• Artist Editions: Chris Morrison X UO

    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. 

    At the helm of Boston’s Hungry Ghost Press, Chris Morrison designs zines, tapes, and LPs and other ephemera for bands and labels all over the country. We caught up with Chris to talk about his latest Artist Editions designs and how music shaped his art. 
    Photos by Joe St. Pierre

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    I’m Chis, I own and operate Hungry Ghost Press. I’ve been doing HGP full time for a little bit, going onto my 2nd year now but the company really started back in 2009 when we were making zines, art books and tapes. I’ve worked and run print shops and retail stores for the past few years and have always wanted to make my own company and focus on putting out my own and others designs and illustrations in different formats. 

    I’m basically a one man show right now doing everything for Hungry Ghost Press from design, printing, packaging, shipping, communicating with our stockists, running the website and doing pop ups. But really, I have a lot of help from my fiancé Jessy. She comes to almost all the pop ups and markets that I do and helps set up and run sales so I can talk to customers and connect with other vendors and makers. Not to mention putting up with me while I work basically all day and night to try and keep things going smoothly, she’s pretty rad.

    How did Hungry Ghost Press get started? 
    I was making zines on my own and collaborating on a few with different friends. I’ve always been interested in making packaging and artwork for bands as well. So many of my friends were in these great bands and making all these rad illustrations, poems, collages and everything and I wanted to do something where I could share all these amazing things, so I decided to make a little diy company and Hungry Ghost Press was formed.

    For the first few years, zines, small art books and tapes were all that we put out. It was off and on at first as I moved around the country a few times. It wasn’t until around the beginning of 2014 that we started printing our own shirts, making posters and patches. After doing that for a bit and skowly getting more a following after doing a lot of album and tee shirt art for local bands we started to produce more different styles of apparel, patches, pins and all the goods we make now.

    Can you remember the first zine that Hungry Ghost ever put out? 
    I can, it was this anonymous collaborative piece called Endquote. My good friend Dzl and I were desperately trying to get more people involved in making things. We collected drawings, photographs, short stories, poems and a lot of found notes and art and threw it all together to make this cool little thing. 

    We ended up making a few issues of these and distributed them around Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. We dropped them off at a bookstore that used to hold the Boston Zine Library, in college and public libraries we’d put them in books that we liked, thinking people who checked out the books would maybe like our grungy photocopy zine.  We had the idea that this zine would be always free, so we’d bring them to shows and give them to folks who were around until we ran out.

    How do you see Hungry Ghost Press’s role in the local Boston community? In a more general sense, how do you see the role of design in relation to local scenes? 
    I hope we’re having a positive impact on the local scene and the Boston community. I’m not sure quite where we fit in but I’m glad to say that we’ve helped organize some rad markets and fests, provided design, illustration and screen printing to local bands, record labels, independent brands and companies. 

    We try and take part in all of the different markets and fests that are around the city. I love doing them, it’s a great way to be able to talk to people that support you. I don’t think many of them know how important they are to HGP, without them and their support in large I wouldn’t be able to continue to do this and stay in the city.

    In more of a general sense, I believe design plays a critical role in our local community and scenes. We’re a small city that has a rolling population, we have a high turnover from all the college kids that come through so it’s awesome to see how each new generation/crowd comes in and shapes the city. You start to see music styles and genres begin to shift, new venues open up and art and design aesthetic seems to change with it. 
    I think you can get a real sense of the role design plays in the local scenes when you look at flyers for shows, the graffiti and street art that are new and in different areas and you can begin to build a picture of what the low brow and diy communities are like. On the other hand, you also get to see people that were from that community a few years ago begin to grow, you see more refined design styles with new artist co-ops, art galleries and venues opening and shows happening. It’s nice that we can have them both exist in our city and that one generation and style can flow into the next. I think Hungry Ghost Press kind of hovers right in between the two, which is where I really like to be.

