Studio Visit: PRINTtEXT

Tag Christof
Photos: Stereoscope Photograhy

December 18 2015

When you follow magazines as closely as we do, you come to mythologize certain shops around the world. Places that stock hard-to-find titles (Motto Berlin), places that often seem to be good springboards for lo-fi zines they stock become indie powerhouses (Artwords London), or just because they’re reliably cool (10 Corso Como in Milan). They’re almost always shops tucked into erstwhile neighborhoods in Berlin and Hamburg, East London, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo. But one in particular currently stands above any other we know of for its 1) insanely well-curated selection of titles, 2) beautiful, over-the-top product photography, and 3) the fact that it is in Indianapolis, Indiana. PRINTtEXT is run by a husband and wife team, Janneane and Benjamin Blevins, both Indiana natives who have built the shop from the ground up. It is clearly a labor of love.

We made a pilgrimage to see PRINTtEXT for ourselves on a recent roadtrip and met Benjamin and Huckleberry, the shop’s very literate canine curator, and talked print and the fertile Indianapolis creative scene. This week, we meet Janneane, too. Turns out they do a lot more than sell books.

Benjamin Blevins
Hometown: Indianapolis
Current residence: Indianapolis
I take my coffee: black.
In a few words, my style is: I stick to a pretty simple uniform—black & white, androgynous, borrowed from Janneane’s closet. Let’s call it decadent minimalism. Or haute banality.

Janneane Blevins
Hometown: Seymour, Indiana
Current residence: Indianapolis
I take my coffee black.
In a few words, my style is: My look is highly functional, interchangeable, and borrowed from Benjamin’s closet. I still indulge some whims (e.g. 70s influences that work well with with my hair).

Let’s start with a general intro to PRINTtEXT. You run what is perhaps the most well-curated magazine shop on the planet, in a rather unlikely city. Tell us about it.

Thank you, Tag!

We opened PRINTtEXT two years ago with the intention of creating a nexus for design-minded people, cultivating an international, cross-cultural exchange of ideas. Early on we were excited about the idea of building up a shop that would become a destination, in, as you mentioned, a rather unlikely city.

We were both born and raised in Indiana, and of course we each thought at some point that we’d move to a bigger city, but as our adult lives started to take shape, we found that Indy was a really compelling place for us. The relationships, access and affordability we have here have been the perfect platform for the various projects we’ve started.

For us, PRINTtEXT really functions as a multi-disciplinary space where we can seamlessly blend our projects — it’s a retail shop, a studio, a meeting place, among other things. We’ve lived in an apartment above the shop for 6 years, so opening PRINTtEXT provided us with another venue to engage with creative influencers from Indianapolis (and around the world) and pursue our various endeavors in a more public setting. We host poetry readings, launch parties, art openings, salon-style public conversations, and editorial meetings for magazines.

We stock around 500 titles — a substantial amount, but also a surprisingly tight edit. We marvel at the number of magazines that have come to life in the last couple years. When selecting our inventory, we’re looking for publications that are excellently designed and excellently written. We also consider how we can build our collection to include areas of interest or regions that are less represented.

This space is so cozy. Does Huckleberry help run the show?

Ha! Absolutely. He’s the first to greet you when you walk in the door, and while we always thought he was the best pup in the world, we’ve been amazed at how many other people agree. He seriously loves coming to work everyday.

The interior of the shop was designed by our friend Stephen Garstang. We led with the concept of the shop as a living room — an extension of our home (which was also imperative as our magazine collection was outgrowing our upstairs apartment). Stephen’s background in fashion and theatre production really helped inform our use of color, shape and light — resulting in a place that feels simultaneously intimate and monumental.

What’s your background and what did you do before you set up shop here?

Our projects to date have lived in the realm of civics & culture. Our first was IndySpectator started in 2010 with our friend Jenni, which was basically a weekly love letter to Indy written by us and fellow young creatives. In 2011, we co-founded PATTERN, developing a monthly meetup and magazine to connect and promote the fashion community in Indianapolis. During these projects Janneane worked 8 years as a Community Manager for Studio Science, and Ben developed content strategies for nonprofit organizations such as IndyHub and Big Car. Following our INDYxPARIS project in 2013, we opened up PRINTtEXT.

Any way you slice it, Indianapolis is an off-the-radar city. What’s the art and design scene like here?

From a distance, Indianapolis absolutely does seem off-the-radar. Having lived here for awhile, it feels both tight-knit and experimental. But for someone who just moved here (or is visiting), it will take a little effort to seek it out. While there’s an astounding number of talented artists and agencies, we’re nowhere near saturation point for galleries, collectives, concepts and projects — especially considering the arts community that a city this size could support. But there are some identifiable access points such as the IMA, GPC, iMOCA, and Creative Mornings. Once you start making a few connections, it’s only a matter of time before you’ve been able to find your place in the scene. (Or, if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, you can start your own scene — there’s plenty of room). And that’s where we’ve really found value — there are still seats at the table that are yours for the taking. And if you don’t like the table, you can burn it down.

