Hi, I’m Brendan Smith. I’ve been screen printing for over ten years, and boy, has it been a wild ride!
I started printing on a whim when I was 16 years old. My best friends and then-bandmates and I all got hired at a local print shop by owner and printmaker Kevin Gilmore. We were an eager and mischievous bunch. One day early on while cleaning screens in the basement we uncovered several boxes of Grateful Dead bootleg cassettes and a cache of stunning water-based boutique t-shirts that Kevin had printed and distributed at Dead shows in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We were mesmerized and mystified. We blasted the tapes. As a young artist and musician with an entrepreneurial spirit, uncovering the boxes was essentially uncovering the rich relationship between the music community and screen printing for the first time, and that relationship is something I’ve striven to cultivate ever since.
While learning the trade I was also developing my skills as a musician, and under Kevin, receiving an Informal Masters in all things Grateful Dead and DIY ethos. I soon decided to try my hand at the bootleg game, and began designing and printing t-shirts and selling them out of a backpack in the parking lots of amphitheaters and arenas in and around Greater Boston.
As one might imagine, this was a rather risky and short-lived enterprise, but invaluable. Selling my designs to hundreds of strangers in a given day, I quickly got a sense for what worked and what didn’t from a graphic point of view (and from other points of view, too!), which informed me later on when developing merchandise for my own bands and and for countless others.
Fast forward a couple years, I move to New York City. I needed to find a way to pay the bills, and hungry to learn (and hungry to eat), I hit the streets. My father, a huge inspiration and a well-spring of sound advice, always told me to “Just show up. It displays true character.” So after a little research I cold-call-knock on the door of Polluted Eyeball Screenprint Studio and meet printmaster and owner Peter McGouran, who, after a little confusion regarding how the hell I found my way into the building, hired me on the spot.
Peter’s projects exposed me to aspects of printmaking I didn’t even know existed. And again, the relationship between music and screen printing was literally hanging on the walls of his studio. Peter had printed poster editions for bands whose CD’s I had in my car. As a 22-year old kid, I was again mesmerized and mystified. I began meeting a lot of fascinating people through Peter, and soaked up a lot of knowledge from him and the people in his world.
A close friendship developed. I learned what detail-oriented printing really means. We printed on materials like Neoprene and countless other substrates, and worked through all the troubleshooting that comes along with it. We registered and hand-printed an edition of 500 15-color posters until the sun came up. Color-matched water-base ink using pigments to a pantone chip. 4-color process printing. Exposing half-tone images. Printing with discharge ink. Multi-color printing on record sleeves. From a gear-standpoint we were as DIY of an operation as it can get, and still hand-printing world-class art-edition posters. Peter tapped me into the deep technical/art-school world of printmaking.
While all this education was happening I was immersed in the local music scene. I made friendships with bands and started printing their merch. I met printers and we ended up playing shows together. The rich relationship between music and printing was growing in Brooklyn and I was riding the communal wave.
A few years passed, a lot happened. I worked for an incredible and generous Italian family in Ozone Park, Queens named the Mastropietros who hired me to do graphic work and print in their shop. There will be a book about that experience forthcoming. When I find the time. I was working my butt off, touring the USA, then return, print for bands, work other jobs. One night when on the phone with my Dad, we both realized suddenly that I had a pretty substantial client list under my belt that had evolved organically through word of mouth and referrals. “Whoa, I gotta name this thing!”
So here we are. Despite beginning as a whim, I’ve developed a great respect for the craftsmanship of printing. It’s aesthetically and physically satisfying to create a solid print, and it brings me great pride to deliver top-notch work to clients. With the help and trust of many friends and peers over so many years, under and over many obstacles and adventures, and down a long and winding road, it’ll still be me printing your gear. Beezer is open for business!