    What first drew you to zine culture? What artists or designers have influenced you most over the years? 
    When I was first going to school I went for bookmaking. I had made small art books in the past but wasn’t really aware of a zine culture that was out there, when I was in school I got my first real experience with other people who were doing the same things. When I cam back to Boston a year later I found more and more new friends who were doing the same. I loved the idea of being able to create something, to collaborate with other people and to share it in a physical medium. 

    I started out doing a lot more writing than illustration or design, so I’d see a lot of work by Crumb because I was really into Harvey Pekar and I’ve listened to Black Flag since I was younger, so I’d see all the Pettibon artwork, I’d flip through Vice all the time and end up on the back pages of Johnny Rynas gnarly comics and from there it really grew. I really think that reading and music have shaped and influenced me most, it may sound kind of strange but the type of design and illustration I really like flows seamlessly with those two areas.

    Hungry Ghost soon expanded into t-shirts, patches and other ephemera. Do you collect these sorts of things yourself? Can you tell us about your collections?
    I do. When you’re making a company like this you meet a lot of other killer artists and makers and one of the great things you get to do is trade. So almost every shirt I have is from a friend who made something rad and printed, sewn or fabricated the garment. Same for patches and pins, you get to meet so many rad folks who make killer items. I have a bunch on different jackets and backpacks, a few pins or patches here or there and some I switch out. I have this big box of ones I’ve collected from trades and friends. I’m hoping when I open up a brick and mortar shop I’ll be able to display all of these and let people see the collection we’ve been building.

    Can you tell us about your contributions to the Artist Editions series? How did the designs come about? 
    I was super stoked to be able to do these. I usually start thinking of phrases or concepts that I think are cool or funny and I jot them down. I have tons of notes on my computer, my phone and notebooks filled with these. A lot of the time it’s either late at night or just when I wake up and I’ll just have a thought. 

    The Devil’s Deal piece came about because I had started drawing women’s faces with devil features and I really liked how they were coming out. I feel like I tend to draw a lot of masculine or gender ambiguous people and I wanted to try and do something different. After I had a rough design of the face it just looked a little empty so I started trying different hands doing things. A few friends and I go to the casino in Connecticut once a year and I was talking to one of them about trying to figure out a trip this year and I thought the hand of cards would be pretty rad. It ended up coming together and out great though.

    The Cesspool design was actually a line I had written down for a while. I used to do a lot of writing when I would take the bus downtown and back for work. You can get trapped on it be pretty miserable especially during a crumby Boston winter. I like using pastel colors with hard contrast images and heavy black tones and just started overlaying some photos I had with the chain link drawing I did. I ended up coming with something I really liked and thought it represented my sometimes pessimistic view of city life.

    Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to design? 
    I always need to be in a comfortable spot. If I’m working on a heavy illustrated piece I need to have a big clean desk to work with and I need to have all my materials in an arms reach. I hate when I start drawing something out and realize I’m missing a specific pen or marker. When I start something I like to work non stop on it until it’s done. I don’t like taking big breaks unless I get stuck on something. I always need to have something else going on in the  background too, even if I’m not paying a ton of attention to it, I like to keep a sci-fi or horror movie on or have a few records lined up that I can play through and not really have to think about. 

    Do you have any favorite t-shirt designs of all time? 
    There’s a couple that I love and have in my collection. One of them is a sweatshirt I got from YYYY’s, it’s his I Support Everybody’s Troops, just a rad illustration and print. The other is a graphic tee from the band Limp Wrist, I’d always wanted this one shirt from them but it was sold out for such a long time. 

    What’s next for you? 
    We have some really killer projects and releases coming up. Our late winter and spring/summer ’17 collection is going to have a lot of new items with tons of new patches, pins, buttons, tees and coats coming out. So we’re really excited about that. We’re also planning on expanding and opening up an extended pop up or brick and mortar spot somewhere in the Boston area. We’ll have more news on that soon, but we’re excited to have a spot where you’ll be able to shop our products alongside ones from our friends and collaborators. We’ll also have screen printing on site and will be able to adhere patches to your garments on the spot as well. 

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