Max and Rob. So much love.
Suspicious Package focuses mostly on textiles and flatstock. Since the inception in 2015, they’ve worked with various artists, bands, and brands, to make t-shirts, posters, stickers, patches, and album covers.
Run of 100 cassette O-cards for blackened metal/thrash band Hæresis.
Their space in ESDIP is not just for their own business. They also run a monthly screen printing workshop, and the space itself can be hired, provided you have some screen printing experience – and if not, you can hire them to do it for you.
Left: Run of 100 7.5 x 6cm patches for Berlin crust metal band Nocturnal Scum. / Right: Limited run of 30 posters for tattooer Slava Shatovkin.
I interviewed Rob and Max about screen printing, their studio, and the mutual love and respect that they have for one another. Below this, you can find more information on their screen printing workshop, and on renting the studio.
When did you each become interested in screen printing?
Rob: I started screen printing when I was 19 and playing in punk bands that couldn’t afford professional merchandise. I floundered with it on and off for years, and about 7 years ago started to really learn and understand the science behind making good screens and prints. I love analog art mediums, and there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of making a beautiful print by hand.
Max: I think I mainly got into screen printing through my friend Bronwyn, who I helped out to print patches to sell at various punk-fests when I was hanging around at a screenprint-collective in the former house-project Friedel 54. I did an insane amount of stencil-patches over the years, since some bands or designs were simply not available, but I WANTED them. Screen printing ultimately provided a much more feasible means to an end at first, but step by step I was able to see the potential and fun to work with it.
What gave you the idea to start Suspicious Package?
Rob: Max and I met while I was doing a screen print run for a DIY record label I’m involved with in Seattle in 2012; we became frenemies and thought it would be a good idea to force ourselves to have to spend a lot of time together in stressful deadline-centric environments that would slowly bring the other inches toward their death, ultimately resulting in the one of us prevailing victorious.
Max : I don’t know what he’s talking about, the result ultimately will result in HIS death, that’s a given. Aside from that, since we both met in Seattle we both independently tried to step up our screen printing game. When Rob moved to Berlin it seemed like a nice way to kill some precious time and brain cells to print some things for our friends. Frustrated with the shitty equipment and possibilities we were forced to work with we kept toying with the idea to create something new. Basically an ultimate doomsday device for the destruction of all Hanna-kind, as well as the creation of print utopia.
A two-color poster with the November Screen Printing Workshop students.
Once you had the idea, how did you turn it into a collective?
Rob: It was actually mandated by Executive Company, a hypothetical megacorporation of which we are a subsidiary/indentured servants of. If we stop printing and teaching workshops a timed incendiary device in mechanized neck bands we forcibly have to wear, will explode.
Max: You have to understand that the founders of Executive Company believe in good old fashioned enemy values. Yes you could make a device, idea or even something simple like, lets say a screen print, better or more practical, but have you ever thought about making it EXECUTIVE ? Trust me, if you see your time running out, at some point you will.
Two-color poster for tattoer Andrew Zelena.
What have some of your favourite jobs been?
Rob: Honestly my favourite ones are the jobs where things go terribly wrong, because those are the times we learn the most from having to act fast and MacGyver our way out of trouble.
Max: My favourite jobs have been tape covers, and funnily enough the ones we were able to take control of the most. ‘Kriminal’ wanted red folders with black print, I didn’t like those and since they are friends I just went ahead and printed yellow, pink and black covers with black ink for them – everyone was stoked. The tape covers are really a lot of work but the result is really rewarding. Proof was in the fact that the screen printed tapes were sold out after only a few shows. People appreciate having something nice in their hands.
Two-color poster printed for Berlin-based graphic designer (and former coworker) Katrin Acklin and musicians Poems for Laila.
What do you like about running the screen printing workshops?
Rob: The workshops are great because it gives us a chance to undo the terrible things that happen in screen printing shops around the globe. Un-labeled inks, squeegees left to rot with clumps of ink dried to their rubbery flesh, scoop coaters fused with emulsion and never to coat screens smoothly again… it’s our defence against the injustices of sloppy printing. We are nerds about details and it’s awesome that so many of the folks who have taken our workshop appreciate that and take what we teach them to make amazing stuff.
Max: I like that we always end up in a situation that illustrates the element of chaos in screen printing. Your main objective in the endless preparation is to eliminate variables and keep a maximum amount of control over your work environment, but usually something happens that you can’t explain, even if you wanted to – like your printer not printing solid black anymore, your ink drying up in no time…I like when that happens in our workshops, cause screen printing would be easy if everything would go exactly to plan, but being able to deal with something unexpected or something that went wrong; THAT’S when you really know you got this shit figured out.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Rob: A fifth dimensional print, whatever that means. Also to learn as much as humanly possible and print things that eventually melt people’s brains out of their faces from how impossibly awesome they are.
Max: I want to print more of our own propaganda and just put them up in the streets of Berlin. I love the traces people leave around this city, even if it’s just shitty tags somewhere. But a nice mural, graffiti or poster always catches my eye and I’ll remember the spot it’s in and come back to it. Our posters would be a nice edition to make peoples daily visual Berlin experience a little bit more executive. I got something to bitch about and I’ll make you look at it. Hahaha (laughs hysterically).
Run of 60 T-shirts for Berlin crust metal band Nocturnal Scum.
Would you want to become bigger, or would you want to continue working with smaller artists and businesses?
Rob: I’d like Suspicious Package to someday have a tertiary responsibility in the collapse of Western civilisation. If we get a table in Flatstock sometime that would also be totally sick.
Max: If we could grow it to a point where we can buy all the equipment that we could think of, to realise completely absurd projects, and have a few more people continuously work with us and work together on say, a line of concept pieces under a conjoined name – I would really like that. Other than that, I would like to grow us to a point where we are rich enough that we can open up the first print shop on Mars. Then send Rob over there with a one way ticket to run it and make him print postcards for rich tourists 24/7. And a live stream and a bottomless popcorn bag for me to watch it.
This workshop is run by Rob and Max at their studio in ESDIP. Classes are small – a maximum of six per class – which means that each participant will get a proper hands-on experience.
Over the course of this workshop participants will:
- Learn about the history and development of the craft of screen printing.
- Properly design and set up images and output files for films.
- Discover the science behind photo-sensitive emulsion and learn how to properly coat and burn an image into a screen.
- Learn best practices and master fine details to get the most accurate and best quality prints without making a mess in your shop.
There are two screenprinting workshops coming up in both February and March – check out the dates and sign up here:
RENTING THE STUDIO
If you have previous experience in screen printing* you can rent the studio for a half or full day, and can use the following equipment:
- HDT4000 4-arm, 1-station carousel press with micro-registration knobs
- Medium/Large sized T-shirt pallet
- A2+ sized poster pallet
- A3+ sized poster pallet
- Print drying rack which can accommodate up to 100 A3 prints, or 50 A2 prints
- Several A2+ and A3+ aluminum frame screens in various mesh counts (43T, 61T, 80T, 100T)
- A3+ sized exposure light table
- Handmade washout sink w/ pressure washer
They also have a high-quality inkjet printer for full colour digital and photo prints, as well as solid opaque black output for films. You can contact Suspicious Package if you need films prepared for your screen printing projects, or to make quality colour digital prints of your illustrations or photographs.
*Those new to the studio must provide a portfolio of previous work to rent the studio. Participants who have taken the Screen Printing Workshop at ESDIP can rent the studio after completion.
For more information on Suspicious Package, including how to get in touch, check out their website.