The ABC’s of Screen Printing with Joshua Rodriguez

Hey Josh! Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Josh, I am an artist/creative from Providence, RI.

How did you get started with printmaking?

When I was younger, I honestly always loved clothes but I never knew the process of making clothes. I never really had people I could go to, to ask questions. But I learned how to screenprint at a young age through all the great art programs that there are in Providence. Through me being in different bands, I would design and print all the merch. I fell in love with the process of printmaking and decided to take on a new project of my own, which is now my brand “Alphabets.”

© Rafael Rodriguez

You do a lot of events (youth printmaking workshops, etc) with AS220, a non-profit community arts organization based in Providence, RI. How’d you start your relationship with AS220? What inspired you to become an arts educator in this capacity?

I got involved with AS220 at a young age. Interning for the print-shop manager that was there at the time kinda opened that door for me at AS220 and gave me a full-on experience of a print-shop. I fell in love with the process of screen printing. I get asked all the time how I do the process, and it’s tough having to type all that out on a phone, so I try to find different ways to explain it. I have workshops and make it an experience when people come to the workshops.

Your arts and clothing brand, Alphabets, just had a “Flash Pop Up” in New York City, along with another Providence-based clothing brand, UNKNOWN, and brands, RÊVENIGHT and PRESCRIBED SHELTER. How did you go about putting that together, and how did it go?

The popup in NY was just an idea that me and my friends had for a while. We know a lot of “underground” designers off of just networking on social media and we decided to bring a few brands together and do a popup on New York Fashion Week. It was nice! I met a lot of cool people and got to enjoy the New York nightlife for a few days. 

Speaking of the Alphabets NYC Pop Up, that flyer is dope! Do you do all of the graphic design work for Alphabets?

The flyer was designed by me and my best friend, @unknyoung (on Instagram). Pretty straight forward process, just me and him locked in for a few hours cranking it out. As far as the graphic design for my brand, I do all the graphics and literally everything for the brand. It’s a lot, but right now it’s just what I gotta do ‘til I have an actual team.

© Alphabets & Unknown Studios

Your fits are always absolutely crazy. What/who is your biggest fashion inspiration?

Thank you man! I take inspiration from just everything around me or what I observe. I have a huge musical root, being that I play drums, so I’m always listening to different genres of music and making open minded decisions musically. Same thing with fashion, I just wear what I like and what feels comfortable. I don’t necessarily have like a fashion inspiration, but I can say if you’re around me or in my life you’re somehow an inspiration to me.

Not only are your fits always on point. You also have the Instagram post formula down. Can you spread some knowledge and help all of the wannabes out? 

With Instagram, I kinda just post what I want to post. I try not to overdo it and post too much about my life. I like to keep it about my work, friends, or art/design that I like/contributed to.

I’ve noticed that you rock your own pieces! I find that really dope. I feel like a lot of people shy away from wearing their own stuff. What would you say to any designers that avoid wearing their own creations?

At the end of the day, I design things that I would want in my closet. I think as a creative, if you’re making things, you should want to wear it. And it’s also just a way to show people what you’re working on. I always find it weird when people design things because it’s trendy or because they know it will sell, but you never catch them (as the creative) wearing it. I’ve witnessed this before. 

A little while ago, Alphabets released a “Glass & Bone” bracelet, made of “recycled cola bottles, broken windows, and fish vertebrae from West African fish.” How did you go about making these bracelets? What’s the significance of the beads that spell out “fragile”?

The bracelet was me trying something new for my brand. Just trying new things. The fragile concept came from a graphic I was working on a while ago, “life is fragile”, and I was going to put it all out kinda together, but ended up just doing the bracelets on their own. Making the bracelet was something new, so I had to learn things on my own, but the color theory was all based on Native American jewelry, which I’ve always loved.

© Alphabets

The motto for Alphabets is “Every Garment Is The Canvas.” Can you tell me what this means to you?

Since I’m hand printing each garment DIY, I wanna always have that process in my brand, even as it grows. But to me, it’s self explanatory, each garment is an art piece, almost like a canvas that’s on the wall. Each garment makes it like you’re walking around in art.

I noticed that you’re big on tie-dye. How do you feel about hippies?

Hippies are cool lol, but tie-dye is cooler.

Aside from your design work, you’re also a drummer. You played drums in an alternative punk band called Lovesick, a hardcore/noisy post-punk band called Hairspray Queen, and most recently, you drum in a duo with DJ Nes on turntables. Can you tell me a little about your experiences in all of these groups? 

Being in a band was always nice because it’s always been something I wanted to do, but it’s hard sometimes creatively and time-wise being in a band when things aren’t really going the way you expect or it’s not too organized. I’m planning on making music again soon just ‘cause I miss doing that creatively. Me and Nes legit just freestyle every DJ set though, so you never know what’s next, and just go by ear.

© Jayden Barber

Occasionally, you’ll do live screen printing at Alphabets events/pop ups! What was the impetus for this concept? 

The live screen printing workshops are kinda like what I said earlier, it’s more so people see the process in person. I feel like people appreciate it more when they see that you’re doing it all DIY. And like, yeah, anyone can learn, but it’s a lot about repetition that makes the print look great.

© Rafael Rodriguez

Alphabets doesn’t only make clothing, you’ve also designed ceramic ashtrays. What was the process behind making these like? Do you have any plans to do more work with ceramics, or non-clothing related endeavors in general?

The ceramics that I make are something else I just wanted to make because of an ashtray that I was inspired by. But for the most part, I’ve slowly gotten into ceramics through working with my friend, @nidalfakhouri (on Instagram) on tile projects for either public or private things. We’ve been doing that for about 3 years now.

© Alphabets

Any shoutouts that you wanna give? Love that you wanna spread?

Shoutout to all the creatives just trying to make something from their ideas. Just keep going and motivate yourself to do good and be good! 

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