Five Questions for Nicholas Naughton

"Burnt Bacon"

Honestly, Nicholas Naughton needs no introduction.  His words, prints, actions, and these photos speak for themselves.

La Cucaracha Press is comprised of three printmakers: Jordan Carr, Eric Lindquist, and Nicholas Naughton. The press is located in the newly-opened City Arts Project at 20th and Campbell.

1.What is the greatest thing you have learned from opening, operating, and facilitating La Cucaracha Press?

La Cucaracha Press is a three man operation and I think we graduated from our roles as individual creators to become a collaborative team in the founding of our shop.  The best lesson from this was learning how much more and how much better we can do something as a group.  Jordan, Eric and I share the load of running La Cucaracha Press and it happened how I think collaboration should; it wasn’t forced and our trio formed organically through relationships and shared experience.  By identifying ourselves collectively under a name like La Cucaracha Press we have found a new way to push our own projects forward, facilitating printing projects for lots of artists and designers, but we also have the confluence of three minds which makes our biggest ideas more attainable.

It turns out that people still desire old school prints; ink applied to paper in an elegant way.  People need space and equipment to do their work.  Artists benefit from diverse economic models like ours; a model founded on low start up cost, distributed workload, and cooperative.  The benefits from our shop reach way beyond what the three of us could do by ourselves.

 2. What book are you currently reading?

Mostly I spend my time perusing paper sample books and articles related to my course that I teach, Graphic Collaborations at the Kansas City Art Institute.  Our most recent article is an interesting 3-part piece by Martha Rosler called “Culture Class:  Art, Creativity, and Urbanism.” and it is published by e-flux magazine, an online art and culture publication.  Their issues are published online each month and best of all it’s free.

3. What music are you currently listening to at the shop?

Hip Hop.  I can’t get enough.  We’ve been diving back into some great old school early 90’s hiphop:  Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, etc.  We also love tUnE-YarDs.  Of course, we’re getting more into the recent releases by XO Press like the Sneaky Creeps and the Troost Fest compilation.  I never thought I would say it, but the press needs a tape deck!  Every once in a while a certain Beyonce track may be heard from our stereo but so far no one can explain the occurrence of such things.

 4. How do you balance the shop/teaching and your personal studio? Do you? Or don’t you?

Simple, I don’t.  I have four solid roles to play now: artist, teacher, pressman and businessman.  I focus mainly on La Cucaracha Press, and I spend about 7 days a week there, which of course becomes a huge obstruction to making my work.  It’s a very satisfying existence I lead these days, but it’s also really difficult financially and personally.  I always have to check my inner voice when I get upset that I’m not making as much fine art.  The great thing is that I get to create new things every week and those items go on and are used in the world around us.  It could be business cards or hoodies, but there’s a certain amount of pride that I can feel making something really well and knowing that I’m not responsible for it after the process of making it.

When I make art, that’s only the beginning of the work that the lifestyle entails.  I then have to show it, sell it, promote it, present it on the web, show it to more people…it’s a lot of work, and none of it is guaranteed to make me a living wage.  Printing beautiful products for people, on the other hand, brings in actual money; it’s something valuable to people on a similar but different level from art.  I convey craftsmanship and creativity to people through press work, and the printshop has been lucky thus far to have lots of really fun clients.  We are given artistic freedom on almost everything, so we put out souls into our prints.  We work late every night and I go home feeling pooped, accomplished and ink stained.  What more could a printmaker ask for?

 5.   What projects do you and the shop have planned for the near future?

At the press some of our latest projects are 7” covers and shirts for the Grisly Hand designed by Danni Parelman and printed by Jordan.  Eric is working on branding for Petticoat Pies.  I’m printing some new business cards for a friend in New York and re-branding our neighbor Joscelyn Himes for her textile business.  I’m also doing a poster for The Local Pig, a new butcher shop by chef Alex Pope that will be opening soon in the East Bottoms.  When we have time, my printing assistant Rachel and I print art prints for an artist friend Burton Freeman.  We’re kind of busy actually, and we’re only 6 months old!  The press is self sustaining already, and we get paid for our labor.

As for my own work, I’m putting a lot of effort into my new class that basically wraps up my professional life into a model for a community arts course at KCAI.  I have a class of 13 students from a range of backgrounds.  The concept for the class basically sets us up as a print collective, dubbed Phresh Prints by a vast majority of us (hit us up on Facebook).  We’ve been working with Sean and Andy on this Speakeasy project, and we’re basically going to design and print everything related to the exhibition.  We’ve got similar plans to design and print for other non-profits and community groups or events.  I want to teach the students how to think sustainably, and how applying our creative skills to our professional lives can keep us close to our art while broadening the reach of what we do beyond a studio.  It’s been pretty eye opening for me, and I think the students are pretty engaged so far.  We’re about to head into designing and printing around 3 thousand impressions in the next month!

With everything going on it’s tough to find a need to create static objects anymore.  I’ll always make gallery work, but it’s becoming apparent to me that the world needs more than just ideas and this new lifestyle enables me to both create and effect people in a very tactile way, so in a way this lifestyle is becoming my art.  It’s collaborative, always a learning process, and its offered direction that I never had before.


About Sean M. Starowitz

Sean M. Starowitz’s work is executed in a variety of social, political, and community engaged contexts. Notable projects include Fresh Bread, BREAD! KC and Byproduct: The Laundromat. He has also explored curatorial projects such as The Speakeasy, and Vagabond, Kansas City’s premiere pop-up restaurant. He has contributed writings to Proximity Magazine and Temporary Art Review, and has lectured at Queens College in NY, UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures Department, and at American University in D.C. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri as the artist-in-residence at the Farm To Market Bread Company. He is a 2010 graduate of the Interdisciplinary Arts program at the Kansas City Art Institute and a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient with support from the Charlotte St. Foundation, Spencer Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation. More recently, he is a 2014 Charlotte St. Foundation Visual Art Award Fellow.
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