What’s the fastest you’ve ever seen a printing press go? How about 100mph? Burning through the streets of Atlanta is a print shop unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Well, maybe you have seen it; he really gets around.
Anthony DeSantis (we call him Tony) started at Danger a couple of years ago as an intern and now runs our automatic press. But what Tony does on the side is what’s really interesting. Over Tony’s time with us, he has started a live printing company called Sidecar Press Co. Armed with some woodblocks and saddlebags full of shirts, Tony rolls up at an event on his Harley Davidson Sportster and instantly becomes the center of attention. If seeing a sidecar in 2018 isn’t cool enough, this sidecar prints made-to-order t-shirts. It’s a sidecar side hustle that is as true to Tony as it is a perfect example of the importance of practicing an art in your spare time.
The story of Tony’s company begins with him driving back from a printing convention. He was thinking of ways he could combine his love for motorcycles and skills as a printer. Let’s step back though. To understand Sidecar Press, we need to take a look at where it started.
Tony studied printing and graphic design in college, where he learned to cut woodblocks proficiently. Tony told me cutting blocks is “meditative, it’s almost like a sanctuary.” Over years of practicing, he developed his edgy and humorous style. The other half of his brand (the bike) comes from Tony’s childhood. Tony grew up riding motorcycles. There are pictures of him sitting on his dad’s Yamaha bike when he was just two years old. His fascination with motorcycles, engines, and anything mechanical persists today. Already owning a motorcycle, and itching to do more printing work, Tony made the decision to start up the appropriately named Sidecar Press Co. The result is a brand that perfectly joins the magic of printing with the five hundred pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal that is a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
After laying its foundation, Tony began fleshing out his brand. He created merch, welded a press to his sidecar, and started taking his setup wherever he could. He quickly realized that his bike afforded him a lot of opportunities that typical event printers don’t get. While other live printers would have to pack road cases and vans, Tony just has to grab his stuff and go. With less time setting up and tearing down a stand, more time can be spent actually interacting with customers.
It’s often said that you don’t sell a product, you sell a process. But Tony has found a sweet-spot where he can sell both. Tony explains, “People first see it and are excited just to see a sidecar, but then they realize that it’s making t-shirts.” Getting a Sidecar Press shirt is as much about the experience of printing it as it is about having a kick-ass Tee. The process of getting the shirt gives it value, and gives Tony the chance to share what he loves about printing with the customers.
Sidecar Press Co. is still being realized as a fully fledged brand. However when I met with Tony, he had three events planned for that week, and plenty more to come. Tony told me that working at Danger enabled him to start Sidecar Press Co. Not simply with time or money, but with community. When starting a project, it’s essential to have people around you who will push you towards your vision. The team of artists and designers at Danger is great at that.
Doing art on the side is more than a way to make a few extra bucks. As Kurt Vonnegut says, “Practicing an art is a way to make your soul grow.” The craft you do should grow you into a better person. Slowing down and making something can be incredibly restorative, even if slowing down means flooring your Harley to the next gig.