so his gallery produced a print for me that was based on a painting I called "David Byrne" because his name is in the center.
The David Byrne print turned out beautiful, and I agreed to the EIS edition. One edition morphed into two, which is one more than I originally agreed to, and when the prints arrived, they were kinda (also in the London vernacular) shite. Not entirely shite, but I felt well below the level of the first print. Part of me wanted to toss them right in the trash, and a larger part of me felt pity for everyone that did their best back in dear old Blighty. There was also an enormous expense in these prints, the unsigned edition was crated and shipped express from England via courier, and when I was finished, a courier would appear to take them away.
I really had a vision that by forcing a reprint I would cause Dickensian poverty and ink-stained wretches would be beaten for bankrupting Banksy. I was obviously oblivious to the big bank his enterprise was generating. I signed the prints, picked the least rubbish ones for myself, and sent the rest back where they were tossed into a churning marketplace that was snapping up everything that the gallery was pushing out. Banksy created an ATM machine, he loaded paper in, he pulled cash out. It would've been amazing if it was uplifting as well, but it was a major headache. I couldn't see any of that, all I saw, sitting stateside with a short stack of prints I was disappointed in, was the need to make a better print.
This was the moment that I fell into owning a print shop, like my first sip of beer or maybe seeing a real quality trap for the first time. The first EIS issued by me was printed by Ralph Stollenwerk in Philly, shipped out of our first sign shop in Brooklyn, and promptly got us roasted on the Banksyforum, the Mos Eisley Cantina of Banksy print traders. People posted about their disappointment in one thing, another and a third, and I learned the Banksy version of the print was actually not shite at all (cue The More You Know Rainbow). We heard from one forum admin directly, who patiently emailed us the best practices for shipping prints. I printed it out and pinned it to the wall. I was already working with Brooklyn Master Printer Luther Davis by this point, and when I mentioned the Banksyforum, his blood pressure shot right up, "those guys have been nitpicking my prints for years."
When I told him about printing out the criticism and learning from it, he said, "ok, that's how you're gonna win" (No, I havent seen Uncut Gems yet, why?). Luther gave me an amazing gift by offering advice as we were starting to print our own prints ("You should be good in 20 years"), and I immediately borrowed enough money to set up a proper shop. Now we are 8 years into printing our own prints, each one is a step climbing the peak towards Luther's perfect prints. Baby steps first, one color, two color, now we're crawling, tip toe, tight registration, 3 colors, bigger steps, four colors. We've been contracting another printer for our EIS Prints (thank you Brlsq), but we are walking tall now, baby, not at the mountaintop, but we're above the clouds. I'm just the glamper, the real climbing/printing is being done by Matt Pearson, with assistance by Matthew Kuborn, Jake Buhler, and Erika Sequeira. I salute youse all. This print encapsulates all of our experience in printmaking until now, it's pretty perfect, but there's still room to grow. Looking forward.
"Everything Is Shit, Except You Love" is a 24"x24", 9 color screen print in a signed and numbered edition of 50.