Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe.
Also known as Stugazi, Stuart Matz grew up in Washington, DC skating and playing in punk bands before getting into graphic design. Now based in New York, his work remixes cultural touchstones with humor and attitude.
Photos by Frankie Marin
You grew up in D.C. before moving to New York. How did the nation’s capital influence your creative development?
D.C. was a cultural hub. You had people from all over the world that were working there for the government, juxtaposed with a great underground music scene. I basically got exposed to a wide range of stuff at a very young age.
What’s your earliest memory of creating visual art?
I remember taking the hose from the back yard and putting it on the top of the stairs to the basement and then turning it on. It made some really cool waterfalls before my mom realized I was being too quiet and came and found me.
Would you have become a designer if it weren’t for punk music and skateboarding?
I think that DIY outsider culture was something that I was really searching for as a kid. If I didn’t have those things I think I would have found something else to grab onto. I think I would have still become a designer maybe the focus would have been a bit different.
Like your moniker, Stugazi, a lot of your work is based in mashups and bootlegs. Can you walk us through the creation of a new design?
Every design hits me differently. It’s like a big box of puzzle pieces of different elements. Things I remember from my childhood, or things I read about or see out in the world. Sometimes I can just see a connection between things that shouldn’t fit together but they do. I think that's where a good truth lies in a design, because other people can feel a connection to it as well. It’s not an exact science at all, and sometimes it’s so out-there that only I get it, if I get it at all.
Are there any particular artists or designers you’ve looked up to throughout your career?
Modern art has always been a big influence on me. I remember seeing a Mondrian in a museum as a kid and trying to understand why something so simple could be so powerful. I love the pop art of Warhol, Haring and Lichtenstein, the minimalist art of Sol Lewitt and Ellsworth Kelly, the skate art of Jim Pillips and VCJ. I could keep going and going and that mental rolodex is what really helps me move forward with my own designs.
Can you tell us a bit about your designs for Artist Editions? What inspired the work?
The designs were inspired by beach vibes and surf clothing culture of the '80s with a simplistic edge to them. Losing the zink sunblock and the day glow, but still channeling the energy.
What makes a t-shirt design special?
For me, it's something that is more than cool for the moment, but has a lasting appeal, whether that be graphically or emotionally. And it should have a bit of humor. The world is serious enough as it is.
Do you have any all-time favorite t-shirt designs?
I am a huge fan of everything The Clash. The combat rock tour t-shirt titled "Out of Control" with a huge boom box on the front and two guys in army fatigues with mohawks painting each others faces with war paint has to be my favorite. I can still remember when I saw some older kids wearing it at my school and it was so far out there from any other graphic or concert tee I had seen. Those early experimental shirts really pushed t-shirt design to where it is today.
What are your design pet peeves?
I think my biggest one is that people take design as fact rather than option. I was drawn to design in the first place because there are no absolutes and it’s something that you always have to remember when you put something out into the world.
What’s next for you?
Working on some new stuff for my line a couple new projects and some mini books of all my designs that never make it on a t shirt or a print.