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Interview: Das Monk

We speak with the artist collective's founder on the search for art and photography

by Katie Olsen
on 07 May 2013

Born in the bright streets of Sydney, Australia in 2007 by designer Marc Hendrick, Das Monk artist collective puts great designs on quality T-shirts. At first a one-man operation, Hendrick soon brought his sister Brooke on board to help promote work with their favorite artists. While Marc still jokes of firing her almost weekly, the art enthusiast duo—now based in LA—have made what could have easily ended up a side project into a booming business with contributions by over 50 like-minded international artists. Their passion, taste and vision have turned Das Monk into a company that artists seek out and want to be involved with.

As the brand continues to grow and evolve, a need for new material is always on their minds. This situation is remedied once a year with a call to designers to submit their work for the chance to join the crew of artists always in the Das Monk arsenal. To learn more about Das Monk's approach to finding art, their upcoming design contest and feelings toward camera phones, we recently caught up with Marc Hendrick for a quick chat.

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Is there anything you’ve actually wanted to explain about Das Monk that you’ve never been able to get into print?

You know, it’s all fairly self-explanatory. We’re an artist collective. We work with artists. We’re obviously very interested in art.

Do you approach finding designs from the position of a fan or do artists often approach you?

It happens both ways. People approach us—that’s actually been happening the most recently—which is good. Or there’ll be a specific image that I’ll find and track the artist down. Or I’ll find an artist or somebody we’ve already worked with and put forward a concept to them. I’ll either be really specific—I basically draw a crappy version of it myself and say “do this, but better!"—or I give them a concept, a kind of vibe, and say “do something.”

We work in every single possible way of people producing art and us putting it on a T-shirt. There’s almost no rhyme or reason. But the ones that sell well and the ones that we really like, we try to keep using those artists. To find those special people who really get it, it’s great.

Are there certain images that may work wonderfully on screen or on paper but not on a T-shirt, or vice versa?

There definitely is. Now that we’ve done 200 prints in the last five years, I just get it. Generally what we do is, if there’s an interesting photo or graphic design that we think is cool or interesting or different... It’s kind of like P.A.M., they’ve reached the stage where they’re like, “People know we’re fucking cool so we’re just going to do what we want to do.” We can only do that 75% of the time. So then as well as that I’ll probably do something, that’s a little more obvious. It’s still nice, it’s just…

It’s just something you know your audience is going to like?

Yeah. Exactly.

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Can you tell us more about the upcoming photo competition?

Well, every year we have a design comp where we announce a theme and aspiring artists from all over the world are able to submit a design or two to us. The winner gets their design printed as a T-shirt in an upcoming collection, plus a few prizes. This year we've teamed up with Lomography who are nice enough to give the winner a Sprocket Rocket camera and film pack, as well as a Das Monk prize pack and a $250 cash prize.

You've run successful art and design competitions before. Do you think there will be more interest in this one because everyone with a phone has a camera in their pocket?

Yeah, I think so. Because everyone has an iPhone these days photography is a much more immediate and accessible art form. Plus there's Instagram and Facebook, which have given all of us more mediums for showcasing our photos.

Which is a blessing and a curse?

I mean, it's free, easy and you get immediate encouragement from friends for your photos. So it's no wonder that everyone is an amateur photographer to some degree. And it's these kinds of people that we're encouraging to enter the competition. You don't have to have an art degree, just one cool photo.

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What’s the theme?

Just “Ride.”

Are you hoping for specific entries and dreading others?

Nope. We're not expecting anything specific, we love being surprised by the entries we get. We always are.

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Do you have any tips for entrants?

We want people to get creative with the theme—we always reward creativity! Try and be different. If you look at all of the photo prints we've done in the past, there's always a degree of the bizarre or unexpected. You can put a beautiful landscape photo on your wall but it doesn't really make for an interesting T-shirt. It needs to be more than "nice" to get noticed!

For a chance to see your photograph on a Das Monk T-shirt, send your photo entry along with a brief bio and explanation of how your work relates to the theme of "Ride" to; mail [at] dasmonk [dot] com.

Images courtesy of Das Monk

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