Photography by Ellie India Rose Carty
Interview by Esme Carty + Lana Nassir
There Space is a membership based screen print studio based in Arizona. The studio was started in July of 2021 when Justice Ashwell and Mary Violet had the idea of creating a space where screen printing is accessible to the public, for any and everyone who wants to try it out. In March of 2022, Elijah Flores took the place of co-owner alongside Justice; Justice telling us that “with There Space growing as fast it was, I wasn’t able to do it by myself, so I told Elijah about the idea and asked him to be an owner with me.” The rest is history, or rather the start of it. We got to interview Elijah and Justice, owners of There Space, in the basement space before they move their business to Phoenix.
I: Over the course of There Space, you have printed a multitude of designs. What is one of your top designs?
EF: That’s so hard, I think I have a new one everyday. Right now, my favorite would probably be Bad Jimmy’s. Just the detail in that was so good.
JA: My favorite, kind of like Elijah changes all the time, but one of my favorites of all time is probably ‘I’m punk about love’ by Saiah. That was the first time I had to do 100 shirts.
I: What makes a good print session?
JA: Plenty of sleep
EF: I think just being able to be ourselves and making sure our members understand they can be themselves, and us accepting everyone that comes in, creating a really good environment where you can just talk. The learning takes maybe 20 minutes and the rest of the five hours is purely talking and getting to know someone, so I think that’s what makes a good session.
JA: Agreed, I second that.
I: What sets you apart from other screen print businesses? You have such a massive following and support system, which can be credited to who you are as people, but do you think there’s anything from the business side that sets you apart?
JA: Definitely, I mean getting into the industry, there’s not a lot of communication, not a lot of hard due dates, people won’t take certain orders or they’re biased. We’re really strict about our due dates; we tell somebody we can get it done by that day, it’ll be done by that day and that’s rare for Arizona. And just putting out quality work.
EF: Overall, it’s consistency, whether it’s due dates or print quality. I think it really upsets Justice and I when we know we could have done better on something and it’s not up to our standard. We’ll restart a whole job, we’ll go and buy blanks, we’ll redo the whole thing because we didn’t like how it turned out. There’s some jobs where we won't make any profit because we didn’t like how it turned out originally. That’s what sets us apart, on the order side, because most print shops here will not tell you when it’s getting made, they won’t send pictures while it’s getting made, they’ll never give a due date.
I: Aren’t you guys unique in the sense that you provide memberships for a low price as well?
JA: Yeah, on the west coast we’re the only membership-based screen print shop that exists. The closest one would be in New York.
I: How was it that you came up with the screen print membership in the first place?
JA: We came up with the membership solely off the fact that the equipment was expensive and we were only using it for like an hour a day, in the beginning. We thought let’s have it open to other people instead of them having to buy a $400 piece of equipment, they pay $25 a month and can see if they like it. It then turned into what it is today over time.
I: You guys are known for being open and sharing what other people are making/creating, as well as connecting people, how does it feel to be a connector for the creative community?
EJ: Honestly, it feels kind of surreal at times. Justice and I meet so many different people that are outside of each other's worlds but we know they’d work so well together and create something so cool. At times we’ll meet someone who’s into photography and then we’ll meet someone who’s into music, and we think that their personalities would mesh so well, so it’s cool to put them into a session together where they’re learning how to screen print as well as getting to know each other.
JA: [Connecting] is something I’ve always had and There Space definitely heightened it. Being a small, young business out here–like there’s businesses in Phoenix that are tight knit, businesses in Mesa that are tight knit, and a little bit older. I would just look around, and there’s so many people our age, and I feel like all of them should know each other. Especially with people who are good people, there’s a lot of weirdos, so connecting good people to good people is making sure there’s this positive cycle going on within all of our lives.
I: Does it ever get overwhelming doing what you guys do, considering you are both operating the back end and front end of There Space?
