If you've been to Cambridge's Black Market or any markets at Pop Allston, you've probably seen Hungry Ghost Press set up there. A local company specializing in gloriously macabre merch, the brand sells everything from patches to notebooks to t-shirts. Just in time for Halloween, I talked to Chris Morrison, owner of HGP, about the brand and working in Boston.
How did HGP get started?
I started Hungry Ghost Press back in 2009, when I was living in Allston. I had just left school and moved back from Colorado. I wanted to create and release hand crafted, limited edition zines, tapes, and books. I had a background and passion for print and bookmaking and was really into the DIY movement and making as many zines as possible. I started doing illustrations and graphic design for local bands’ flyers, tapes, albums, shirts and patches. The more illustrations and screen printing I did, the more I started to focus on apparel and accessories like pins and home decor for my own brand. Hungry Ghost Press evolved from the little DIY zine press into more of a lifestyle brand. I still do a lot of illustrations and layouts for bands and different labels-- freelance is always fun, getting to work with different people and do things and styles that are outside of Hungry Ghost Press.
What’s been the most difficult part about starting a new business?
Money. Taxes. Rent. Boston’s an expensive city and it’s not the most friendly for creatives and small, independent business. Rent is really high for living as well as working space. A lot of the great art collectives and spaces are being shut down and converted into high-end living spaces, making it difficult to find places to do work, hold shows and gallery events.
However, I can’t stress enough how great it was to quit my last full time job and start doing this full time. It’s a scary thing to do, quitting a pretty well paying job for an uncertain pay check every week, but at the same time it’s really liberating. I worked and managed retail spaces and print shops for years, I just got sick of helping other people in their dream business. I wanted to do it for myself and it really feels great to be able to be your own boss and do that.
How has working in Boston affected your work?
Boston is a strange place. It changes so often because of the high influx of college kids moving in and out of the city-- every few years the whole scene changes, which can be great for a refresh, but can also be kind of a bummer. You just see a drastic change which isn’t always for the better. The music scene here has definitely shaped me though. There’s just so many people that you end up with a really rad scene. You get to meet a ton of great people. I was fortunate enough to become friends with folks in some killer bands, [and] they would ask me to draw something for a shirt or album and then we’d screen print it and start off on the next thing.
Do you think Boston has a strong art scene? How can it be improved?
I think it’s really hard to pin down what it’s like with the art scene in Boston.
On one hand, you have galleries, work spaces and events closing down, but on the other hand, you have way more artists, organizations and places like Market at Casablanc, the Distillery, Orchard Extension Gallery, Blanc, Boston Hassle & Zone 3, opening up and gaining momentum.
I love Boston, but it’s sad because of the insanely high (and rising) rents and limited available space that I will be moving out of the city for Lowell in the next year so that I can open up a shop for Hungry Ghost Press with a print and production room in back. It’s just not feasible for a lot of artists to call Boston their home. There are a few live/work spaces in Boston and some grants that are available, but most (if not all) of those are for high end gallery artists where you need an extensive portfolio to get in or approved for. There’s not a lot of room for kids or businesses starting out to get affordable spaces to paint, screen print, use as retail and or live. I’ve seen so many artists leaving here headed to Lowell, Beverly, and Providence.
It’s a shame for a city with such a great history for the arts and culture to be self-sabotaging itself, creating more and more high-end lavish apartments and letting big business move in under the guise that there is great creative and rich culture here, all the while forcing the lower income residents who make up the small businesses, creative arts and entrepreneurs, out of the city.
I hope that Boston will eventually see this and mend itself, allowing for more affordable residential areas where small shops and pop ups can happen, allowing for neighborhoods and communities to grow again and not be torn down to make room for grossly expensive apartment buildings like the Continuum Project.
What are your hopes for the future of the brand?
In the next year I’m really excited for plans to open up our first brick and mortar location in Lowell and continue to grow with our online presence. We have plans for some really rad items coming up this fall and winter (look forward to new beanies, wind breakers and jackets!) and some more collaborations with both smaller and larger brands alike. I really am looking forward to the future of the brand and seeing what it becomes, its already changed so much from the beginning and I have no intention to limiting its possibilities in what it will become.
Check out Hungry Ghost Press' website here: http://hungryghostpress.com