Last week I visited Wolfy (aka Jef Scharf) at Kayrock Screenprinting, a business that
he co-founded and runs with a partner called Kayrock (nicknamed after the business). Kayrock HQ takes up a majority of the 2nd floor of the Monster Island arts building, on the corner of Kent and Metropolitan Avenue (you know the one you see Japanese tourists with fancy cameras taking tons of photos of every weekend), in lovely Williamsburg.
Wolfy was preparing some prints of monster heads for a mural at Art Basel Miami on the night I was there (after the official business operations of the day closed down), he was also helping the nice ladies from Talk Normal screen merchandise (t-shirts, onesies, and some tote bags) with a logo/image created for them by Miss Kim Gordon, while Kid Millions was hanging out, cutting record covers, in order to print the next Oneida record cover, Man Forever.
Sarah Register & Andrya Ambro of Talk Normal
It seems that Wolfy often does favors for his friends in local bands, assisting them with their poster, packaging, merch needs. Kayrock also employs a lot of Brooklyn musicians to produce Kayrock’s commercial printing assignments during the work week. Whilst hanging around the studio space, following Wolfy around, I certainly got the impression that he really enjoys what he does and also loves being involved with the Williamsburg art and music communities. He also seems to really fucking love the art of silkscreen printing. What he and Kayrock have established as a business is damn impressive.
It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that people, at all hours of the night, are creating stuff and doing interesting things in their space… and in the Monster Island building, whilst the majority of the new neighbors are most likely robotically preparing yuppie foodstuffs, watching sports on the tele, & getting worked up about the graffiti on the block of their million dollar plus condominiums.
prints for Art Basel Miami
me and this pussycat totally bonded!
Kid from Oneida
Doubles the cat strikes a pose
C & P: The building that you occupy on Kent Ave. is now, unfortunately, surrounded by towering, offensively unattractive condo buildings, but I read online that someone claimed that Monster Island occupied “the only block in that section of Brooklyn that has NOT been rezoned for high-rise condominiums.” Is this true? Can we count on cool shit happening on Kent for years to come? Has Monster Island received any sort of protection because it houses non-profit art spaces and small businesses?
W: Monster Island is not protected from redevelopment in any way. There is a lease that expires in the next year or so which protects the tenants for the moment. It is, I believe, zoned for light industrial and most likely will be transformed into something that will provide shopping opportunities to the neighboring residents.
C & P: What is the one thing you miss most about the old Williamsburg, before these ugly condos made Kent look less like a dirty boulevard in a closed down manufacturing town?
W: The city has been built on change and growth. It has always welcomed the new and different into the philosophy and fabric of the everyday and eternal in ways that seem extreme and sad to those that have weathered it long enough to see those changes more clearly and directly. Charlie Ahearn has a nice take on the whole idea of missing the old Times Square and how to approach the new. There are some relationships with specific people and places that I miss.
C & P: How long has the Kayrock studio been part of Monster Island? Did you guys help to establish MI as an arts mecca? Do you help to organize the Monster Island block party that happens every summer? Do you often collaborate with the other artists that reside in the MI building?
W: Kayrock Inc. is one of the founding tenants of Monster Island. Everyone that is in the building or ever been a part of it has helped establish what the building represents. The yearly block party is a celebration of that. Secret Project Robot has always been the biggest reason that the block party happens and everyone else in the building helps out as best they can to realize the event. I have always enjoyed making the occasional map for the event and playing music at it.
C & P: How much of the work done at Kayrock is commercial work for clients versus more art related printing (artists editions, books, zines, etc)? Do you prefer working on one type of project over another?
W: The work we do has always been a reluctant marriage of contract work and artistic endeavors. The percentages always change with many different factors but we always try to balance them out and make time and room for everyone who works in and around the shop to use it freely for their own purpose. I have always preferred the art editions and printing the designs we create over contract work. The work we do for others has often challenged us in ways that have bettered us as printers and artists. Some of the artists we have printed for are directly responsible for inspiring me to be.
C & P: I know that you print A LOT of band posters (I saw them!!!), are most of these posters for bands you personally know or is a lot of the business generated because of you & Kayrock’s reputation as screenprinting geniuses?
W: It varies, most of the best work we have done has been for bands that have allowed us the freedom to create something that responds to their work. I think word of mouth and sight has always aided us in working with new and different people.
C & P: How did so many musician types end up working at Kayrock? Are they working off insane printing debt after convincing you to float them for too many posters? I think I met Kid from Oneida the other night and I am pretty sure OJ from Golden Triangle (and other bands) works at Kayrock? Yes? Are the Talk Normal gals indentured servants, as of this week, after their t-shirt printing extravaganza?
W: Wow, that question just makes us sound bad. No person that has ever worked for us or we have worked for is indebted to us fiscally. We have always allowed and encouraged the people that work in the shop to pursue their creativity. If that means making due with a short staff while they are touring, then so be it. The people working the other night are excited and adept enough to facilitate the manufacture of their goods. They do it as much to save a dollar here and there as to hang out with the others that lurk around the shop at night. Some of the advantages afforded people who work on the contract side of the business are free posters for their bands, a room for some of their bands to practice and record, and that is after they even get paid for the day.
C & P: What other rock celebrities spend 9 – 5 with you guys? How does one get a coveted position at Kayrock? What are the top 3 qualifications for employment by Kayrock Screenprinting?
W: Our paid staff is currently: Zach Lehrhoff (Ex-Models, Knyfe Hyts), Orlando James San Felipe (X-ray Eyeballs, Golden Triange), Christeen Francis (These Days), some guy from Red Dawn II, and another from Night Station.
It is news to me that any position is coveted and the only real qualification is persistence.
C & P: What sort of work do you produce for yourself? I know that you are a printer of arty zines yourself. Do you also make Wolfy art prints? How long have you been drawing for?
W: You can check our website and my blog for deets on some stuff we are up to. It feels pretty varied and lengthy to get into. I have been drawing for over forty years and tracing for longer.
C & P: Could you tell me more about the prints that you showed me the other night that are now hanging at Art Basel Miami?
W: It is an installation in Miami at the Scope Art Fair, now. There is some info here and here.
C & P: You are also in a band, Red Dawn II, and used to be in the band Roxy Pain. And you use a room at the Kayrock HQ as your practice space… How does music inform your art practice (music and screenprinting really do seem to go hand in hand– the other silkcreeners I have featured in my blog are also in many bands and have practice spaces in their studios!) Any thoughts on this musician/screenprinter connection?
W: I think that many musicians and artists gravitate toward silk screen because it is a simple and easy process to create multiples. Once one does it there is an immediate lure toward more complex equations because the medium facilitates it. Music is very much like that too.
C & P: What is your favorite part of doing what you do?
W: The speed you can go with almost no momentum
C & P: Can you imagine doing anything else as a job?
W: Cat photographer
C & P: Will you hellp me print some Cheap & Plastique merch??? (Just kidding, kind of!)
W: Sure but it won’t be cheap and not on plastic.
C & P: Tell me one thing about Wolfy that not many people know!
W: The only compact discs I have in my apartment are:
Leslie Gore, Greatest Hits
The Doors, Soft Parade
Talk Normal, Sugarland