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An interview with Carizza Teague - Visual Artist/ Community Organiser

January 21, 2019

Tell us about yourself in your own words.

I’m Carizza. I am a textile/print artist. I run ‘The Printroom’ a DIY screen-printing studio and also help run ‘Monster Mouse Studios’ in Marrickville. In 2010 I started running a community print room in a shared art space called Anyplace Projects in Rozelle. It was founded by a crew of folks interested in finding empty buildings and putting cool things in them. This project had council and owner consent so we were lucky enough to use the space for 2 years- it’s now apartments... So that’s how The Printroom started. It was a really good opportunity to start out because if that space didn’t exist I wouldn’t be doing this today. Since then the studio moved to the basement of Black Wire for a moment and now dwells within Monster Mouse. Since the beginning the space has facilitated DIY printing for folks for various purposes like bands and music projects, art, activism and leisure and I also run a printing service too; predominantly for bands and also my own art practice.


Can you tell us about Monster Mouse?

Monster Mouse is a studio that was started about 6 years ago. There was another group of people that started the space, it was called Concrete Jungle. It was a creative space with creative people but more party warehouse scene. Concrete Jungle lasted for about 1 year. The old crew left and a new crew got involved. I came with the new crew. There were about 8 collective members and we wanted to transform the space into more of an art studio/community space. It was really slow because it was such a big space and it was filled with just a lot of stuff and we had to build with no finances so most of the space was built with found items until we managed to fundraise and buy materials. We also received grants to help build the space. Gradually we created a space that could host workshops and skill shares, exhibitions, fundraisers, events, art/design markets, band rehearsal and general shared art studio space. It was full on for the first 3 years but as people moved on the space settled down and now focuses more on art studio and rehearsal space. 


How long have you been screen printing? Tell us about that.

Always loved screen printing. Always loved textiles and I guess the screen printing was an extension of that because it was a lot harder to do weaving and what not. I went to uni briefly doing fine arts but realised I wanted to focus on just screen printing so I found a diploma course at Ultimo tafe. That was in 2009-2010 and that’s when I got the opportunity to join Anyplace. Then it kind of grew from there. I had a bit of time spent in the basement at Black Wire which was great listening to bands whilst printing but I couldn’t handle the flooding and mould so moved into Monster Mouse because I was already involved with that space.

I still enjoy printing. Teaching people new skills, printing cool art by local artists for local bands and helping people who have important things to say share ideas in an easily digestible and far reaching form whether that be art, zines, tshirts or other things.

I love being involved in the community that screen printing has opened up for me and made it easier for me to move within.


Tell us about your creative process?

My creative process is more of a cathartic intuitive process with my screen printing/ art. It’s a lot different to the stuff that the members of the printroom or the bands I print for do. A lot of the people that come and use the space, they’re either printing for bands or fundraisers and it’s usually kind of graphic or drawing and things like that. My work is more of an exploration of colour and a way to kind of tune out the chatter of what’s going on in the world. I do use screens but it’s lots of layers and then scratching away at things and standing back and looking at it until I think it’s finished. That’s my art.


Are you exploring any themes in your art?

It depends. Sometimes I will think about memory. It’s mainly to try and not think about anything but sometimes if I want to put something in a prize or something like that then I usually start with an idea. Usually memory, repetition and neuroses- stuff like that, but mainly it’s to tune out the noise.


Your art is very different to what you do for your clients.

It’s very different. It’s more like textiles and dyeing. It’s kind of using screen printing methods to produce something that looks dyed and deteriorated. It’s different. But still on paper and sometimes fabric. It’s a hybrid.


What do you as an artist stand for?

Unknown. I don’t know. I’m a bit lost in that and I guess that is reflected in the work that I do because there’s lots of layers and it’s very repetitive and I don’t know... like searching for something that can’t be found. I don’t know much about my identity. I can’t answer that.
But with my daily work (The Printroom and Monster Mouse) I guess I stand for people having a voice and helping them express that voice.


What do you find is your biggest obstacle when expressing yourself creatively?

I’m very mechanical when I work for my art and I guess because it is intuitive there really isn’t that much of a purpose so I guess purpose or meaning could be a challenge. 

And definitely making time and space to create. It’s difficult for me to create outside of a deadline so mostly that means I see a lot of others’ work but not so much of my own.


What about the challenges you face with running Monster Mouse? What have you learned from the experience and what’s been the most rewarding part of it?

The rewarding parts are you get to be surrounded by a lot of really interesting characters and projects and it fuels you. You see what somebody is doing and you think that’s amazing - what can I do that is going to give me some sort of fulfilment in that same way?

Facilitating space and teaching skills for people to express themselves and fundraise and reach a wider audience.

The community that has come with the space- bands, shows, artists and people in general connecting that would not otherwise have that opportunity.  

These are the positives!

I get to do what I want, I don’t have to answer to anybody really. I mean you do with landlords and council stuff and that’s the challenges… there’s been a lot of challenges. Dealing with slimey real estate agents who don’t care about your safety and buildings that are all but a heap of dust on the pavement. (Note: I’m referring to our old space. We’ve recently moved to a smaller and well maintained building). You end up working pretty much non-stop when you’re in a space like this as there are endless tasks especially in the beginning. But putting that much time/effort into something that you care about is also heaps of fun. You can try to do it with a larger group and call on friends/community and folks interested in using the space too for the larger tasks. We did this at the old space. Regarding running the space, it depends who you are. Not everybody can do it for a long period of time - they may want to travel or just not have to be switched on all the time or move on. One of the biggest challenges was learning how to deal with council and writing a DA without funds. That was difficult and took 2 years of uncertainty of whether we could continue. But you can do it yourself. We learned how to do architectural drawings and things like that. It’s lots of problem solving which is actually a fun thing. Heaps of problem solving and determination.


Do you find it frustrating that you’re trying to do something for other people and it can be made difficult by government and council?

A little bit. They have also helped us too. We have gotten grants from the council before - small arts and culture grants. There is a whole side that really want to encourage what we’re doing and are supportive but then there’s the other side that you have to abide by the rules and if you haven’t got funds then that’s difficult and then you think of developers doing really awful shit and they get away with it because they have money. I don’t know. We’re existing so that’s great. Lots of people in the community help and have helped with the space so that makes it easier.


What’s the best piece of advice you can give to young women and queer folk who want to make art and music or just be seen and heard?

Just do it! Yep. Simple. Just try to find a way to do it. There may be heaps of obstacles, but you can always find a way or create something more meaningful by trying. Just try. Ask others who’ve done similar things in the past. There’s a wealth of info and support that can be found out there.


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