Ben Chlapek is a graphic artist and musician located in Chicago. Originally from Kansas City, Ben studied design at the University of Missouri in Columbia and works under the name Never Sleeping for his visual work. A prolific musician, he plays in several projects. I was extremely happy to work with Ben when creating the imagery for Glassworks, and recently cornered him at a bar to ask him a few questions.
When did you realize that you wanted to turn your creativity into a professional venture, and how did you start doing that?
I started doing freelance design while I was still in college for graphic design. It was 2006, and I was making concert posters and other weird prints and cards, and people seemed interested, so I just never stopped. It’s always been a full time gig, whether I had a part time job or not. Sort of an obsession. I guess when I’m making work I feel the most like myself, if that makes sense.
Lookout - Art print. Three color screen print. 2017
Are there any projects you’ve worked on for bands that stand out to you?
That’s a good question. I did one for Handsome Furs, do you remember that band? That was a really fun one. It was the first time I drew a city made up of a bunch of overlapping buildings. When they saw the posters at the venue, they loved them because when people asked them to sign them, they were able to draw all over them. They added clotheslines, smoke coming out of smokestacks, etc. Sharon Van Etten was another one. I just tagged her in a picture I posted on instagram and said “I want to make a poster for you!” She responded, giving me her email to discuss! I got to do one when she played Thalia Hall. She was a total sweetheart. I got to watch them soundcheck when I delivered the posters, and it was amazing.
Sharon Van Etten - Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL. 2014
What prompted you to move to Chicago?
I started dating my fiancé, Kristan, in Missouri, where I had lived my whole life. She went to undergrad in Chicago and expressed interest about moving back here and I jumped at the chance. It’s daunting sometimes, but there’s a lot of cool stuff happening all around and I mostly love it.
You’ve also played music in a variety of projects, what are you currently involved in?
Currently involved in several. I’m always playing solo, now under the name Dousing, and I’m usually playing with Matt Christensen and co. (Zelienople, Good Stuff House). I co-run the tape label Dismal Niche and play with my old band Nevada Greene (based in Columbia, MO) when I can. I recently started jamming with Matthew Sage who runs the label Patient Sounds. Excited to see where that goes and play a show with him.
Tell me more about Dismal Niche.
Dismal Niche is a tape label I’ve been running since 2013 with my buddy Matt Crook (apparently I only work with Matts) and we put out editions of 100 or so cassettes of smaller, experimental bands. We also have a festival every year at the beginning of October, in Columbia. We try to bring a bunch of experimental music there, because it’s a part of the country that doesn’t get a lot of that otherwise. We’ve brought people like Kath Bloom, Laraaji, Zelienople. We try to keep it a rounded, weird bill of experimental people of all genres. Recently, we’ve been trying to rent out alternative venues like the Stephen’s College Chapel and have shows at spaces that aren’t bars. A quiet, different experience.
What inspired the imagery you’ve created so far for Glassworks?
I think we were looking into occult stuff for quite awhile, but didn’t want to make it too overt. Mostly tried to make the visuals a little mysterious and different than the usual coffee packaging, inspired by older styles of illustrations and everything that goes into making and growing coffee.
How big of a role does Coffee play in your life?
Coffee plays quite a role. Definitely need a cup or two every day, but I try not to go too much beyond that. I think as a freelancer you have to really hit the ground running in the morning or you risk wasting your day, and coffee has become one of the only constants/routines I have that makes me feel somewhat normal. Also, it’s good for you!
What is your preferred brewing method?
More often than not, I just use a Chemex. I like that you really get the flavor of the coffee and get the subtleties. I also have a Toddy for cold brew that I use as well.
Chemex, photo by Kristan Lieb