Ink Lounge Studio, located at 29 Fox Street in Denver, is one of Denver’s coolest creative spaces. In addition to operating as a screen printing studio, the space is open to the public for workshops and to use on their own. Owners Stu and Nicky Alden, both graphic designers, have been at the business for over 7 years and have done some amazing work for creative clients in the Denver area. In the spirit of innovation and collaboration, Innovators Peak visited their new space to learn more about what makes this cool business tick.
Ink Lounge is a unique concept, in that visitors can participate in workshops, but can also sign up to use the studio at their leisure. To suit their unique needs, their new space is multifunctional, separated into three areas – workspace/studio space, retail space and of course the lounge, which features a nice collection of whiskey and a vintage styled bar. As designers and creatives, it was a natural choice for Nicky and Stu, to design the new space themselves. And their skills as designers shows in every corner of the space.
Screen printing is a multi-step process, but anyone from the community can visit the studio and take a workshop to learn how to screen print. Designs can be either hand-drawn, digitally created, or a composite. After coating a screen with an emulsion and exposing it to light, images are printed on surfaces using a squeegee. Stu and Nicky will tell you there are always little imperfections with the process and to “embrace the charm,” which has become the informal motto of the studio.
Nicky and Stu have been in Colorado since the 1970s and both studied graphic design in college, but went on very different routes afterwards. Nicky was a creative director for Bonfils Blood Center in Denver and worked on the creative side of things for Chipotle, while Stu found himself as an entrepreneur after working for several agencies. “We didn’t set out to work together,” says Nicky, “and honestly I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. “ In the seven years since they have been in business together, Nicky says she has grown to enjoy working for herself and some of the nuances of entrepreneurship. “I had to readjust from the 9-5 mentality. I do work on the weekends now more often, but when you enjoy what you do and you’re doing it for yourself it really doesn’t matter. You know that that effort is going to come back to you.”
In addition to operating the screen printing studio and workshop, both Nicky and Stu have their own list of clients and have worked for some very big names in the Denver area, including The Denver Art Museum and the History Colorado Center. But to measure their success, Stu points out the list of organizations they have donated their time or printing services which include Think360, an arts organization for young people, Summer Scholars, and AIGA Colorado to name a few.
“I speak with students about the business of art, and I am always challenging them to come up with their own version of what success is.”
They have managed to grow organically from connections made with community groups and participating in markets and fairs. “Every 6 months the two of us do a boondoggle, we sit down for coffee, which later turns into beers, and we just ask ourselves where we see ourselves in the future,” explains Nicky about how they chart their course and determine their future goals. But with the strong culture of makers in Denver, there’s no doubt that has helped play a role in their abilities to grow.
In fact, the studio has become a resource of sorts for entrepreneurs in the community. While I was visiting the studio, Marissa Mason was using the screen printing equipment, creating items for her line of outdoors inspired tee shirts. After taking a workshop last year, Mason has started selling her designs at the I Heart Denver store and online under the moniker Wandering Ink.
“We see a lot of people in Denver who want to follow their passions. Friends who are interested in starting a brewery. Or people like Marissa,” says Nicky.
What does the future hold for the duo? While they have planted a stake in the ground in Colorado, continuing to work with creative clients in Denver is definitely on the horizon.
“I love working with musicians. You can be a little more open ended, which encourages different interpretations, and creative freedom,” Nicky explains.
You can find their prints on their store, and the I Heart Denver store, and info about workshops and how they can print for you on their web site, plus there may be participation in a Flatstock, gig poster show in conjunction with certain concerts, on the horizon. Nicky says, “It is sort of on my bucket list to do something like that.”
You can find more photos of Ink Lounge Studio on our Facebook page.
by Emily Przekwas