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Friends since their teens, Dan Padavic (right) and Tad Carpenter (now 30 and 29, respectively) began making posters together in 2005, printing overnight in the back of an auto-mechanic shop. "We started small, and it just kind of snowballed," Padavic says. The company's name is a corruption of the Old Norse "Valhalla," a destination, or hall, for dead soldiers. Padavic has always liked the word; both men think it's smoother without the extra l.
Early on, MySpace Secret Shows tapped Vahalla for work, adding to the studio's list of high-profile clients. Landing the 3,800-square-foot warehouse space at 2111 Washington has allowed Padavic and Carpenter to centralize and showcase their operation, which includes three employees, and letterpress and silkscreen capabilities. And though it's best known for rock posters, Vahalla's expanding product line includes buttons, mugs, paper goods and clothing.
As a design instructor for the University of Kansas, Carpenter regularly brings students to his shop for hands-on experience. "Between Dan and I — from a design standpoint to a production standpoint — we do everything in-house," he says.
Internationally connected, the Vahalla guys respect their local roots and the low cost of living near their native Shawnee, Kansas. They also truly believe in the potential of Kansas City's artistic community. Carpenter, who independently has done illustration and design for such companies as Target and Hallmark, provided the official artwork for the recent Kansas City Design Week, which highlighted the work of local artists. "The people we know here are doing stuff," Padavic says.
Vahalla's gallery room opened to the public for the first time this past October. Padavic and Carpenter want to use the space to expose Kansas City to more local and national screen-printing talent. "The nice thing about screen-printed art is that it's affordable," Padavic says. "You can buy a screen-printed poster for $25, as opposed to $9,000 for a painting."
Vahalla sells its printed goods all over the world, through the Internet and at festivals in such cities as Chicago, Seattle and Berlin. The busy season begins with driving a U-Haul full of their creations to South By Southwest. A week before the Austin event, Padavic pointed to a stack of 500 rock posters destined for the legendary music festival's Flatstock exhibition. On this day, he wore a steel-gray work shirt embroidered with the name "Jim." The shirt resembled a mechanic's uniform except for the tentacles of a sea creature reaching around his rib cage.
It could have been a metaphor for Vahalla Studios, a business operated by two workmanlike artists with fantastic vision.
-- By Crystal K. Wiebe