What are some essential things a visitor should know about Indy?

Check out LUNA music, the best record store (and the best neighbors). Visit General Public Collective, the Indianapolis Art Center, and the Museum of Psychphonics.

Relax at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100 Acres Art & Nature Park. (And while you’re there, head over to the new skate park).

Stay at The Alexander or Hotel Broad Ripple. Or the new 21c Hotel when that’s opening soon.

Eat brunch at Milktooth and dinner at Thunderbird. Pick up a sandwich to go from Goose the Market or Three Carrots at City Market.

Ride the Cultural Trail and use the bike-share program. Drive south of Indy to Columbus for their architecture.

What’s your process for product photography? You guys do, bar none, consistently the best still lives of magazines on the web—we find the care and attention to detail you put into every single shot amazing.

It’s incredible to hear you say that—thank you so much. Those photos really started as a way to showcase new titles as they arrived, and then it became a thing in and of itself!

We’re surrounded by the best visual inspiration — between all the gorgeous imagery on the pages of our magazines and what we consume daily on Instagram and elsewhere, we’re constantly stimulating our visual capacities.

We also love to work within the constraints of using materials we already have (or that can be cheaply acquired). Some of our ideas happen on the fly and some of them are plotted out well before we get a physical copy of the magazine.

We try to do things quickly, from the gut and to have fun. Our hope is to present something that’s a little unexpected and a lot whimsical (or maybe a little whimsical and a lot unexpected?).

How did you first get into magazines?

Ben: My first adult-life magazine memories would be a blurry combination of n+1’s third issue, Hedi Slimane’s photography, and Daria Werbowy wearing her own tank top. And I don’t think those three things have anything to do with why or how I got into magazines…

I guess, magazines were a way for me to dip my toes into new artistic ideas, political philosophies, and writing styles. They gave me access to revolutionary politics, radical, and experimental fashion — a sort of portal into a world that I didn’t see in Indianapolis. (Which isn’t to say that none of that existed in Indy. But it probably didn’t.)

Janneane: When Ben and I first met, we loved scouring the racks at Northside News (which is now closed) or Borders (which is also closed…). When we started traveling, our pursuit of print continued, especially in cities like Paris, where seemingly every corner had a newsstand with titles we had never been able to get our hands on back home. Beyond the newsstands, we loved how magazines were incorporated into other concept stores like The Broken Arm, Colette, Merci, and 0fr — there was an appreciation for magazines as art. We came to view these publications as artifacts or totems of our experiences in that city.

What are your favorite titles right now?

Ben: 032c, Tenth Zine, n+1, Pin-Up.

Janneane: Cherry Bombe, Riposte, 1 Granary, System, 032c

We’re also excited about new titles ALL IN and FFFzine.

Make the ideal magazine out of the best bits of other titles. What do you take from where? What would you call it?

the theoretical writing of n+1

the dazzling intelligence of Adult

the design sensibility of White Zinfandel

the surreal photography of Gather and Toilet Paper

the prophetic voice of 032c

the coolness of Marfa Journal and Pin-Up

the layout of Riposte

the ingenuity of Buffalo Zine

the optimism of Rookie

the spirit of Purple Fashion

We’ll call it Seltzer. Or maybe the Club Soda Quarterly.

In addition to the magazine shop, you run a studio from this space. Tell us a little about some of the other work that you do.

We do everything from art direction and set design to wardrobe and prop styling. Recent projects have included styling and photography for textile and fabric companies, beauty products, software startups, local eateries, and kids clothing (our friend Mallory has the coolest online boutique, Halfsies). In November, we did an awesome shoot with an artist and friend, Lauren Zoll. Every year she carves bangles from squash and gourds. We paid homage to it with a conceptual & quirky photo series called Oh My Gourd.

What are your pie-in-the-sky hopes for 2016?

We have a few concrete projects we’re super excited about, including Less than 100 with Elana Schlenker, a really cool pop up concept for gender wage equality. Additionally we’re helping a friend with his Museum of Psychphonics. We’re also in the process of writing an Indianapolis City Guide that will come out next fall.

Janneane: If we’re really dreaming big, I’d love to hear Patti Smith perform live, learn to drive a motorcycle, and host a disco dance party and/or Surrealist Ball.

Benjamin: Depending on my mood, I either want to a) dismantle the shop and see what comes next; or b) spend some time in Morocco.

You can find Stereoscope Photography online or on instagram