We sat down with our favorite Grand Rapids screen printer, Scott Warren from Bad Mojo Design to learn a little more about his recent work and tight knit connection with the West Michigan music and art scene. Here is what he had to say…
What is Bad Mojo’s background and who is on the team?
I decided to start Bad Mojo Design after traveling the country for the last 2 years installing screen printing equipment at trade shows and businesses. I liked the screen printing lifestyle, the work is enjoyable and the freedom was very appealing to me as well. I handle a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of the company, and my wife Jewly Warren has been a strong partner with a lot of the business technicalities. Sergio Hernandez is a friend of ours that’s been helping out with printing, and his experience building and repairing the machinery.
What introduced you to the printing business; do you or anyone on your team have any art or fashion background?
Actually, art had nothing to do with it! I started out screen printing electrical circuits on solar cells. It was pretty demanding on a technical level. The ink was made with actual silver and costed $1,600.00 USD per jar, so mistakes were expensive. If I made a circuit that was off by 1/10th of a millimeter it would radically change the electrical properties of the solar panel and I would have the top level management and scientists screaming bloody murder at me. On top of that, the machine I had to work with was constantly breaking down. It was stressful, but when things went well it was kind of fun.
You guys work with a lot of local artists/musicians, is that intentional or just coincidence?
Its 100% intentional. We are lucky to have such a talent pool in this city, and making connections with local artists and entrepreneurs and exploring the possibilities together opens up new options for us that we wouldn’t discover on our own. I try to stick to my strengths and put my trust in the experts around me to do their thing well so that we can succeed together. Jewly and I are both artists. She paints, and we both have been prolific as collage artists since the beginning of our relationship. I am a musician as well, focused on a deconstructed roots blues style.
Is your process unique or different in any way from other local printers?
Now that we have moved into the new studio, we have the space to actually pursue some of the more interesting techniques like textured pallets, foils, sublimation printing, or water based inks. I learned a little about discharge printing from Screened Threads in Nashville. Combined with good art provided by a strong graphics designer, those techniques can add an upscale element to what we are offering the customer!
Do you have any favorite local artists be it any outlet?
Amy TenBarge is a personal favorite of mine. She has an awesome mix of collage, stencil, and screen printing techniques that she utilizes to execute some incredible art.
Hugo Claudin of Mexicains Sans Frontieres has such an iconographic, gritty edginess in his art that is incredible. His use of color, the way he strips away the superfluous backround information and presents his subjects front and center, forcefully and vibrantly, it always leaves a huge impression on me.
Erick Picardo is another favorite, because he paints like a man tormented by his inner passions. There is a rawness, an emotional honesty present in his paintings. He has a way of capturing certain aspects of the human condition that resonates strongly with the viewer. Also, his use of color is top notch.
Your team has a very homegrown approach, what do you attribute this to? Also, do you intend on staying and growing in Grand Rapids or do you have any “big city dreams”?
I have travelled the country setting up machinery in print shops across the country, and for me it was always the smaller shops, like Michigan Awesome or Montana Shirt Company or One Hour Tees in Chicago that were doing something really special. They all really carved out a niche for themselves and aren’t afraid to exist and operate by their own rules. They didn’t have to do it “by the rules” like the big print houses have to in order to be successful. I take a lot of inspiration from those mavericks that make their own rules.
We really love Grand Rapids, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else in Michigan. As far as “big city dreams”, our goal is to take Bad Mojo Design to a sustainable level to support us in eventually opening a second studio Nashville. There’s a strong print tradition there… Printer’s Alley, and of course, Hatch Show Print is incredible!
What do you think makes Grand Rapids such a special place for art and creative thinking?
Grand Rapids is kind of a crossroads destination, where you meet people from many different places around the US and beyond. All of these different perspectives are constantly coming in and injecting new energy and perspectives into the creative community. The native Rapidians that I have met who are involved in the creative community seem to support each other and share a common desire to see this town make its mark on the world. It seems like what you hear about Grand Rapids having that small city complex is kind of true. There is that hunger for this town to be bigger, better… to be taken seriously on a larger scale. People want our town to be recognized, and you see it every time we make a “Top 10 or 50, 100 Cities for This or That” type of list that we land on. I don’t see it cynically like the usual naysayers though. I see that hunger for recognition as a sign of hard working, creative people looking for a little bit of respect. Respect that they’ve earned.
What do you see as the future for Bad Mojo?
Getting established as active members here in our new home and studio in Creston Heights. We are excited to get to know our new community and make new connections. We want to put together some community engagement programs and events and just overall help build upon the cool things people in Creston Heights are doing to make this part of town a better place!
Scott and the Bad Mojo brigade have been a solid connection for SkipFiction and are extending their hospitality to our readers. Take advantage of a killer deal (Seen Above) as Scott offers 50 shirts for the low cost of $6 a piece. Just tell him Skip sent you 😉