What does Wu-tang have to do with the flourishing of local artists and entrepreneurs in Tucson? Let’s find out…
CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME
As I sat with the CREAM team in their office, my eyes caught a glimpse of the company’s first design hanging on the wall. Laid over the background of green, dripping paint is an eye inside a pyramid reminiscent of the one on the back of our dollar bill. It’s surrounded by some symbols, the company’s namesake, and is signed in sharpie, RZA 2008 Wu Tang.
The Wu Tang Clan song, Cash Rules Everything Around Me, speaks about a reality that founders of CREAM were well aware of when starting their business. If they wanted to be able to do their art full-time, it would have to be sustainable financially. Creative talent alone doesn’t pay the bills. This is how the wisdom of Wu-tang began to take shape into a business that prized artistry, professionalism and excellent customer-care.
For CREAM, this commitment to excellence isn’t just about realizing their own goals but also contributing to the success of their neighbors. Co-owners, Pat Foley and Marissa Johnson, are motivated to help bridge the gap between the creative talent flooding our neighborhoods and the comparatively few opportunities for full-time work in these fields. As Marissa put it, there are a lot of people in Tucson pursuing their passions as “side-gigs.”
The nature of what CREAM does with design and print allows them to advocate for local artists and entrepreneurs. It makes me think back to that enigmatic eye that is front and center in their first design. While the original “eye of providence” on the dollar bill represents the divine, this providential care is reflected in their work. Divine providence refers to a powerful, benevolent being working to create positive outcomes. Likewise, CREAM is committed to using the creative power of their business to providentially support other local dreamers. They act as an eye of providence for the flourishing of local business in Tucson.
BRINGING IDEAS TO LIFE
When a local artist or business brings their idea to CREAM, it becomes a living thing. Some clients come with a fine-tuned design and a specific print medium in mind. Other times, someone only has a general concept that they need the team to develop into a visual reality.
In the latter case, the team goes to work designing something that can capture what the individual or business wants to communicate. We are a visual culture, and clothing and other print media are an important part of connecting people to local events and products. Marissa shared that each member of their team has a great creative eye, so the process is saturated with artistic perspectives that come together to create just the right images. And while they customize their designs to the customer’s brand, they have a unique style that is self-described as Americana, tongue-in-cheek, and reflective of the artistic yet gritty nature of Tucson.
HELPING ARTISTS THRIVE
While the team loves creating their own designs, they have a parallel passion for sharing other’s work. One of Pat and Marissa’s motivations for starting a print business was the accessibility factor. Print makes it possible for an artist’s design to be widely enjoyed. One of the great things about Tucson is all of the local art coloring our buildings. CREAM makes it so that we can likewise clothe our bodies with unique, homegrown designs. It is another way that we get to enjoy the images that represent the tapestry of our city.
One of the most intimate ways CREAM connects us to our local talent is through their live printing events. Every Second Saturday at R-Bar CREAM collaborates with a different artist to print some of their designs right before our eyes. You always have the option to bring a favorite piece of clothing or choose from their selection on-site. They specifically seek out artists who don’t yet have their work on clothing, so local history is being made every month! Live printing extends beyond this monthly event. They have brought the experience to events like business anniversaries, store openings, and recently a family day at the Tucson Museum of Art. Live printing is a great way that CREAM gets to create tangible memories for these special events in our city.
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS, SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES
In addition to caring for our community, CREAM is acutely aware of how much the world’s resources have been stressed by industry and are committed to practices that curb their footprint. Their decision to offer “green” printing through a renewable resource (soy-based ink!) has been well-supported by many Tucsonans who are intentional with their consumer and entrepreneurial choices. CREAM employs a number of other practices with their cleaning products, recycling habits, and t-shirt options that bring their financially sustainable mindset to bear in an ecological way.
CREAM’s future aspirations include developing these sustainable processes even more and continuing to cultivate connections across Tucson. These collaborations are one of the greatest joys of their work along with the team that they get to do it with. It is so evident that each member thrives in the part that they play at CREAM and that they compliment each other well. Until you have the chance to meet them in person (next Second Saturday, perhaps?) here is the team!
Most CREAM team members have creative outlets in addition to their work at CREAM. We encourage you to check out their Instagram accounts and websites below!