And now, Victory Dance Creative

Fire Studio has been a side-project for me for several years. I recently wrapped up my term as president of the DC chapter of AIGA (professional association for design) and departed my full-time job as an in-house designer to run my own design practice full time. The name of that practice is Victory Dance Creative, or VDC. I will continue to design and print posters, in addition to a range of other services including branding, publication design, illustration, infographics, signage, and websites, among others. See VDC’s newly-launched site at

This site will remain online at least for a while, but updates will be put on VDC’s Facebook page for new posters and other updates.


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Here boy

Fresh ink for my friends, The Riverbreaks. I’ve put dogs in past posters but wanted to get it right here. Getting a dog’s bounding energy and posture right over a stark, solid tone. The color background is nearly pure, cut with little base. The white text is about 85% pure with just a little acrylic extender. I’ve found [the hard way] that pure white ink doesn’t stand up to rain very well. *Growl*

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Fire in Paper and Ink Workshop (Rockport)

Fire Studio is featured in a new book on handmade prints and printmaking, with particular emphasis on methods, processes, and our super-quirky studios. Thanks to author and designer John Foster of Bad People Good Things for including me. Available in paperback from major retailers including Amazon.

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What have I done for you lately?

The updates around here have slowed down lately. I’ve been busy! Busy with things other than posters. A few months ago I started my two-year term as the president of AIGA DC, our area’s chapter of the professional association for design. I’ve been serving on AIGA’s all-volunteer board for the past four years, first an event coordinator, programming director, DC Design Week chair, and vice president. I’m a huge supporter of the profession of design, and love design events—and love working with my comrades on the AIGA DC board. But the pulse of Fire Studio will slow a bit in the coming months. Slow, but not stop! If you’re a designer or work in a creative field, I encourage you to see what we have to offer at

Recent Fire work. I did the cover of Barrelhouse issue 9, and they came back to me for issue 12. Not just the cover, but the entire publication redesign and layout. It’s been fun. I recruited illustrator Beatrice Davies to provide the interior illustrations. I’ll document the project on this site when it’s finished and printed.

This Saturday I’m giving an expanded edition of my workshop on screenprinting with found materials (“found” meaning anything from instant coffee to beet juice to Kool-Aid) at Arlington Art Center. As of this writing, seats are still available. I’m also once again holding down a couple tables at Crafty Bastards, which will be two days this year at Union Market in DC, September 28 and 29. Information and advance tickets for $5 can be purchased here. Also, Pleasant Plains Workshop (where I’m a res. artist) is excited to have a booth at (e)merge art fair in DC, October 3–6.

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Black Whiskey

Sometimes I know when there will be a very short distance between the time the design is approved and when the prints are due. In cases like this, the prints are designed in such a way that printing can happen very quickly, as in the case of this “two-color” screenprint for the newly-opened Black Whiskey venue/bar/restaurant on 14th Street. Two-color is in quotes because the first of the two colors is actually a very dirty blend of three colors printed all at once, lapped over by black to form the text and images.

Black Whiskey has an active booking schedule for art and performances, and will hopefully be on 14th for a long time. As you might expect, they also boast a huge selection of whiskey.

Screenprinted, two colors, edition of 80.

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I’m only happy when it rains ink

Couldn’t resist the title. It’s appropriate title given that this poster is a flood of dark grey covered with a near-flood of black. Why didn’t you just print on black paper? It ain’t the same. You don’t get the same image depth or velvety deep, deep black that you would get with ink.

I’ve loved Garbage since I was in high school in the 90s. Developing imagery for some posters is difficult, for this one it wasn’t. I actually spent some hours making a much more elaborate bouquet and patterns in the background and ultimately came back to this earlier, simpler “proof-of-concept” version. Silkscreen, four colors, 25″ x 15″.

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Ink & wax

After having designed The Riverbreaks’ CD last summer, they came back with plans for a vinyl release. I’d been wanting to do a record cover for years. After much fist pumping, I agreed to not only design the record, but to also screenprint the entire run rather than take it to an outside printer. I also ran a poster edition in support of the release show. For each of the covers, I used a freehand method of making color bands using silkscreen ink pickup up with a relief printing brayer. The story is better told through a video clip.   I broke printing that layer into 5 sessions on different nights, still the repetition resulted in temporary numbness and tingling my left hand.

Covers: edition of 300, three colors on the front, black text on the reverse. Uncoated, pre-converted kraft paperboard with two color inner labels. Posters: edition of 80, four colors, all using the same screen stencil in a staggered step-and-repeat.

Not only are the Riverbreaks good people, they’re damn fine musicians. Wildfire on vinyl is available at Som Records, Crooked Beat, and Red Onion in DC, and at their live shows. Listen to and buy their music online at Bandcamp or on iTunes.

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Of blueberries and burnt toast

In January I gave another workshop through Knowledge Commons DC, a free school that covers nearly any topic you can imagine. This one discussed how to drawing and painting supplies from alternative materials. Mostly food and other readily-available organic materials.

Having taken a crash-course in ink making at Pyramid Atlantic some weeks before, I new the basics of pigment-collection and stabilization, but ended up doing a number of experiments prior to the class. Some materials worked surprisingly well, others were utter failures. I ground some very burnt toast with using a mortar & pestle and blended it with a linseed oil-based relief printing medium. The particles in the ink were still to large to allow a clean relief print, but if applied densely enough would yield a very gritty, textured woodblock or cut-foam print. I boiled down a few pounds of spinach juice, which turned brown-black after being exposed to air for a couple days. I had difficulty concentrating tea and kool-aid enough to produce a true ink from it. However, instant coffee makes a very warm, solid tone. Not archival due to its acid content, of course. Boiled-down blueberries make a great violet hue, which turns bluer as it dries and has great transparency. I blended coffee and blueberry pigments with off-the-shelf potato starch (pictured in the print below). Squid ink is also a great natural tone. It gives a smooth, very neutral grey. Doesn’t lean warm or greenish/bluish.

In the workshop, we covered different materials from which to make pigment, and which methods to use. Students made their own prints using blueberry and coffee inks.

If you’re wondering, blueberry ink is delicious. Made with a natural binder of course.

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Animals are coming

This coming Saturday (March 23). Pleasant Plains Workshop is hosting a solo show of my brother Josh Dihle’s work. It will also feature a small collaborative animal-based project (snippet above) that’s currently in progress. Our first collab since many sidewalk chalk drawings. See the Facebook event page for details.

Big thanks to everyone who gave in PPW’s expansion fundraising efforts. We topped $7,000 through our Indiegogo campaign and about $2,000 more through our taco party. I’ve officially moved my studio space next door to 2606 Georgia Avenue—so now PPW “one” is a lil bigger for shows.

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Exodus indeed

As you may know, Fire Studio lives within a shared space known as Pleasant Plains Workshop. We’re growing! Fire and PPW are moving into the former Soul Vegetarian’s Exodus restaurant space next door. It’s exciting but we’ve got work to do. The washout sink and exposure unit will be in the former kitchen. To raise some capital for the studio transformation, we’re holding an Indiegogo campaign (click here). If you donate $250, I will design and print an edition of posters for an event or occasion of your choosing (limited to one donor—see other perks).

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