Going to the Boston Hassle Flea on February 22nd? Take this as your 2020 opportunity to get more involved with the community, support small businesses, fight bureaucracy, and invest in high quality art.
As part of supporting underrepresented artists and promoting their work first-hand, I had the chance to chat with Niki Taylor of Chirophelia. They’re a screenprinter and textural artist who resides in Maine. Our conversation was nothing less than authentic.
Boston Hassle: Hi Niki– I love your integration of vintage prints into upcycled clothing, and I can’t wait to see all your work at the flea!
Niki: Thank you very much!
BH: Let’s start off about you. Where are you from? And what about the name Chirophelia? What does it mean to you, and where did it come from?
NT: I’m not a fan of where I’m from, but I’m happy with where I am now.
I moved out when I was 17 and have been in Maine ever since.
Chirophelia is sort of a word I came up with to blanket the aesthetic of my work.
I’ve always been drawn to the disembodied hand and the hand as a powerful symbol.
Stemming from the Latin ‘Chiro’ (Of the hand) and from the Greek ‘Ophelia’ (Help of); it loosely translates to ‘Helping hand.’ I offer several kinds of visual and promotional services for musicians so I see myself as a musician’s helping hand.
Or you can just call it a hand fetish.
BH: How did you get into screen printing and then moving your work into the apparel realm? How have you seen your mixed media art transform over time? What in your art are you most excited about as of recently?
NT: I used to spray paint shirts when I was a kid, so I think printing was naturally the next step.
I hated that I couldn’t find shirts of stuff I was interested in. I think the first stencil I made was based off a screenshot of the 4 silhouettes of Alex’s gang from a clockwork orange. (cliche, i know)
The internet still didn’t have a lot of options for shopping online at that point and I wasn’t really allowed on a computer much anyway. Those shirts were so shitty I can’t believe I sold any of them. I made a small business out of it in highschool and never really stopped.
I guess I saw tees as an opportunity to be a billboard for something you’re interested in.
I still print every other day because I get a lot of work doing merch for bands. It still excites me every time a screen burns perfectly and you pull that first crispy print.There are many steps in the process before you even start printing the shirts where something can easily go wrong so it’s very gratifying to get the process down in a fluid motion.
BH: It’s obvious you have a lot of recognizable themes, ideas, and even characters. What about that era or the specific expressions you pull from draws you to them? Can you talk about themes you’re inspired by the most or are most commonly defined by your work?
NT: I’m a huge nerd. Sci-fi, horror, strong female leads and humor. I like noise and texture so I work with rough raster graphics as opposed to a clean vector. < most designers would find this appalling.
You can use my SPORTS shirt as an example.
I took this dumb photo of a snarling dog and I loved it so much I wanted to use it for something. Around that time I must have had some sort of interaction where I was at a bar and bombarded by sports fans. The expression on the dog’s face is exactly how I felt. I’m not big into sports myself, but there’s a lot of loud patriotism and macho energy about all of it. I decided to satirize this and just make a general SPORTS shirt with a dumb doggo on it. People really seem to love it, whether they actually like sports or not.
I don’t know, maybe they just like dog, I’m really good at overthinking everything anyway.
BH:Could you talk more about the process of screen printing and of your work in specific? What does that look like for you? Do you have a favorite step or detail?
NT: Screen printing is highly intermediary. You’re not just making shirts, you’re creating a design, printing that design properly on a film, picking a screen with the right mesh count, coating that screen, burning the screen and then washing it out, letting it dry, and then finally printing it.
Working with clients can be difficult because they think ‘art is easy’. This is why I really enjoy working with musicians because as artists of another practice, they tend to have a better understanding that art is also a lot of work. They have more patience, understanding and realistic expectations of me, which makes them a dream to work with.
Blah blah blah.
Anyway I’m a small company and sometimes people want to do small runs, bigger places won’t work with them. I’ve done runs of 10-20 shirts for contractor dudes who just want a clean shirt with their logo on it for every day of the week.
My favorite is the variety of requests that come in, and being surprised when my fav band asks me to do their shirts.
BH: What kinds of prints and patches can we expect from you at the flea? Otherwise, how can we follow you and support your art? Anything else you want admirers of your art, flea market attendees, and hassle regulars alike to know about you and your work?
NT: I have a huge inventory of screen printed goods that I’m gonna be unloading -sorry no vintage denim stuff this time. I got all kinds of esoteric patches and shirts, ready to cling to bodies.
Come say hi! I love doing package deals cuz im trying to clear out my stock!
I live on an Island so it’s kind of difficult, I have to bring my stuff on the boat out to my ride and then drive down to Boston from Portland for this event so it needs to be a manageable load.
Follow Chirophelia @chirophelia (IG), check out their website at https://www.chirophelia.com/ and get a sneak peek at all of their enriched prints for sale at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Chirophelia!
Support Chirophelia and other spectacular local artists this Saturday at Elk’s Lodge in Cambridge from 12-7.
All images are the artist’s own.