Dare to CREAM

CREAM founders Patrick Foley and Chris Hall attempt the unthinkable: making money at art

C.R.E.A.M. (cash rules everything around me) is a to-the-point mantra for a business, but the Wu-Tang Clan song of the same name has been a steady source of inspiration for Patrick Foley, who, along with Chris Hall, started CREAM Design and Print four months ago.

Long before it became a business, CREAM was a part of Foley's life. He has the word 'cream' tattooed on his forearm. He has made shirts and paintings that say 'cream'. He loves Wu-Tang Clan, and the sentiment behind their biggest hit felt fitting for his new venture, which he intends to make a living off of.

"'Cash rules everything around me' was kind of the Wu-Tang Clan euphemism for making money," Foley says. "Ten years ago, I actually gave the Wu-Tang Clan four color prints I made that say 'CREAM' on them. I got one back signed by the RZA."

Talking about money is hard to do as an artist. There is a prevailing expectation that loving what you do should be sufficient, and that the service or product you provide as an artist—unless you are one of the lucky few—should be relegated to a hobby.

It's refreshing, then, to hear an artist talk so blatantly about wanting to build a life around making art. The transition from artist to artist/businessman is not free of compromise, struggle and risk. Building a business is a creatively engaging endeavor, but it also requires monetizing something you love, and that's a scary leap.

It's a familiar one for Foley, though, who ran Carne and Queso, a brand that functioned mostly as a clothing line, but also featured other media as an outlet for Foley's aesthetic. While CREAM offers printing services for myriad styles of work, Foley's background comes through on the design end.

"The graffiti aesthetic—bold colors, bold lines—those things have always really spoken to me and they kind of just bleed into the design aesthetic that CREAM has," Foley says.

Foley started screen printing in high school, but took a 13-year break before brushing up on his skills at Pima Community College. From there, his interest grew, and he started to acquire his own equipment.

"A lot of my energy in the art world went into graffiti, and that's something that's very visceral, immediate, and I love that about it," Foley says. "Making a living off doing graffiti is not impossible, but it's hard. So I transitioned more and more into taking ideas I had and making them into art products that I could sell relatively inexpensively, and I could put my vision out there in that way."

While he was running Carne and Queso, he'd often print for friends who were artists or in bands. "I really like that process. There's a certain know-how in turning a piece of art or an idea into something that's printable," Foley says.

Flat stock, paper, shirts, hats: all require slightly different approaches. "I like being the transition between someone's idea and getting something made," Foley says.

Chris Hall, a fellow Tucson-based screen printer, had a similar mentality, and the two decided to combine their equipment and skills to start CREAM, whose main function it to take other people's visions and make them into products. Their clients include local artists (Andrew Shuta, YuYu Shiratori, Caleb Gutierrez, Joe Quarnberg), musicians (Golden Boots, American Monoxide, Asian Fred) and businesses (The Loft Cinema, Wooden Tooth Records, Commercial Appeal Records, Night of the Living Fest).

"At a certain point I wanted to concentrate on working with other people as a job and a service because I really enjoy doing that," Foley says.

Though they work with many members of the Tucson community, CREAM's intention is not to function as a community center. However, community outreach is still part of the goal. In addition to working cooperatively with local artists, Foley and Hall are collaborating with Creative Tucson—a project of Brink Media, KXCI, and WaveLab Studios—to teach print making classes. They also host SQUEEGEES and CREAM, a pop-up print shop at R Bar on second Saturdays. They bring their equipment to the bar and live print. They have shirts to print on at the bar, but people are also welcome to bring any item of clothing they'd like to enhance with that month's design.

Printing is a huge part of the business, and Foley and Hall love to work with artists, but CREAM also offers design services. Foley worked as a designer at Brink Media, and he enjoys designing anything from logos to clothing to event posters. He is adept in many styles, but his work is distinct, marked by '80s and '90s skate, punk and hip hop culture, tattoo illustration and old fonts made fresh in a new context.

CREAM is still a new business, but Foley hopes that over time the design side will grow. He has already started working with several clients outside of Tucson (Heavy Weight Global in Pa. and Black Springs in Fla., to name a couple), and thanks to his positive attitude, unique aesthetic and community involvement one can imagine that cash will serve as CREAM's benevolent ruler.

Get more info or pitch a project at creamforever.com. Samples of print and design work can be found on CREAM's Instagram, @creamforever.