Today’s interview features screenprinter, Lusungu Chikamata, founder of Creativity and Noise. It’s a great story of persistence and resourcefulness – I think sometimes we think everything has to be perfect before we can begin when actually, just getting started gets you to perfection faster! Find out how Lusungu learned a brand new skill and launched a creative enterprise, all alongside his day job.
What’s your passion?
Blimey, what an open ended question, you don’t want to lead in with some softer mundane things to butter me up? I have lots of passions so I think it’s a non-exhaustive list, but enough avoiding the question. I’m passionate about self love and self worth; perhaps to be a little more specific, the idea that we should all just be ourselves rather than falling into the trap of trying so hard to be something/someone you’re not.
What inspired you to get into screenprinting and, how did Creativity and Noise come about?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to run my own business. It took a while to nail down what that business was going to be, but after a little soul searching, a eureka moment and getting really pissed off at some of the t-shirts out there “representing” Africa, I knew I had to lend my voice to the African t-shirt conversation.
I started creating concept t-shirts and sharing ideas with friends and family and got them to see things my way whenever necessary; it seemed like a good idea.
I quit my job and then thought, drats, what do I know about printing t-shirts? I got a new job and my aspiration was relegated to being just a dream. A year later, I was still working the same job when my brother-in-law asked, “whatever happened to the t-shirt printing business you were so keen on?” I had all but forgotten about it. We had one of our greatest heart-to-hearts which, lit a fire in my belly. I decided to reach for two dreams, to print t-shirts and start my own business.
This time I didn’t quit my job, but devoted all my spare time to finding out about starting a t-shirt screen printing business. I enrolled on a screenprinting course and developed a fun, skill and craft. After a few more months of research and planning, things started falling into place. Creativity And Noise, aka CAN, suddenly existed offering bespoke print services to artists and businesses alike while developing my first AfriCAN (see what I did there?) T-shirt collection, vowing to make every man, woman and child stand up and reimagine Africa through print. I bought my first web domain and just like that CAN was here to stay.
What’s been your greatest obstacle/challenge?
I think the art world in general has a few complexes and the one experienced at every conceivable level has got be, let’s call it the exclusivity factor, and this lead to my biggest challenge which was simply access. I couldn’t find a studio nor equipment I could use regularly and affordably, in order to practise and see where the wonder of screen printing could take me.
How have you dealt with/overcome it?
Like I said, this time I didn’t quit my job (I was running a website, for a boutique in Manchester, and freelance copywriting) when I decided to take print more seriously so, luckily I didn’t really get to have a starving artist tale… or maybe I did and I just don’t know it. I started doing this thing I once heard about called saving, which turned into budgeting; partying (a little) less and; focusing a little more on the long term future for CAN.
I bought my own equipment; effortlessly broke my first (cheap) t-shirt press (lesson learned, don’t settle for e-bay cheap, you’ll end up spending twice as much in the long run); bought a heavy duty, state of the art (pricey) 2 colour t-shirt press; built my own poster printing press and exposure unit and, bit by bit, created what I like to call my micro-screenprinting studio.
What has your greatest achievement been?
Oh, that’s easy, my first 100% successful custom job. If you’ve ever tried your hand at screen printing, or any other craft for that matter, you’ll know how long and complicated a process it can be. The actual fun and exciting printing is the shortest part – you get this tiny reward right in the middle of some gruelling manual labour. There are so many things that can go wrong throughout the process and my didn’t they! I’ve grown really fond of learning about craft and processes behind producing art, fashion etc., because of being a screen printer.
The growing pains were way too real, I’ll confess to a couple of missed deadlines and some prints that the perfectionist in me would not let see the light of day (lesson learned, always buy more tees than you’ll need, you will misprint).
I still get that same feeling when I finish a job, or even sell a tee to a complete stranger, whether that’s online or at an event. If at the end of all that hard work you can put smiles on faces, it’s been worth it and not only have you done your job, you’ve done it well. It basically boils down to being accepted doesn’t it? We’re all vying for some level of acceptance which is why we do whatever it is we do.
Where will you be in 10 years?
My future self will be running a space that houses all my present self’s lofty dreams and aspirations. We’ll run a dope shop with a collection of wares curated from around the craft, design and style world, that sits perfectly next to our own collection of prints. There’ll be a chill out area where you’re encouraged to hang out with your brew of choice and a magazine. And most probably, some kind of secret room that doubles up as workspace, workshop and general lock-in area. Wherever that is, that’s where I’ll be.
How does Africa inspire you?
Africa is awesome. From the vibrancy of the exotic plants, that we are lucky enough to just call plants; to the heavy, bone-crunching tackles which, I’m positive it has been decreed, shall forever go unpunished at the Africa Cup of Nations. Just thinking of anything “Africa” conjures up vivid images that you can give voice. The music, the people, the food, the wildlife, the tales and traditions, the taboos, the laughter, everyday life and the way it’s changing at pace and everyone wants a slice. It’s the cradle of life and everything there just seems so much more alive! Africa excites me.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m always on the look out for more people with whom to share the joy of screenprinting, and I’m lucky enough to have been allowed into School21 to run an after school print club. It’s given me the drive to share information, technical knowledge and the process. I’d love to come by your boring ol’ office or next community event and throw a little print party so you can try screenprinting yourself. Get those creative juices flowing and drop me a line.
Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
I’m going to be running a seasonal instagram competition to win a CAN t-shirt of your choice. All you’ve got to do is upload a picture to Instagram, of how you’re rocking your CAN garms, with the hashtag #CANcomp. If you’re not on instagram, 1. what year do you live in? 2. send your picture to email@example.com and I’ll upload it for you. Then it’s simple: most liked picture wins! Spring starts when the clocks go forward so 1st Winner will be announced 30 March 2015.
I guess this is where I say things like, check out the Creativity and Noise online shop cos we’re working on new designs. Let’s get social, on G+ (Creativity and Noise), Facebook (Creativity and Noise), Twitter (@creativitynoise) and Instagram (@creativitynoise). Spread the word, buy a t-shirt etc etc etc.
Don’t forget – Lusungu and Creativity and Noise will be at the WOW Festival marketplace at London’s Southbank Centre, this Saturday and Sunday.
- Design, music and good vibes at Africa Oyé 2014 – photos from my experience helping to man the CAN + Merkato stall at this ever-fantastic festival
- In pictures: the road to Renegade – behind the scenes of my collaboration with CAN, last November
- Fusion Deli, Adorned – another collaboration with CAN. Follow the entire process, over the series of 5 posts.
Don’t miss an installment – different ways to get your Afri-love delivered. You can also stay up to date by liking the Afri-love Facebook page or following Afri-love (@afrilove) on Twitter or on Google+.
Check out my many Africa-related Pinterest boards covering the arts, design, music and more.
Subscribe for fortnightly updates with Afri-love highlights and developments, as well as info on interesting events, must-reads and more for you to check out elsewhere.