Downtown Stories

Below you will find interviews with the following Local and International artists that have left a mark on Downtown Albuquerque:
Founder and owner of 111 Media: James Black
Founder and owner of A Good Sign: Tami Abts
Visual Artist: Phil Torres – Concept Flux
Mural Artist: Pastel from Argentina

Founder and owner of 111 Media: James Black




After checking out the cool 111 Media shop on 4th st we had to ask founder/owner James Black for an interview. Here is what he had to say:

q: Can you tell us a little bit about the shop, how long you’ve been there, how you got started, etc?

a: We are a collective of graphic artists, we work on individual passion projects and help other artists in the community develop their ideas for prints on tees, posters, stickers and many other things!  We have been in Downtown Albuquerque going on 7 years now, time flies! I (James Black) started the biz after studying graphic art in NYC at School of Visual Arts and later Graduating from UNM with BFA in Fine Art. I just wanted to make my own stuff but found there was a need in the area for quality prints so started making things for other people as well.

q: 111 Media has a great relationship with youth from Warehouse 508, and you teach classes there… how did that get started and what has that been like?

a: I spent time as a volunteer at Warehouse508 even before it was named “warehouse 508”. We had a studio on 2nd st just west of 508, and I really wanted to implement a screenprinting press/ dept. at the youth center because I had found such a passion for it as a positive outlet. It took a while for the correct equipment, budget, and staff to come together. I was learning and trying to better myself at the craft all the while. Eventually, Warehouse 508 bought a press and allocated the space. Now we have the biggest class (19 kids this summer semester!) and I have some amazing students, some have moved on to work with me, teach their own classes, start their own clothing lines, and win awards for screen print and graphic arts as emerging artists. Many young people want to develop their artistic ideas but introductory costs can prove prohibitive. Warehouse 508 offers a foot in the door for graphic production that is affordable, enabling youth an opportunity to create tangible objects, adorned with their vision, with a real world market value.

q: What are some favorite projects you’ve worked on lately?

a: We are so thankful for all of our downtown clients. We have had some great opportunities working for the film industry lately and that proved both challenging and rewarding! We have done some props for shows, chair backs for the cast and crew on productions, and even some of the wardrobe in big favorites, like “breaking bad”. We are printing tees for WestDowntown and the Bricklight District thanks to our great relationship and projects we work on with Ripe Design. We do pop up/Live Screenprinting and can be found making tees on the spot at events and private parties, that is always a blast! We also are working on our own clothing lines, and hope to get some of our original designed and hand printed garments into boutiques, airport shops, and on the backs of anyone interested! We are creating Augmented Reality tees and experimenting with dye removal, bleach out, and many other techniques, in order to stay creative and keep it fun!

Founder and owner of A Good Sign – Tami Abts

A Good Sign Printing Shop 7


One of Downtown’s great local businesses is something of a hidden secret, tucked away within Sanitary Tortilla Factory at 2nd & Coal. We sat down with Tami Abts, founder and owner of A Good Sign, who honed skills for 10-plus years at Kinkos and Valliant Printing before striking out solo.

q: Can you share a little bit about your business, and who you serve?

It’s important to note that A Good Sign doesn’t own any copiers or printers that print small format.

a: Our printers produce large format fine art (gicleé) reproductions and we also make posters, signs, stickers, and graphics, and we’re proud of print partnerships with local nonprofits like Harwood Art Center, Cardboard Playhouse, The Box, Tricklock Performance Space, Blackout Theatre, Children’s Choice, Working Classroom, as well as some great local artists like Travis Bruce Black, Wes Naman, Lea Anderson, Dorielle Caimi, Ren Adams, Megan Teeters, and Rachel Popowcer.

