LOGAN SQUARE — Creative couple Ryan Duggan and Elizabeth Kovach want to bring “the weird” back to Logan Square.
Duggan, 35, and Kovach, 29, are both screen printers with cult followings — Duggan for his absurdist band posters and prints of … defecating dogs and Kovach for her printing prowess, and they’re gearing up to open their own studio and print shop at 1953 N. Campbell Ave., called Paper Hat.
“For as much as I love Logan Square, the last few years it has definitely become a totally different neighborhood,” said Duggan, who hasn’t left the Logan Square/Avondale area since he moved there in 2005.
“It’s exciting to bring something back to the neighborhood that harkens back to what it was when I first moved in, when there were a lot of weird little places where bands were playing [and] there were more artists living in the neighborhood. … I’m excited to put something weird back in Logan Square.”
Duggan said the studio will function both as a day-to-day print shop, where he and Kovach can make their work, and as an event space — a place where the pair can regularly teach screen-printing workshops, put on gallery shows and host fun art-related events.
One of the more quirky ideas they have is to host a pinewood derby where artists design their own cars and then race them before putting them up for sale.
Paper Hat will be a place for “people to see new things, to discover things in their own city that maybe they didn’t know about,” Duggan said.
Duggan’s work will be on display for their first gallery show Dec. 15, but the store won’t be fully up and running until early 2019.
To help pay for the build-out, equipment and materials, the pair is looking to raise a total of $10,000 through Kickstarter. As of Tuesday evening, they had already raised $3,075 toward that goal.
“We’re just trying to go into it as safely as possible as two self-employed people,” Duggan said, adding that Paper Hat will still open even if they don’t meet the goal.
“We figured that we knew enough people that would be interested in something like this in this neighborhood that we’d be able to build a little money up going into it so it’s a little less terrifying.”
In a way, Duggan is returning to his roots with Paper Hat. About 10 years ago, he ran a DIY gallery called People Projects in one of the Congress Theater building storefronts, where he and friends both lived and put on music and art shows.
“This is a nice return to that, but as a grown-up, where I’m not going to be having punk shows in the basement,” Duggan said with a laugh.
Both artists have exploded in popularity over the last several years, their booths always overrun with customers at local art fairs.
Described by the Tribune as the “It Boy of the local gig-poster scene,” Duggan is responsible for all of those band posters you see around town — the ones with the hand-drawn, absurdist illustrations — as well as countless Reader covers, among other drawings. He makes art under the name Drug Factory Press.
Kovach’s work, on the other hand, is a little more under-the-radar. She has clients all over the country and across the world who pay her to print their art in large quantities. Her studio is called Salty Broad Press.
“Elizabeth uses what’s known as a semi-automatic press, a machine that takes the back-breaking labor out of printing. She runs a press like that so she can do large editions. I print by hand because I mostly print small editions,” Duggan said.
Unlike Duggan, who only picked up screen printing as he started getting involved with local bands, Kovach went to school for the craft. She’s been working out of an office in the West Loop for the last few years, while Duggan has been working out of their home.
Paper Hat, Duggan said, is the “natural” next step in both of their careers, which are taking off.
“Screen printing is a medium you can do in your house unlike a lot of other mediums where you need special chemicals and equipment. It’ll be fun to show people the basics of it,” Duggan said.
The icing on the cake? Paper Hat’s address.
“I’m really excited that we found this space in Logan Square. I never in a million years thought I’d be able to afford it,” Duggan said.
Paper Hat won’t have regular retail hours — it’ll only be open during scheduled events, gallery shows and workshops. Check its Instagram account for updates. Donate to their Kickstarter (where a custom dog portrait by Duggan is one of the perks) here.
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