Kučin’s DeafMessanger label and project have been going for quite some time now. Since his first series of postcards his industry and talent has grown immensely. Using found objects in Prague and all over the world, Kučin and his team carefully assemble diaries, notebooks, postcards, bags and many more. All designs are intricately sprayed and printed using a stencil system typical for street art. With DeafMessenger products now being sold globally, I thought it would be nice to visit Kučin and find out what makes him tick. We sat down with an espresso and a cigarette in his studio which had distinctive smells of freshly brewed coffee, paper and paint – that creative smell that all art spaces have. Frida – Kučin’s beautiful one-eyed cat, patrolled the space guarding her master and artist’s terroritory as we chatted about life, art and the contradicting adjectives that make up this crazy city we live in.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from the East of Czech Republic, from Moravia. A place called Napajedla. I never really wanted to go to Prague, but my girlfriend at the time did. We had just come back from New Zealand after 6 months and I was 24 and the time had come where I had to follow some goals. I thought if I stayed there (in the town), I would regret it. I would have to get a job and have a kid. It sounds silly, but I was scared. So that’s how I got here.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to work with animals. I didn’t want to be an astronaut or a pilot, you know all these crazy positions. I wanted to work with animals because from an early age I was trying to catch fish, lizards, birds etc. So my dream job was to work in a zoo, later I found out how sad and shitty the conditions are for the animals. Even to be a marinebiologist with dolphins and whales – it kept in my head until I was 14.
How did you start DeafMessanger?
Ok so I mentioned New Zealand, right? The idea came there that I really want to work with my hands. I knew that my position wouldn’t be in an office or in front of a computer screen. So I came back and started to spray my first postcards which were very different to what I do now. I thought that if I made these and sold them, it would be enough to make a living. Then I realised that it definitely wasn’t, so I started to do social work and that dream kind of disappeared. Then later on with no ambitions, I made my first set of notebooks. I already had some stencils from street art, so I brought the spare notebooks to one of the shops that sold my postcards and he called me the same day to say that this German couple bought all of them, so I should make more. Then I started to travel with it. I went to Berlin, London, Vienna – the main cities, trying to get my products in their shops… And that’s how it all started.
So I know you did some designs for the Sea Shepherds. Some people support them, but some think there is too much violence and Greenpeace is better. what do you think?
I think both of these organisations make really profound changes. Sea shepherds are more dedicated to marine life, whereas Greenpeace are covering other issues. Sea Shepherds are more about direct action and Greenpeace about speaking to the government. I think when Greenpeace are speaking and trying to do things, there are still animals dying. While the Sea Shepherds are trying to be there in the actual spot at the moment protecting the animals – and that justifies their work for me. I don’t see the violence in that. These animals cannot speak for themselves, so the Sea Shepherds are their voice and they’re really acting in the moment.
You’ve travelled quite a bit with your work. What is your favourite place to go to?
Well the work trips are usually short trips and in connection with the people living there. Half of the reason to go there is to visit friends or the city, and the other half to talk to the shop. The other trips are places that I don’t do business in like South East Asia or India are some of my favourite spots. New York City for business too, that’s one place I love going back to.
Has your work been influenced by your travels? By art or culture?
Just being around all this street art happening in Berlin or New York City (from what I’ve seen in Brooklyn that is). I think these places and seeing all this stuff happening is an influence, and of course going to the galleries and being surrounded by art and creative people. It’s not the designs that are influenced, but just the feeling that I really want to create. It motivates me.
Everyone has a specific work environment. What helps you work?
Well in the spraying room for the last three years. I always listen to the soundtrack from Black Hawk Down. I know the timing of it, so I put on my gloves and the facial mask and I work. There were a few times when my phone battery wasn’t charged or something and I wasn’t comfortable without it. Here in the studio if it’s me and my colleague we might listen to something else.
So you are hard of hearing, how would you describe this?
It’s part of everyday life. Something that annoys me, but also something I can joke about a lot. And now, with a kid on the way people are saying when I’m a father I won’t have to wake up. I can just turn off my hearing aid and not hear anything (laughs).
And what about fatherhood? Are you excited?
I’m so excited, I really am. Now it’s three weeks to go, and what is a really cool thing is the feeling of becoming responsible. My girlfriend is doing fine, and I have a great deal of respect for her coping with being heavier and having to sleep on only one side, all of these things. And for myself I just feel like now is the right time, it’s not stopping me from anything. I want to be a good father and someone that the kid looks up to, it’s not an easy task.
Decribe Prague in adjectives.
Awesome! Beautiful, definitely. Conservative. Changing. It’s hmmm… exciting in so many ways. It’s depressing in so many ways. There are many contradicting adjectives I think of when I think about Prague.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I’ve never thought about that before! Joaquin Phoenix from Walk the Line. I can imagine him, yeah.
If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?
It doesn’t have to be from my life?
No and it can be in the future too!
Another planet with life on it
Written and photographed by Ryan Keating-Lambert.