Eric Michael is known for his screen printing work and studio of which he works out of in the Port Morris section of the Bronx. This past spring I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric. As a designer, I have an appreciation for screen printed work and the layers of work involved to create these pieces. You can read the full Q+A below:
Hi Eric, may you please introduce yourself:
Hey I’m Eric, owner of Eric Michael Screen Printing, based out of the South Bronx in Port Morris.
How long have you been here at the shop, and what made you decide upon opening in Port Morris?
I have been in this shop a little over a year now - but I have been screen printing in the Bronx for 6 years. I got priced out of my neighborhood where I grew on the East side of Manhattan, which was also where my first studio was.
This room [that we're in currently] was originally used for storage and my best friend suggested I move my operation here. I live about a mile away. I walk to work most of the time.
What has kept you in the Bronx?
I love the Bronx, I don’t plan on ever leaving the Bronx. I feel like it’s the last piece of real New York that’s left from when I was growing up. My neighborhood where I grew up is completely unrecognizable - the late 80s and and 90s were a completely different time. That is starting to happen over here a little bit. But there is still the essence and grit of New York that feels genuine.
A certain amount of down to earth-ness.
Yes, and realness.
Now that you have lived here for so many years and have this space - and can see all of the changes that are going on and happening. How do feel about your business here seeing all that has been changing and happening - has there been growth?
It’s been good being in this location. It’s brought new clientele and helped myself and my clients spark new interest in the arts that are happening in the Bronx. A lot of people have interest in keeping certain areas how they were -- authentic. Especially this area of the Bronx - it’s one of the last areas that hasn't been developed. For movie studios like Silvercup and HBO, it can be dressed up to look like any decade. I think that’s a big part of the reason why Silvercup just moved here.
What inspired you to create the Lowe’s Theater Shirt. You mentioned earlier, it sold out, and it feels like it belongs to a certain generation. What makes it so special?
I really enjoy shirts that bring back nostalgic feelings. I did the Lowe’s neon because it reminded me of Christmas time as a kid headed to Fordham Rd. My brand is my namesake and these designs are very personal to me. City Island also gives that warm feeling of family, celebration, summer time, because that particular neon is the first thing you see when you go over the bridge, so it brings up good feelings. I wanted to make that available to everyone.
What are some of your favorite Bronx areas?
I love the Northwest Bronx, where my first apartment was when i moved out my my families place. Of course, Mott Haven, where I currently live - I moved to the Clock Tower in 2012 and that is where many of my strongest bonds were formed. Some of my best friends and relationships are from that building. My girlfriend and I met there, my son was born the first year I moved to the building. The saying it takes a village to raise a child is so true, the building helped me raised my son. He was the first baby in the building, everyone knew him.
How do you maintain a sense of community?
At Bruckner Bar and Grill and Charlies, we all know each other. Everyone talks to one another, hanging out at the same places. Every Christmas at Charlie’s I have a holiday pop-up shop, which the whole neighborhood shows up for. Summer time has BBQ’s and garden maintenance days. That keeps everyone involved and engaged. There’s a real sense of community in our little corner of the BX.
Who orders your shirts and who are your clients?
Lots of local businesses. Lots of streetwear brands. People who are trying to get their names out there. I have built up a loyal following through word of mouth and it’s been effective. Most of my clients are artist, and so are their friends. They are rappers, musicians and in general a lot of people who are chasing their dreams. NY is the home of the hustle. That is why my business thrives. People in NY are always trying to make moves and t-shirts are a great way to do that. I have thought about moving the operation to LA, where it’s t-shirt season all year round, but the vibe is different.
How has Graffiti inspired you?
It all ties together - I would not be doing this if it wasn’t for graffiti. I needed a summer job when i was 18. At the time in 2001, trucker hats were all the rage. The foam domes, as we used to call them. My boys and I needed to work and we made those hats and used graffiti to make money. Then we expanded into sneakers which changed into airbrushing for tee shirts. After airbrushing it was a very natural crossover for me to then go on to screen printing. With the airbrushing I would spend an entire day on one shirt and I realized “hmm I should be thinking about mass production.” People were approaching me to do jobs - a job that would take me a week could then be done quicker with the screen printing.
I happened to be dating someone who got me a great book on screen printing and I taught myself everything I know. Started in 2004 and haven’t stopped since.
What are some of your goals for your business and yourself as an artist?
I would like to be able to do my art full time, and be more selective about the printing jobs I take on. I’d like to do more mural work, as it helps the community, and brings people together. Each summer I try to paint a few pieces through the city.
Made by Eric Michael is located at 789 E 139th St, Bronx NY.
You can find more of his work on Instagram