Monostereo, as a silk-screen printing workshop, is composed of two main printers (Gemma and Abel). We began working arround 2008 until later on we decided to invest all of our energies in the common project. We share the space with an illustrator, Eledu, with which we collaborate often.
We design and manually print limited editions artistical graphic work, gig posters, LP covers, textile editions and any other silk-screen printing project that interests and motivates us. Our work is divided between work assignments of productions for other artists, personal productions (from our collectivo or from artists we respect and whose work we love to the point of collaborating with them), workshops, courses and live printing events.
How did you discover the manual printing world and why did you choose it as your artistic expression discipline?
Gemma: I discovered silk-creen printing (together with other printing techniques) when I studied Arts in the University of Barcelona, but it was in the year I spent abroad working on a project in the HKU of Utrecht (Netherlands) where i really got hooked on it. I was there for a year with a totally equipped workshop at my disposal and surrounded by really creative people that didn’t stop making things. I had the chance of experimenting with multiple formats and began to discover the possibilities that silk-screen printing could offer me.
My most personal artistical work moves between references to popular culture, music, old images… I’m also a pattern and print lover. In silk-screen printing I saw the perfect technique in order tobe able to materialize all those references from my graphical work.
When returning to finish my university studies, I centered in silk-screen printing and studied in order to obtain the official printer degree, and from then on I print.
That moment in which you lift the screen and see the final print has some kind of magic. Ten years have passed since I began and I continue to feel that magic.
Right now we work full time as silk-screen printers, and even though I may have left my personal work aside for the moment, I enjoy as much or more in my artisan role, helping each artist in order to bring up the best print result from his idea.
Abel: my contact was during the preadolescence. I was a brat hooked to the music that spent all of his savings in records. Once the I was able to get the first record of Suicidal Tendencies I was fascinated by the cover and the back cover, which showcased many t-shirts of the group made by themselves. That encouraged me, without any idea of how it worked, to create my own t-shirts of my favorite bands with stencils and spray paint, mixing those with a little bit of felt-tipped pen. Also thanks to the back cover of another record (), I was awed by the world of Graffiti to the point of beginning to make my own in the streets of Barcelona by myself without knowing anybody. It was the end of the 80s and we have to be aware that during those years urban tribes were everywhere and it wasn’t the norm that a kid that was crazy for heavy metal, trash metal, hardcore and the loud music made graffities, as it was usually linked with hip hop. Stencils and graffiti were my first contact and the one I owe many things that would come later. A couple of years after that, when I began to study Graphic Design and Editorial Production (it was 1996) and I was already immersed in numerous creative and/or artistic initiatives because of my level of curiosity, I signed up for a course of occupational education in Industrial Silk-screen Printing in Formats at a center located in the neighborhood of Sant Andreu, that was known during those days for its courses and the didactic labor that they developed in the realm of silk-screen printing. In the course I coincided with people like me (many Art students and graffiti creators). I wasn’t there in order to look for a job, but simply so that I could learn an unknown technique, experiment all I could and take the most out of the possibilities given by a workshop equipped with professional machinery and tools. Those were 5 intense months of silk-screen printing, many laughs and beers. From then on, the poison of silk-screen printing was already inside me, and even though I did not used the technique because of being immersed in a labor life dedicated to graphic communication, I recovered my passion for it once I began my discographic adventure with Galleta Records, as I wanted all the material I produced to be made with maximum care, and silk-screen printing was ideal in order to achieve that.
What are you currently working on at your studio?
Right now we are producing 2 paper editions from the illustrator Antonio Bravo for Hop Guerilla, a project that will see the light briefly and that wishes to link graphic art and home brewed beer. At the same time, we are collaborating on a beautiful project for the recovery of centenary olives, called Apadrina un Olivo (Support an Olive), where we have made all the tests, prototypes and technical assistance for the oil bottles labels. The illustrator Carla Cascales designed the label emulating the olive trunk and we took care of printing the tests with relief ink with the aim of getting the desired results. Finally, we collaborated with one of Gemma’s silk-screen printing teachers, Jose María Hernando, in order to do the most industrial part of the process.
