TWO YEARS AGO, Sid Enck Jr. was running a skateboard company, but he was itching to make a change. “I wanted to get into the art scene,” he says over a cup of tea at his home studio. “I had a screen-printing machine, a button-making machine and a sewing machine.” And with those three things, the Tea Shack Project was born.
Based in San Jose, the Tea Shack Project is a T-shirt, accessory and skateboard design collective, made up of a handful of artists and team riders—including Christine Benjamin, Nicky Gaston, Patrick Jilbert and Lauren ‘Elle’ Napolitano—who all contribute art, ideas, energy and contacts. Enck, owner and art director of the project, receives designs from the artists, gets things printed and into stores and manages the advertising, all while holding down a freelance design job of his own. His fiancee, Kaylee Vincent, handles the marketing, website and online sales.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but Enck enjoys the homespun aesthetic that defines the Tea Shack, with its from-the-ground-up approach. “Everything is done by us,” he tells me. “The screen printing, the tags inside the shirts, the recycled and soy-ink-printed store tags and the buttons are all made by us.”
As well as helping to get their own designs out into the world, the Tea Shack artists all help to market one another and to bring attention to the project. “All my friends are artists,” Enck explains, “and as an artist, it’s hard to market yourself. This is the best way that we can do that.”
For Enck, a life filled with art and creativity comes quite naturally. When he was a child, his grandfather made a point of introducing him to artists who were working in unusual ways. “My grandpa had a lot of artist friends,” says Enck. “He would introduce me to people who were painting on 8-by-10 canvases and stuff like that.”
The early exposure paid off, and Enck attributes the origin of his own creativity to hanging out with his grandpa. “My grandpa would sit out on his terrace and draw an oak tree or what not,” he says. “It definitely inspired me.”
Enck eventually went to a school for photography, but felt like everyone was doing photo shows and he wanted to do something different: “I wanted to do something that people could see it and say, ‘That’s Sid’s stuff.’ You know, building up my own style.”
Enck’s designs are vibrant, lively and eye-catching, and include lots of birds. “My mom always had birds, so I’ve always been around them,” he explains. “I love the fact that you can be free. I just really got into that.”
Apparently, the other Tea Shack artists did, too. Although Enck never asked for bird designs, they started coming in. “I did some bird things, so I guess people think that’s what I want,” he recalls. “But I’m really open when it comes to artwork.”
In fact, the only direction that Enck gives the artists is to “make it kind of shacky.” And that they do. The overall vibe of the Tea Shack is weathered, nature-y and minimal—shacky to the hilt.
Eventually, Enck would like to have one big shack that the project could call home. “I want to have a true shack where everything is together and we can hang out and make stuff,” he says. “That’s what I really want.”
For now though, Enck and his band of artists and skaters are content to create, inspire and motivate each other along. “What’s rad about us is we’re like a little family,” he says. “We’ve all got each other’s back.” He sits back and thinks for a moment and adds, “And that’s the way it should be. That’s the way life should be.”
Tea Shack Project merchandise can be found in shops throughout the Bay Area, including Ohana Board Shop, Needles and Pens, Society Skate Shop, Pretty Penny and Fishbanks Skate Shop.