I’m minding my mum and dad’s little rescue dog at the moment and he’s got some anxiety issues (don’t we all). This means that wherever I go, this eight-year-old Pomeranian x Corgi comes with me. The only problem is that he can be a little bit naughty. I know Monte is just a simple creature with no real concept of right or wrong, but I’m hoping maybe by bringing him to this interview, all round good dude and screen printer extraordinaire, Nick Carvajal, might rub off on him a bit. We sat down to talk about Nick’s screen printing and artistic endeavours, and I’m hoping he becomes some sort of magnet to Monte’s moral compass. We’ll see.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
So right now, I'm just screen printing. I've got a business partner, Craig, and we basically screen print for local bands, mainly, and some small bands. Sometimes we get one-offs of people doing events. I'm doing some for an event coming up for Grab Life By the Titties (a charity event dedicated to the fight against breast cancer) and I'm donating 20 shirts for that.
Is that Idle Hands, your screen printing business?
Yeah, Idle Hands Screen Printing. Other than that, I just take pictures of things that I want to print and then print them.
Do you see it as two different things, with one being like a fine art approach and one being more commercial?
Yeah, in terms of screen printing as my art, I'm super lazy with it. I'll eventually get around to it – like, I've got all these ideas that I'll never see through. But every now and then I think, ‘Alright, I'm doing it’. And that's what I did for [Banshee's first event] Undercurrents. I'd been thinking about doing that print for ages so I'm glad it finally came through.
Was that print a part of a series?
No, that was just one that I did while working on a series of prints of brothels around Newcastle. I was doing that and looking around for brothels and saw the Tudor Motor Inn, which is the weirdest building ever.
I think my dad told me he stayed there once.
Have you ever been there?
No, I haven't! I would like to though.
It's a super bizarre place. I'd always see it when I was going by and always thought it was cool.
I really liked that print. I like that you've chosen these buildings in Newcastle that are recognisable, but you don't automatically think of. Like, these subtle parts of Newcastle life.
I feel like no one would go there. I walked in and the lady working there was like, ‘You want to do a print of this place?!’
Do you have much of an artistic practice when it comes to doing the more fine art side of your screen printing?
Honestly? No! I've never really had much of an artistic background. I mean, for a long time I kind of didn't think of my screen printing as art, mostly because I'd always be replicating someone else's design. It was when I started doing that series of brothels that I thought, OK, this is something that I've done from the very start. Gone out, taken the photo, edited it and printed it. And that's where it started to feel like my own art.
So I'm guessing Idle Hands came first?
Yeah. So I was at a party at Ruairi Burns' (fellow screen printer and singer in Jacob) house when he was living in Mayfield, and he was showing me his whole screen printing set up, and I thought it was so cool and something that I'd really like to do. I’d had this shirt design since I was about 16, and it was this meme of my friend Sam and this text that said ‘No communal goon’ above it and ‘What the bro?’ underneath. I always wanted to do it, so I went to Ruairi's house and printed the design and that's where it all started. I think I sold, like, two, and I've got about six left still. So if anyone wants one, let me know! But yeah, from that I would just hit up my friend Oscar, who does graphic design, and use some of his designs. Then as I got better I thought it could be something I could make a bit of money from, then Idle Hands formed.
So is that how you got into screen printing?
Pretty much. Ruairi taught me all the basics and I actually went out and bought the most obscene amount of equipment, like super overkill. It was all on Gumtree for super cheap, so I took the opportunity and did it. And it's all paid off I suppose – things are going pretty well.
Do you think that was an advantage, starting off using all that equipment straight away as opposed to something more beginner?
A little bit of both. I think the equipment that I had was way more advanced than anything I had seen or what Ruairi was using, and so that took a lot of YouTubing and Googling what I was doing wrong and how to work it out on this specific press. But in the long run, for sure, I think it definitely was an advantage.
What projects have you worked on with Idle Hands? I know you did a shirt for Suburban Haze – I really liked that one.
Yeah, I've worked with heaps of bands now: Suburban Haze, Tired Minds, we did some work for Ill Natured, The Hard Word, Shakoda, whose stuff I really enjoy. I'm actually about to do some work with Aangus Khan.
He's in this issue as well.
Nice! Well, off the top of my head that's all I can think of. There's heaps. There's a brand from Sydney that is run by a good friend of mine, Aaron, called Saato. They're doing cool stuff. I did two of their last designs too and will hopefully do some more in the future.
Have you exhibited much before with your fine art printing?
No, that series of brothels I did was at uni and there was a little exhibition for that, but apart from that only Undercurrents. I'd be keen to do some exhibiting in the future.
Our Banshee shirts looked really good, by the way.
That's right, I did the Banshee shirts!
I can see how it would be hard separating the commercial printing to your own work. I don't see it as lazy at all – it seems difficult to shift it from one to the other.
It's like, a band will hit me up on a Monday – this happens so often – and ask for this many shirts for Thursday. And I think ‘Yeah! I can do that! Let's get it done’, and I'll knock it out and get it done by the date, but when it comes to my own stuff I just think, ‘Yeah, I'll get there eventually’. I've just got to commit to it.
So do you have anything else coming up?
I made a bunch of monochrome-style designs of mostly friends that I'd like to print, so I might try to knock that out before going back to uni. If anyone wants to put them in an exhibition, let me know!
And what's the thing you’re working on with Angus?
He's doing a short limited run of shirts and totes that I'll be printing. His work is awesome, so I'm really keen for it. Funny story with Angus – before I met him, I saw this thing he posted about wanting to get shirts printed, and I sent him an email saying ‘I love your work – if you'd ever like to print anything let me know, I'd love to do it for you’, and he never got back to me! Then I confronted him about it at a party. It was all in good fun. But that hurt, man, that hurt.
Hit up facebook.com/idlehandsscreenprinting to check out Nick’s work.