For all paper prints that are smaller than 16″x20″, we outsource to local (as much as possible) print shops. Our favorite is Ambitions Consulting (in first floor of the Hyatt building).  For anyone who formerly used Valliant Printing, these guys are the smoothest transition, and we highly recommend them for all copy shop needs, as well as Aspen Printing for press printing like brochures, programs, and postcards.

q: Can you share 2-3 recent projects that you had the most fun with?

a: We’ve had the pleasure of printing for the set of many film productions.  The amount of work we received from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, though, is super exciting to me because I am a big fan of both shows and the art department for both shows is top notch.  For this current season of Better Call Saul (airing now) they really amped up their use of us.  We had print requests for every episode so this season has been extra fun to watch and try to spot everything.  The final season of Breaking Bad was much like this for us, as well.

q: What’s changed in printing since you started, and what’s stayed the same?

a: Technology is constantly changing, of course, so the demand for certain services has been changing along with it. If we just start from the late nineties, Kinko’s, for example, used to be able to charge 40¢/minute for computer rental, 49¢ per black and white prints, and $14.95 “digital file charge” if you wanted to hand them your file on a floppy disk.  This obviously wouldn’t fly today because most people now have a personal computer and printer of some sort (which they probably got for free when they purchased their computer) so they are able to print their onesie twosies at home or at the office. Bands still print flyers, companies still need manuals printed, grandmas still make copies of newspaper articles about their loved ones (which is actually illegal, grandma). I think some local print shops still tend to do well due to their stellar customer service and their loyal customer base wanting to keep it local.

q: You’re at the corner of 2nd & Lead, right in the heart of Downtown…what are some of your favorite food/drink/sightseeing haunts in the area?

a: Having SideTrack Brewing and Zendo Coffee right next door is wonderful because so many of our friends hang out at both,  so we have a constant flow of fun folks popping their heads in or waving as they walk by the shop.  Josh and I can also be frequently spotted at both businesses.

I loooove Bar Uno for intimate hang outs or casual business meetings,  Sister Bar is also top notch for the same – and their food is incredible.  I also love the patio at  MÁS Tapas Restaurant in Hotel Andaluz, for when I’m feeling fancy.  The Box Performance Space on 2nd and Gold is one of my favorite venues for hilarious entertainment.  If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.  Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman) is a big supporter and has performed with their improv troupe “The Show” many times.  If you have yet to witness “The Show”, pleeease do yourself this favor.  Every Friday and Saturday night their performance is completely different and ridiculously smart and funny.

Visual Artist: Phil Torres – Concept Flux

We met with Phil Torres from Concept Flux over iced coffee at Zendo. We sat in the covered patio as he explained to us what it is like to be a visual artist and lead a modern creative agency in the Downtown area.

This is what he said:

q: Tell us a little about yourself and what motivates you professionally?

a: I am a Visual Artist, I like to experiment with mixed media, especially interconnecting high tech and the physical world. I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, I started editing VHS videos when I was in middle school and continued to pursue a career in 3D animation and design in college then transitioned back into filmmaking over the years.

What motivates me professionally is having an opportunity to tell a story in a compelling way while having a creative direction that is driving the narrative. I love experimenting with new ways of storytelling and video production. I think this is what makes our company very different from others in the market.

q: Tell us about your company Concept Flux.

a: This will be our second year as a company. We are a modern creative agency, the reason I like to call us that is because we are specifically focused on non-traditional media, online videos and content creation.

Modern in the way of implementing emerging technology like projection mapping and interactive installations, motion graphics and 3-D animation. We have an in-house production studio so we are agile with a lot smaller overhead than the usual advertising agencies, and we can turn around content fast, we are one of the fastest. Clients can talk directly to the production department so there isn’t a bureaucratic ladder to communicate your ideas.

We never took out any loans or have acquired investment, we grew organically and it was hard but we have hired a lot of people this year and we keep growing. We do experimental research for our projects. We tell our customers we are going to try something new like motion tracking, or touch interactive displays, and they are always happy to have us work our magic. We focus on the delivery, not just acquiring clients but creating content that makes our clients happy.

q: What is your favorite video that you have shot recently? And why?

a: It would be the video we produced with the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. We created a narrative around the question “What makes Albuquerque rich in the extraordinary?” We wanted it to be very authentic so that many demographics could really relate to it and not leave anybody out. We interviewed people (it wasn’t scripted by the way) then turned it into a stream of consciousness type of narrative. They are describing what is so rich and extraordinary about Albuquerque as we are intercutting back and forth between the people’s actions and stories. I feel like the video speaks volumes about the people in Albuquerque, when it is released, I am excited to hear the feedback, I think we nailed this one.