We have just printed the cover for the last LP of Feo1+RCA Flacos for Flattown Records label, which was designed by the illustrator and tattoo artist Oriol Last Minute, and some cloth bags for the Independent Label Market, an european music label exhibition that will take place in Barcelona for the first time. We are also looking forward to printing tree covers of LPs for Galleta Records (the music label of Abel): The Cheese “Els conills salten la bardissa", Edu Omega "Evolución mecánica" y Niño "El espantapajaros", with a cover by Daniel “San” Muñoz (eseaene.com), an artist of which we are true fans and with whom we are eager to work with. Let us never stop the rhythm and the music!
In terms of in-house production, we have started the year by collaborating with close artists, which is always a pleasure, and it is something we love doing it whenever we have the time to. We have produced some t-shirts and plates of Jose Punzón, an artist from Madrid that some months ago edited a beautiful book called “Amarillo indio” (Belleza Infinita Editing House). And for the Barcelona Beer Festival we have printed a plate illustrated by Eledu in honour of Steve Huxley, a brewmaster that left us a couple of months ago. A toast for you, Steve!
Can you describe your working routine, how’s your studio space and how does it affect your work (if it does)?
The work routine, as the name indicates, is really routinary. In spite of that, it is vital for us. Silk-screen printing is a methodical technique and it requires discipline and concentration, as there is many different factors during the process that, if gone wrong, can affect the final result.
We arrive at our studio half-asleep (we are pretty cat-like), we stutter a “hello, how are you?”, and see what work we have scheduled. Usually we divide the tasks in an anarchic and natural manner, and we go one sharing comments on aspects that we find, so that at the time of printing it is all clear. Normally, when it comes to graphic works the two of us are involved in the printing while with textile works it is only one of us who does it (alternating each piece). In that way the other can be able to dedicate some time to the less pretty and romantic aspects of our profession (administrative tasks, budgets...), as they are equally necessary.
The studio, just as our way of organizing, is pretty anarchic and free. It is as a natural entity that has its own life and keeps on evolving with us. It is a spacious and unobstructed first floor located in La Bordeta neighbourhood (in Sants, an extremely pleasant neighbourhood in which we are happy) and which makes our work easy in the sense that feeling good in your environment makes it easy for everything to flow much more and in a more naturan manner, and having it all well organized and distributed in the space (the office and design desks, the ink, printing, developing and supports - paper, textile, etc... - areas) makes it all much more easy and fluid. We began in a small and narrow space, where 2 people could barely work well and with which we got to the tipping point by the time we could develop our technique and knowledge day after day.
Tell me about your process, how do your pieces start, how do they evolve and with what materials do you work with?
As printers there’s really no secret, as more or less all processes trend to be similar, except for some little differences according to the case. Without a doubt, everything would begin with a fast analysis of the silk-screen printing work in order to get us into the situation and find the complicated points or have them more present. Once it all begins, we always put special emphasis in the pre-printing work in order to minimize the risks that come with silk-screen printing and thos get the films in the best way possible. Afterwards it is all about the simple routine of the studio: choosing the spinning of the proper screen for the job, emulsify and insolation of the screen, get the needed inks ready, prepare the machines and register, and finally get to the actual printing.
If there is one thing you learn with the silk-screen printing experience every day is that each part of the process is as important or even more important that the previous one, and that it is much better to analyse the work globally instead of focusing on each part or detail by itself.
Since we began with Monostreo, and with some exceptions caused by the printing supports, to us it was important to always work with products that are respectful with the environment (water-based inks, non-harmful emulsions...). Fortunately nowadays there is more consciousness around the subject and, in general, toxic or harmful products and emulsions have stopped being used and brands are investing more in order to create all the eco-friendly materials and products.