EF: It gets overwhelming sometimes, there’s definitely times where it’s like, “damn we’ve gotta be here until 4 am,” but I think Justice and I balance each other out. He can tell when I’m getting burnt out and he’ll tell me to take a nap, relax. If Justice wasn’t here at all and I was just doing it solo, there’s no way I could do it. When we feel overwhelmed by having to be here so long, we just start talking and laughing, and realizing that this is the coolest thing we’re ever going to do. Even though it gets overwhelming, it’s immediately brought with “Holy shit this is what we do!”
JA: There’s definitely parts where it’s overwhelming on the mental, to keep track of everything: what orders are due, which members are scheduled, which screens need to be burned, what needs to be picked up, did we order those shirts? It’s all slowly relying on systems, like software. Before we were using the notes app and talking to every single person, juggling all those dates and times. As we’re making it a lot more electronic, it’s a lot less brain pressure. We were working 14 hour days and when I’d get home, I’d be checking every single message and comparing it with the calendar to make sure everything is plugged in right–definitely got some gray hairs from that.
I: Did you ever expect the business to be what it is now in this time and space, or was there ever any doubt?
JA: There actually wasn’t a lot of doubt; I feel like I saw how good the idea was. When the lease was ending in the garage, I would tell everybody that I just needed a year, it’s going to work. That’s how we ended up in the basement; FOMO [Fear of Making Out] believed in it.
EF: I never had any doubt, like at all. When Justice asked me to be a part of this, I thought it was the most genius thing that I’d ever heard. So I never had a doubt, I just knew it was going to work. It was just a matter of time and how much work Justice and I were willing to put into it to get to where it’s at now, but I didn’t think it was going to be this fast. The first month I got brought on, it was ten shirt orders, max twenty shirt orders; which was so cool, I was getting paid for what I love. It has slowly built and built so much in the last eight months, and it’s crazy it happened that fast.
JA: It went from where we might’ve been in the studio for fun like, “oh we can experiment today, practice,” to we can now realistically be in the studio every single day and have something important to do.
I: And you guys have spoken about potentially printing on skateboards in the near future, right?
EF: In general, There Space is trying to do more cool and creative stuff, so we’re down to do anything.
JA: Being experimental. We’ve printed on Hollywood Slasher’s drum head–I did not want to do that.
EF: You were stressing.
JA: The day before their show, their only drum head, and they told us to print on it.
EF: That was a scary one. We tried to put the flash on and were like, “nope it’s gonna warp!” We had heat guns, then we had dryers. But we are always down to try literally whatever anyone brings. We can’t promise it’ll work, but we’d love to see it work.
JA: If you need some words for the magazine, we can print on skateboards.
I: Is there anything you’d like to bring to people’s attention?
EJ: There Space is hosting an event with Loose Change. We’re going to have around 150 vendors, SAMN X as the performer of the night, and a couple of food places catering. It’s going to be a whole outside market in the beginning, and then transformed into a whole show with a special guest. It’s going to be really cool to see people there. That’s what we’ve got going on later this year.
JA: Then we’ll be moving into a new spot for There Space, we’ll be out of the basement. We’ll be able to do, ideally, eight members a day instead of four; we’ll have double the members.
I: Do you guys have a motto?
EJ: There is a saying that Justice always says about deja vu; whenever I say I just got deja vu he says, “That means we’re moving in the right direction!”
I: Do you believe you have to be a specific type of person to do this?
JA: Yes. you almost have to be an entertainer, the membership is a lot less about teaching and more about creating a comfortable environment. Teaching, as Elijah said, takes 10 to 15 minutes and the rest of the four hours is pretty much entertainment, cracking jokes, and being social. That’s why it’s hard to hire teachers, anyone can be a screen printer but when you’re in the space you have to be accepting and inviting, not closed off. We want people to walk into There Space and feel super excited to be here and print their shirts, but more than just print their shirts. We want people to be like, “It’s my day at There Space, I’m excited to see Justice and Elijah. It’s going to be a great four hours.”
Thank you so much to There Space! Follow their instagram here