Photos: Get a Grip
From printing t-shirts in a garage to running a business at the Mecca of the independent shops at Custard Factory, in Digbeth, Get a Grip is making its own trajectory at the screen printing friendly environment market since 2009. Besides being specialised in the screen printing, the shop owners Kay and Sam also share a mutual interest in punk rock which became another influent element in their work.
This year, Get a Grip was also present at the Supersonic Festival holding a workshop about Screen Printing. In partnership with Nathan, from No gut, no Glory, Sam edits the fanzine The Time D.I.Y. We interviewed Kay to know a bit more about all Get a Grip projects!
Ma: How and when has started your interesting in Screen Printing?
Kay Stanley: My first experience with screen printing was during a summer holiday club at a local secondary school in my hometown when I was about 8 years old. I don’t remember much- but I do remember the ink was purple and I had to be lifted up to reach the print bed. After that I experimented a little in sixth form and during my art foundation course with some pretty DIY attempts, and went on to complete a degree in textile design- specialising in printed textiles. Sam came from a completely different side- studying business at University then investing in all the equipment so he could print thing for a clothing label- then printing on commission for businesses.
Ma: How did Get a Grip studio begin? And why the name “Get a Grip”?
Kay Stanley: GET A GRIP came about while I was sharing a little shop in The Custard Factory with someone during the summer of 2009. I was printing T-shirts in my parents’ garage, and I met Sam because he printed the T-shirts for the guy I shared the shop with. He was struggling a little with his screen-printing business, and I knew we’d be closing the shop in the December, so we decided to join forces and see what happened. We couldn’t think of a name for weeks- I basically stole the name off my friends who wanted to start a hardcore band Get A Grip (they never did).
Ma: You have a constant concern about the sustainability. How does it is important at your work?
Kay Stanley: Sam has always been passionate about the environmental impact of his life and business- so it would have been a non-starter if I hadn’t cooperated. Since then I’ve learnt a LOT about the impact businesses can have- both with the pointless waste of materials, and the positive and negative influences you can have on customers.
We like to be positive in promoting organic and sustainable T-shirts and garments- so reduce our printing prices when people choose to use them- and not add a profit margin on for ourselves like other print companies seem to do. From joining 1% For The Planet, and switching to a renewable energy supplier- we are trying to be as environmentally conscious in our decisions in all aspects of the business- not just the fact that we use water based inks and recycled paper.
Ma: What is the importance of keeping an independent shop at Custard Factory? Does it make some difference? In which ways?
Kay Stanley: If The Custard Factory started bringing in chain stores, then people may as well walk the five minutes up the road to the Bullring. The Custard Factory offers something entirely different to the highstreet- with around 20 independent shops all offering a huge range of items- from specialised furniture, instruments, framing etc- to gifts and clothing accessible to anyone. Birmingham is very lucky to have The Custard Factory- and although it’s been a struggle for the last few years, the place is on the up and we’re very excited to be part of it.
Ma: Besides the D.I.Y. ethics and ecological concern, your work is also a reflex of your love for punk rock. How does music inspire Get a Grip products?
Kay Stanley: We constantly have music on in the studio- it can set the mood for the day and encourage us all to be productive. We work a lot with bands from the UK Punk Rock scene- and a lot are changing over to organic cotton rather than churning out the cheapest T-shirt they can buy. That, in turn, is being passed on to their fans- who are getting a better quality of T-shirt, which they’ll wear more- thus promoting the band more- everyone wins. The UK Punk Rock scene is very strong and very close at the moment, and we’re really happy to have a place in it. Through it, we’ve met and worked for a huge host of illustrators and designers- which we’ve then been able to commission for designs in our shop- so they all go hand in hand together.
Ma: You also work in partnership with Nathan, from No guts, no glory, publishing the fanzine The Time D.I.Y. How is this work going so far?
Kay Stanley: We love producing the zine with Nath. He’s a great guy, and No Guts No Glory is a great business. Through GET A GRIP we’ve met so many people doing things for themselves, their friends, their communities and more- so it’s great to have an excuse to ask them about it- put it in the zine, and tell more people about what good things they’re doing. DIY is not just Punk Rock, and it’s not just the zine culture- there are people absolutely everywhere doing anything you can think of off their own backs- from breaking into stand-up comedy, to making apps for iphones. Not everyone needs a boss or a brand behind them- and we hope it encourages more people to get up and DO stuff rather than waiting for someone else to.
Ma: How was the experience of giving Screen Printing workshop during the Supersonic this year?
Kay Stanley: We’ve done a couple of workshops before for Birmingham Zine Festival, and we also printed the merchandise for Supersonic this year and last year- so it was great to be asked to run the workshop too. Every one of the participants were great- and picked it up really quickly too- which meant it was really enjoyable. The point of having the printing equipment in the shop is to show any passing member of public how screen printing works- so to run the workshop during the festival was great as many people got to see the equipment in action. Supersonic is a great festival run by an awesome group of people, so we love getting to be part of it all.
Ma: What can we expect from Get a Grip in 2012?
Kay Stanley: After the huge changes we went through in 2011 (moving into the shop and starting to print for the shop rather than solely on commission), I think 2012 will be building on what we’ve started- growing the shop, doing more workshops and encouraging more people to think about the garments they want printing.