A prelude to John Pundt's coffee show 

Man Behind the Screen

Cafe Anima: Coffee-Made Prints
Opening Jan. 31, 6-11 p.m.
Muddy Waters
1331 Ashley Rivers Road
(843) 225-3683

I knew little of John Pundt as I made my way up his driveway, pointing my Jeep toward the sweet white house situated on the corner. I had seen his work around town, but I was looking forward to getting to know the man behind the screen printing.

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The first hour went as most interviews go. He talked and I listened.

Pundt used to work in Atlanta with his brother. Together they mass-produced corporate patches for uniforms. In doing this, Pundt got his first lesson in mixing ink and perseverance. Patches sometimes took all night to finish. They'd work into the wee hours, breathing fumes and sweating ink.

Eventually, he enrolled at the Savannah College of Art and Design, hoping to find a creative niche. The city proved disappointing. "You'd think it would be one of the most creative places in the South," he says, "but it's not."

Back home, he began working his way into Charleston's artistic underground. Most of Pundt's inspiration comes from his surroundings. "The [ideas] you force never have the same passion," he says. He likes his friends to be around while he works. They're happy to oblige. Taking time away from work is also important. Pundt uses these breaks to reflect, and they help him find new perspective and to reevaluate work.

Pundt's artist budget forced him to think outside the box. Blood was the start of his unconventional materials. He needed a source that could be replenished. He experimented with other substances. Ketchup doesn't separate well, but mustard has great pigment. So do beets. For his upcoming show, Café Anima, coffee is the main medium. I witnessed a jar of deer blood hanging out in the refrigerator. Pundt thinks Bambi might be a good subject.

"I really like the sweet-and-sour mix of good and evil," he says.

Music is Pundt's brain food. I ask him what he listens to while printing.

"Devo," he says. "Girl Talk took over for awhile. It's so energetic and ADD. Heavy metal is also good. Slayer is great when running on a treadmill."

As it turns out, music surrounds Pundt. Charlie McAlister, his backyard neighbor, is a folk genius and plays the South By Southwest Festival. Several others drifting in and out of Pundt's house are also musically inclined.

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A short while ago everyone gathered together and built a giant cardboard castle, which they dubbed Fantasy Place. The band White Boy Crazy performed inside later that evening for a crowd of around 100 people.

It was a typical Saturday evening at Pundt's abode.

"Entertainment's key," he says.

Later, Pundt suggested I watch him print. His open-air print studio doubles as the laundry room and it's freezing outside. None of this bothers Pundt as he plucks the first sheet from the stack and lines it up with the screen. Screen printing is labor intensive. Each color requires a separate screen and each layer of color must be lined up with the previous. Pundt finds it meditative. "It's like going to church," he says.

Two sheets in, he asks me to join in the fun. Struggling to recall college screen printing, I pray I don't screw up. He baby-steps me through the process. I begin to feel a little more sure of myself. So sure, that on my third try I press down a little too hard and the ink smudges.

"That's yours," he says.

He takes over again and I settle back into my more comfortable position of observation. Two colors later, I had my very own John Pundt print in hand. He is genuinely passionate about his work. Not only is it recognizable in every print he makes, but in every action as well. On the way to my car, Pundt's energy rubbed off on me. After spending a short amount of time with him, I walked away with a creative high.


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