EL PASO – Beneath fluorescent lights Inside a noisy concrete room that smells of paint, Stephen Escarzaga, 24, works a computer mouse to rapidly transform the pictures inside his clients’ heads into a graphic logo, a print or a shirt.
For six years, Escarzaga and his partner Jonathan Childress, 24, worked in a unique lifestyle that included screen printing, making music, shooting video and running the show at their printshop. But the Central El Paso business, Proper Printshop, will come to an end as they move on to pursue other career goals.
The partnership began in May 2008 as they shared a Westside apartment. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It started off as a hobby,” recalls Childress, also known as ‘JJ’. “I had too much time on my hands so one day I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a simple silk screening kit and made a few shirts as a joke, and people started demanding more shirts like that.”
After conferring with Escarzaga, they began to produce silk screened tee shirts out of their apartment and selling them to area businesses. They decided they needed a building when they realized they couldn’t use the shower to dry out the screens anymore because they started to get orders everyday and not just the weekend.
After four months of marketing themselves as screen printers they moved out to Escarzaga’s grandfather’s old gunsmith shop where they worked on their screen-printing and then moved into an art gallery on Paisano where they stayed for two years.
The duo started out making 100 shirts a month, which grew to 7,000 to 10,0000 a month. One of their logos that’s pretty famous is the “Keep El Paso Loco” and they make designs every year for the city of El Paso’s Neon Desert Music Festival.
“I feel good. I did some really cool and fun things. It’s about time to close our doors and move on and start the next chapter in my life,” Escarzaga said.
“Sadly, we will be closing our doors here on September due to several conflicts and we’re in the process of an orderly liquidation and unwinding,” Childress said.
Escarzaga will be moving to Austin to pursue an environmental science degree and will be getting married by the end of the summer. As for Childress, he will be working in El Paso managing his own company as a financial advisor.
Proper Printshop’s primary focus has been screen-printing of custom T-shirts for small businesses, organizations and small events. The Printshop also has its own line of shirts that are really big in Japan, along with video production and photography.
They host several events and started off last week with the Binational Film Fest where they screen short films at their shop. For the third time this year, they will be hosting the “Tour de Fun” on May 10th —a bicycle rally that will include music, live art and ping-pong tournaments.
“It’s unfortunate, simply put,” said Elias Flores, a local long-time support of the Proper Printshop who has participated in the ping-pong tournaments. “I know the owners and believed in the work they did and admired their will to promote El Paso artists and businesses, while trying to offer an alternative to the El Paso night life beyond bar and club hopping. It’s sad to see them go.”
Escarzaga and Childress will print their final designs this summer for an artist who calls himself Exist 1981.
“We are happy to be moving on to new ventures,” said Childress. “It was a tremendous learning experience and the shop accomplished more than we ever imagined. It started off as a hobby and ended up becoming this creative platform for several unique projects.”