“If Martha Stewart and Banksy had a love child, it would be Stencil1.” — Brain Pickings
Stencil1 is a street art-inspired brand founded in 2004 by artist, painter, graphic designer and DIY enthusiast Ed Roth. In the 1990s, Ed created art while operating and curating the Williamsburg gallery Who Do We Appreciate, showcasing affordable art and giving soon-to-be well-known artists, like Dalek and Mike Giant, a place to be seen. Ed’s affinity for street art and stencils grew while running the gallery. “It exposed me to a lot of street art,” he says, referring to his graffiti-inspired style.
Ed also worked as a graphic designer for ad agencies and TV networks, honing his digital media and packaging skills, and got an inside view of running a business. He realized he could apply all these skills to his passion for stencils. So Ed set out to make his vision a reality, creating the first Stencil1 stencils and selling them on his website, Stencil1.com. What started in the ’90s as a hobby grew into a grassroots business.
“I think these are so good I might go sell them on the corner!” – Martha Stewart
The new company got its first press from Josh Rubin’s CoolHunting.com and the New York Times. When Stencil1 made its first television appearance on Martha Stewart’s daytime lifestyle show, MARTHA, the stores started calling.
Ed was pioneering a new stencil movement that straddled the line between street art and the nation’s DIY obsession. By creating a market for edgy, fun, and art-inspired designs, Stencil1 reclaimed stencils from the craft store ducks and made them cool. Ed’s work endorsed customization and creativity above all else, tapping into the consumer’s desire to have a one-of-a-kind product at an off-the-shelf price.
Chronicle Books took notice of the Stencil1 brand, and, in 2008, Ed published Stencil 101, his first DIY stencil book. The playful stencil portfolio in the book includes images from record players and poodles to sumo wrestlers and deer. Ed wanted people to be inspired to use his stencils in unconventional places. “I’m always interested in discovering new places to apply stencils. Why be limited to a shirt or furniture? I don’t like to think about the rules. I design tools for people to use their way. Stencils allow people to paint them where they think they will be fun.”
The following year, in Stencil 101 Décor, Ed focused on patterns. “There is strength in repeating an image,” he says. “And it’s a nice reference to pop art too. I have a strong interest in interior design. I love wallpaper, especially vintage wallpaper. I found the repetition to be a graphic challenge.” Inspiration for these stencils came from vintage tiles, naturally occurring organic patterns, fashion textiles, and urban landscapes. “I wanted to make designs that make a bold statement and are easy to use.”
Stencil 201, published in 2011, took unconventional applications to another level by presenting new stencil designs — from retro-cool typewriters and roller skates to elegant leaves and abstract shapes — and offering step-by-step directions for projects that take stenciling to another creative plane. With the help of friends, such as Erica Domesek of P.S. — I Made This and embroidery queen Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, Ed showed how to stencil on just about anything — T-shirts, leather, mirrors, food, and even hair — using a variety of techniques like stitching, etching, and more.
Roth’s most recent book, Stencil Style 101, released in the fall of 2012, focused on apparel with 25 ways to stencil clothing and accessories by using more than just paint. “Everyone has their own unique way of presenting themselves. With this book, I provide more tools for people to express themselves through fashion and be creative while on a budget.”
“I love your work! The #1 stencil maker Stencil1.com.” — Swizz Beatz
Stencil1 has become more than just a stencil company — it’s a cutting-edge design brand, and Ed is a compass continually pointing toward the next trend. Stencil1 has an organically grown social media following and devoted fans who don’t miss a Stencil1 event. Stencil1.com’s fun, easy-to-follow how-to videos and creative tools are the essence of the brand.
Stencil1 has collaborated on DIY events with high-profile brands, like The Gap, Converse, Sharpie, and Etsy, to engage their customers and grow their base through interactive, creative, hands-on experience. Ed is an engaging host who knows his stuff and is equally comfortable in front of a crowd and a camera.
Ed continues a long-term partnership with Benjamin Moore and has created large-scale, custom stencil installations at chic New York hotels, like the Ace Hotel in Manhattan and Z Hotel in Long Island City, where he has applied his stencil skills to 99 rooms by hand.
Stencil1 continues to evolve as the brand seeks new collaborations, design licensing, and custom DIY events.
About Ed Roth
Ed lives in Brooklyn, New York with his dog Larry where he designs products for Stencil1, creates custom installations, and curates DIY events.