Halloween is a big deal at Jakprints. Tons of material for haunted houses and costume parties are rolling off the press, and we love the spooky vibes that come with it. Lucky for us, Thirteenth Floor keeps us busy with eerie prints and apparel all year. We sat down with the man behind the brand, Billy Ludwig, to discuss his newest collection and designing with the eerie crowd in mind.
I have. I’ve been an artist since I was able to pick-up a crayon and scribble. As far as the creepy aspect, it just comes out that way. Even some of the stuff I do that I don’t find to be eerie people seem to find dark.
I was bartending at the time and I was broke. Super broke. I had been renting an old storefront in downtown Massillon as my band’s rehearsal spot and decided to open it as an art gallery. I figured I can either be broke bartending, or I can be broke doing something I’m passionate about. Over the years, the business model has changed in order to adapt and move forward. After a couple moves, the brick & mortar storefront has since been closed and we moved into our current warehouse and office in Akron to focus on the online store and pop-shop we set up at various comic cons, horror fests and art shows.
My personal interest have a HUGE presence in my work. The SWvsWWII series is a perfect example of that. I love the style of the 1940s, and Star Wars has always been a constant in my life. I love mixing the two together.
I think some of my work is definitely geared towards the geek and horror crowds, but it has been surprising how the fan base for my work is all over the map. Young and old, and all different types of backgrounds and interests have taken a liking to my work. I’m very fortunate for that.
I think the best thing to do is to maintain your audience’s interest and keep them informed without ‘spamming’ them. That can be a tricky equation. Finding the perfect balance is important.
All the elements of your brand should be cohesive and have some sort of overall theme without being redundant. Think of it in terms of one of your favorite bands and your favorite album from them. The album cover, the songs, the merch…it all goes hand and hand.
Bands go on tour to get their name out there and build their audience. It’s the same concept for the TF pop-up shop. That combined with social media is how we find and reach our audience.
“Jasper” was the first character to come of the VP collection. I was still, for the most part, learning Photoshop (I’m self-taught), and “Jasper” was more or less me experimenting and trying to create something new. That series has grown into something I am very proud of and is very important to me. I am working on their back story, and I’m hoping I can present that to everyone sooner than later.
Yes, I have met Norman. The shirts are officially licensed and approved by Norman and his agent Sean Clark. Norman is a great guy. The first shirt I did for him was the Reedus/Ramones image. In the Summer of 2015, we were in Chicago for a con and we went to dinner. Afterwards we were heading back to the hotel, and Norman had the idea for the Reedus/ KISS ” Dressed to ****” design. We’ve discussed some ideas for future designs, so stay tuned.
Success of a convention can be gauged from various perspectives. There’s, of course, the financial aspect and then there’s networking, getting the word out and maybe just making your presence known in a new market. Since I’m just coming back from New York Comic Con, I would say this has been, by all means, one of our most successful shows. We were slammed from start to finish all 4 days. People who were allowed access before the show (celebs, vendors, agents, etc.) were buying before the doors opened and the con-goers were lined around the table buying well after the show floor had closed. I signed more artwork than I ever have in one weekend. I had a lot of people bringing their prints from home and materials they had bought at previous shows. It was pretty insane.
The Chicago Comic Con this past August needs to be mentioned as well. At the end of the show Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) stopped by the table with her dog Gary. Not only did she have wonderful things to say about my work, she picked up 16 prints and 2 t-shirts. It was just surreal.
Look for Thirteenth Floor at a Comic Con near you and have a spooky Halloween.