q: Tell us about your experience working in Downtown Albuquerque?

a: I like that there are pockets downtown that make you feel like you are no longer in Albuquerque, which is speaking about the diversity, not escapism. The art, murals and the interior design really define Downtown. I like the shift that I’ve seen in the past decade. Interiors are being painted by local artist and it makes it more vibrant. The art defines the look, and it is very friendly for filming, store owners are very friendly. Everyone has a camera Downtown, so the filming is constant, it has become the norm. I really like to come to Zendo, I used to do their social media promotions with photographs and videos. I really like coming back here, for the people and the noise, but I can get work done. It is inspiring and people are very friendly.

q: Tell us about these pockets.

a: I think it is about the way you frame it. It is important to intentionally compose the story, it is fun to find those spots. I am always looking for somewhere new to film. I like documenting downtown, like the We Are This City project “We Be,” we went to this iconic location on 4th and Central and we discovered a new way of producing a story about Albuquerque.

q: Tell us about the video you shot for the Downtown Growers’ Market.

a: It was fun! I used to go to the market every week, I miss being able to walk there and now I live nearby again so I look forward to going all the time again. It attracts a lot of incredible people, it is in a great central location. When they came to me I just wanted to make it fun and vibrant, but also very personal. We used segmented interviews with the idea of letting people just talk instead of trying to get them to hit points. Instead they revealed how they felt over time. We wanted to get the customers, the farmers, and the vendors, everyone in the video while producing a video to help donors see the amount of people that volunteer and what cause they are giving back to. The market brings in Millions of dollars for Farmers and vendors and they put a lot of time into it every week so I think it is very important for people to give back.

q: We love that video, it captured exactly how it feels to be at the market!

a: I think it’s important to capture the emotion, that is a big part of what we do. We want people to connect with our work either physically or emotionally. I like to create content that makes people feel emotions so strong that they feel like they are about to cry. When we see the final product and you have a sense of emotional connection. When we get that feeling and response, of true emotional connection, that is when I know we are doing what we were hired to do or even put on this earth to do!

Mural Artist: Pastel from Argentina

Pastel_Botanical Mural Project_Tower Building_in process

On Tuesday we met up with renowned mural artist Francisco Díaz (a.k.a. Pastel) to ask him about his work. It was a very sunny afternoon and we asked him questions while he painted on top of a scissor lift on the side of the Tower Building.

Here is our interview:

q: We’re blessed with many murals funded via public and private partnership in Downtown Albuquerque. Are there any in the area that caught your attention, and why?

a: My favorite is the train conductor, I specifically like that one because I find it very interesting, it feels like it is telling a story of the past of Albuquerque. I see it every day while walking to paint my mural. I love how it is right next to the train station.

q: We’re curious, what does mural art help you express?

a: The main reason why I paint murals is because it is a way to reactivate and improve these spaces, with my knowledge and love for architecture. It is a way to show the potential for a public space that sometimes is lost, and this cannot be found in any other mediums.

q: What was different about the work you did here from the work you have done in other cities?

a: Every mural is unique because I only include elements that can be recognized in each place and a color palette that allows dialog within the building and urban atmosphere. The art of painting a mural can be aggressive in a way, it is kind of like imposing the art on the city, I like to be very careful in how I do this.

q: How do you feel your two murals will contribute to the eco-system of the other murals that currently live in our Downtown?

a: I feel that the possibility to paint a mural and cooperate in some way to portray a way to improve the public space is always a positive. I try to take the history and elements that are already present in that place and I apply it to the paint, instead of bringing in something new.

q: You have been quoted saying that you work with “…symbolism of local flora and the pieces begin a dialogue about the nature of human beings and our surroundings.” Tell us more about why you chose the plants you did for Downtown Albuquerque.

a: I took botanical information from the flora that is in the area, and used it to translate the identity of the place. I was trying to use only elements that are going to fortify the identity of the place.

q: Please tell us how this reflects on the people and surroundings you have experienced here in this city.

a: I have had a very good time with the people of Albuquerque. I didn’t know what to expect and I am super happy with how positive my experience has been.There is a very cool vibe here!