Gem: in my particular case, I spent several years working in an industrial workshop of silk-screen printing. Almost all products that are used are toxic elements and based in solvents. I had a bad time working with a mask and gloves to the point where one day I ended up in the emergency room because of breathing harmful vapors and being left unconscious. It was one of the reasons that lead me to abandon it and dedicate myself to the most traditional aspect of silk-screen printing, added to the fact that the tasks associated to industrial silk-screen printing trend not to be motivating.
What’s giving you the most trouble in your process?
We value a lot the possibility of printing manually, of developing the workshop activity in the realm of traditional silk-screen printing (even more after one of us - Gem - worked in an industrial printing workshop). The industrial machine reduces the risk level and the margin of error, but it also diminishes the human component and, in a certain way, the warmth of the finishing touches, the closeness and the care that you put when doing something manually.
Controlling pressure when you print by hand in order to leave it uniformly (and even more when we print together, both being of a different physique) and registering well each color in order for it to fit with the next are the two biggest challenges, even though they make it more exciting than when you simply push a button and the machine does it by itself.
The challenges that manual printing presents also make you get skills. You learn to control stages of the process that are generally controlled by the machine, and that gives you more tools and resources in order to fix the small complications that can appear during the process.
Do you experiment with different materials or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
As printers, most of the times the parameters are given to us by the characteristics of the job, which means that many times the experimentation has no place in the process. In spite of that, on a personal level we are always open to trying new things, experimenting with new or unusual supports (leather, slate, PVC, wood, cork, felt, crystal, etc). In the end it is about experimenting and playing and not staying fixed in the comfort of what you already know. It is completely necessary to have an open mind as to keep learning. The better you know a technique, the better you can mold its principles and adapt its rules to the necessities that arrive at each moment.
We also love working in the finishing touches and the possibilities given by inks: transparencies, textures, manual print layouts, etc…
As consisting of putting ink through a nylon thread screen, silk-screen printing is one of the few techniques that allow us to print over multiple surfaces if one uses the appropriate ink, which opens many paths to experimentation. You can even print crepes with chocolate cream and honey!
Tell me about your influences in the realm of manual printing or in other fields (music, cinema, etc).
Music has always been an important part of our lives. In the studio there is music on from the moment we arrive to the one we go out. We wouldn’t know how to work without it. Music is life!
Abel has had a record label for 10 years (galletarecords.bandcamp.com), and its covers were our first collaborations, besides having many friends that are musicians or work with the industry.
At the same time we are involved in the concert poster culture (www.gig posters.com), both designing our posters and printing for other artists.
Being inside the family of Gig Poster has given us the opportunity of discovering great printers and artists. It is great to be able to share our passion for music, art and silk-screen printing with people from all over the world. ¡They are too many to name them all! Burlesque of North America, Jay Ryan, Dan McAdam, Rainbow, Michael Hacker, Epic Problems, DKNG, Methane Studio, Joris Diks... Among many others!
What we are certainly clear about is that we are more influenced by people than by the graphic styles they can have. One of the people that has influenced and teached us most has been Andy MacDougall (www.squeegeeville.com), whom we met as a result of participating in Barcelona’s Flashtock and with whom we began to develop the demo prints of Barcelona’s Flashtock with the objective of bring the process closer to the music festival public, just as Andy has been doing in the USA and Canada for a while. His book “Screenprinting Today” is an indispensable tool nowadays for everyone that wishes to work in (or already works in) the world of traditional silk-screen printing.
Other really important figure is Tind Silkscreen (www.tind.gr) from Greece. They take traditional silk-screen printing to an environment far away from the commercialism in which life and silk-screen printing get together and the frontiers blur, always looking for new experimentation fields. In one of these works they mixed honey with pigment, they printed a trunk of wood and left it in the tree. After a couple of hours thousands of ants has already dissociated the honey from the pigment and took it with them. That is a simple taste of how poetry can be found anywhere and of the spectrum of possibilities that silk-screen printing can give.
In the printers collective they make you say “print isn’t dead”. We couldn’t agree more, 100%!
Translation: Juan Luis Casañas