Sunday, March 30, 2008

some tidbits of Marushka trivia

Marushka - two birds (tan)
  • Founded in 1970 by Richard Sweet and Victor and Mary Krawczyk.
  • Based in Grand Haven, Michigan
  • Initial projects included silkscreened office partitions
  • In Marushka’s heyday in the early 1980s, they had five retail outlets owned by the company, including locations in Michigan and Florida
  • In the late 1980s, creator Richard Sweet apparently developed a silkscreen line of framed prints varnished (so they could be wiped clean) (will have to look for these)
  • Even during Marushka’s prime, prints were all hand-screened

Saturday, March 29, 2008

handcrafted totes from Marushka prints

One can find examples of Marushka glasses, towels, and aprons on eBay. I personally like the prints the best, but for those who don't, here's an interesting repurposing of Marushka prints in a more functional form - as tote bags.

The seller can be found on Etsy at this location. Blackboard Art's shop is based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan - near the Marushka motherland in Grand Haven (presumably the availability of Marushkas is high there).

From Blackboardart on Etsy

From Blackboardart on Etsy

From Blackboardart on Etsy

The "sold items" section also shows some neat examples - I really like this one!

Marushka Central

when I first became interested in Marushkas, I was surprised to see how little information was available about the prints online. the most informative information I came across via Google was in the comments someone posted to another Marushka fan's blog.

today though I ran across a great photo archive of Marushka - Marushka Central! The site has great photos of Marushka prints, as well as a section of Marushka imposters.

Marushka - parrots

The site also fills in on some of Marushka's history:
they started making these linen silk-screens in 1971. they stopped making them in 1988, and had begun making new designs in 2000 but alas, have been discontinued again!!
I had heard that Marushka was named after the wife of the creator, as Marushka is Polish for Mary. But according to Marushka Central,
as for the name mar├╝shka, it came from the suggestion of a polish butcher and was agreed on for the "artist's" name as an endearment for a little girl.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Marooshka

While the heyday of Marushka is now decades past, you can still buy silkscreen prints under the Marushka name, though now spelled "Marooshka." the prints are similar in spirit to the originals, but interestingly they are easy to distinguish from the vintage prints even with similar themes of shells and plant silhouettes. The colors are a bit more modern and some of the designs are updated from the original style.

Marooshka Marooshka

Marooshka

Marooshka

It's not clear why Marooshka has a new spelling - though I've heard it might be due to trademark issues they are trying to resolve. From what I can tell, Marooshka prints are affiliated with the Michigan Rag Company, a silkscreen company that was a spin-off of the original Marushka.
Buy Marooshkas here.

Marushka print of tree

Marushka - large tree silhouette (brown)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sheepshead Designs

A while back, I ran across some modern silkscreen prints that very much evoke the spirit of Marushka. Philip Sachs, a self-taught printer and designer, sells beautiful silkscreen prints at Sheepshead Designs. The site features both prints on t-shirts and stretched linen canvases.

I personally love the botanicals, though the bird prints and skyline linen prints are also lovely:
From Sheepshead Design From Sheepshead Design

From Sheepshead Design From Sheepshead Design

You can see more of the great designs (and make purchases) at this site or at the Etsy site.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marushka print - tulips in the window

Marushka - tulips in window (red and yellow)

From the Grand Rapids Press

Last November, Richard Sweet, one of the creators of Marushka, passed away.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Richard L. Sweet, the former Grand Haven Area Public Schools art instructor who went on to become a leading producer of silk screen graphic art, died last Thursday at the age of 68.

Sweet quit his teaching position in 1971 to found Marushka, a Grand Haven-based producer of affordable silk screen graphic prints that came stretched, framed and ready to be hung on the wall. The prints retailed for about $24 and were popular in condominiums and college dorms.

At its height, Marushka was known throughout the United States and its prints were distributed in several foreign countries, including Australia. The prints were so popular that Marushka attracted its share of imitators. In the mid-1980s, Grand Haven was home to four other firms offering wholesale silk screened prints.

"Rather than being silicon valley, Grand Haven was silk screen valley of the United States," recalled Randy Smith, former Marushka co-owner and now owner of The Michigan Rag Co.

"We figure we produced 1.68 million Marushkas."

After the market for Marushka prints began to dry up in the late 1980s, Sweet and Smith, started The Michigan Rag Co., which produces an extensive line of silk screen clothing and apparel. Sweet sold his share of the business to Smith about three years ago.

Although the last Marushka was produced in 1989, Michigan Rag Co. continues to screen a limited number of the Marushka prints. Smith said Marushka prints are collectible among college students and often can be found auctioned on eBay.

"It was a gutsy thing he did -- quitting his job to start a business," Smith said. "He was quite a guy."

Sweet was born in Lansing and received degrees in fine arts and graphics from Michigan State University. Sweet and his wife, Mary, both worked at Grand Haven Area Public Schools -- he as an art teacher and her as a librarian.

Sweet said many of his friends questioned his decision to quit the school system to start a silk screening business called Marushka, a Polish form for the name Mary."

"A lot of people said I was crazy to give up a permanent sure thing," he said in 1982. "But I don't feel guilty at all. I love what I'm doing."

Marushka originally operated in the former Grand Haven Board of Education administration building at 734 Park, and a building on West Spring Lake Road. In 1984, Sweet announced plans for a new headquarters and retail center in the former Vandervelde's Furniture building in downtown Grand Haven.

As the business grew, Marushka had more than 3,000 distributors and four factory outlet stores in Spring Lake, Muskegon, Rockford and Lansing.

Sweet credited his success to the affordability of Marushka prints.

"Silk screening makes art affordable to everyone," he said of the success of Marushka. "We can offer the same design and quality and make it affordable."

Marushka print of ships in silhouette

Marushka: ships (blue)

About Marushka

From the description packed in with Marushka prints:

MARUSHKA

Hand printed in Grand Haven, MI.

These stretched fabric art prints are ready to hang on any wall in your home, office, or cottage. Balanced on two nails, this decor can be attractively hung in a few minutes.

MARUSHKA brings art designed and selected by Richard Sweet to the public through the medium of silkscreen. Our designer prints are all hand-screened in the MARUSHKA studies located in Grand Haven, Michigan.

The designs are offered in a variety of colors suited to the wide range of consumer tastes.

Richard Sweet was born in Lansing, MI, and received degrees in fine arts and graphics from Michigan State University. After ten years as an art instructor, he started MARUSHKA in 1972 to provide a quality decorator item to the public at affordable prices.