In one of Santa Rosa’s many quaint and diverse West End neighborhoods, there is a gathering of friends, artists, neighbors and makers all showing up in one backyard for one reason: to support each other’s dreams.

Okay, maybe more than one reason, but that’s a big one.

The Fresh Prints Party was born when local artist Wil Smith purchased his dream press, a Sturgis cp5, and he wanted to print up some T-shirts for friends since he now had the perfect machine for high-volume printing. “I’ve always liked the idea of instant gratification,” said Smith about the idea to turn his new press into a reason to have an event.

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“I was inspired by Drive by Press’ adventures driving around the country hitting events and schools printing woodblocks on t-shirts out of the back of a pickup, and we wanted to do something different than a party or a standard art reception.” So he, along with his wife Jacquie, decided to make an event out if it, asking a buddy who makes wine in his driveway to pour tastes during the day, and inviting friends to spread the word.

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The result was a long day of fun, hard work, making new friends, and wall-to-wall art. So much so that the Smiths decided to make it a regular thing, inviting a different artist each time to create original art to be printed on T-shirts.

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The second Fresh Prints Party featured local tattoo artist Loren Butchart, who hand-carved out of linoleum blocks each of his eight prints over the course of several weeks leading up to the event. About the artists he invites in for the project, Smith says he chooses them “based on how I think their imagery will translate into relief printmaking.” So far, they’ve all been pretty badass.

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Fresh Prints guests are welcome to bring their own T-shirts and textiles, or to use any that might be available at the party. They choose from a selection of prints designed specifically for the Fresh Prints party by the artist, head into the garage – aka Wil’s art studio/workshop – to hand off their shirt, then head to the backyard for some good old-fashioned community bonding.

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The backyard is where friends hug hello, strangers discuss the best way to prepare abalone, kids weave through the legs of anyone in their way, and dogs trot around looking for pats and snacks. It is almost certain there will be a baby being passed around.

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Wil and Jacquie are a very community-driven couple, and they make a point to highlight the talents of their friends, as well. Hello Nomad Roadside Biscuits set up shop at the last Fresh Prints event and offered a small variety of biscuits and cookies baked that very morning in proprietress Victoria Wagner’s oven. An artist across many formats, Wagner recently took her love of creation to her oven when she realized how hard it was to find a good biscuit. Seems legit, right – see a need? Fill it. Done and done. Plus, the biscuits are freaking amazingly delicious, so there’s that, too.

fpwilsmithSet up right next to Victoria was Repo Red Winery, aka the underground hobby ‘winery’ of Paul Malone, longtime friend of Wil, Jacquie and Victoria, among many others in attendance. Having poured tastes at the first Fresh Prints party, Malone was happy to return. “This little backyard event is perfect for all of us,” said Malone. “We’re all just making our own functional art to share with our neighbors – whether it’s T-shirts or wine or biscuits. They all compliment each other and it’s really fun to share that.”
The number one word that comes to mind when talking to the guests, artists, volunteers and neighbors of a Fresh Prints party is, without question, Community. Jacquie, the welcoming embrace and sparkling matriarch of the Smith family, loves this the most. “The best part of the event to me is the community involvement and excitement. People and families are coming in and out all day, and even months later I will see a t-shirt on someone and get giddy.”

Santa Rosa is so cool, you guys.