Groovy Shop Gallery in Girona can do just about anything with your t-shirt
Joan Massaguer is the owner and head designer of Groovy Shop Gallery in Girona. His passion for art and love for music came together when he began to design t-shirts out of his home. Now Joan runs a successful business in a region struggling to stay afloat in the complex political and economical climate in Spain.
Girona is one of the hidden gems of Catalonia. With just under 100.000 inhabitants it is a relatively small city. The city is know for its impressive architecture, the beautiful cathedral and its small tortuous streets formed the setting of Game of Thrones’ city of Braavos in the sixth season of HBO’s most popular series.
In the heart of the city, just across the Onyar river you find Groovy Shop Gallery. A small shop which sells exclusive designs and prints for t-shirts, shoes, bags and more. The store is exemplary for the creative vibe in the city.
The project began in Joan’s own home where he designed and printed t-shirts on a small scale: “One computer, one printer and one heat press,” is how the designer describes these early years. But selling his designs to other stores wasn’t bringing in enough money to set up a serious business. “I needed another way to keep going.” And that’s when Joan decided to set up the shop.
“The idea was: ‘you design your own t-shirt, and we print it’. We wanted original and different designs that were not around when we started.” Now, four years later, Joan receives customers from all over Catalonia. “Of course we get a lot of tourists, but also have many local customers and people from nearby towns and cities, even from Barcelona.”
The gallery space upstairs never really worked out, so it soon became a workshop. Here Joan works on his designs, and it is the home of Groovy’s very own heat press. If you want one of the store’s designs printed on a different model, colour or size shirt, he’ll print it for you. People are still invited to bring their own designs or ideas to Groovy Shop Gallery, but most customers come in for the designs made by Joan and his son who’s just as creative as his old man.
‘We don’t have even a decent record shop anymore
and this embarrasses me to dead.’
“Music is my main inspiration”, says the creative force behind Groovy Shop Gallery. Many of his designs are inspired by legends like Bob Marley, Miles Davis and The Beatles. Joan is sad to see that, opposed to what you might expect from such an inspiring city, he is one of the few creative entrepreneurs left in Girona. “We don’t have even a decent record shop anymore and this embarrasses me to death.” – Story continues below ⇓
The lack of local entrepreneurs is in part due to the economic situation in Spain, and in Catalonia in particular. A situation Joan has a very strong view on. He explains that one of the most important reasons behind Catalonia’s struggle for independence is the narrow mined and unfair way that the Spanish government treat their own people. Joan finds his government to be very corrupt: “Even the royal family are thieves!!! Can you imagine living in a place like this? No, we [the people of Catalonia] don’t want to be part of that. Of course we’ve got our own corrupted people here in Catalonia, like many other countries do, but the Spanish level is very difficult to achieve.” It also appears that the Spanish government is very reluctant towards new initiatives and ideas to solve the difficult situation the country has been in for years now: “They just say ‘no’ to everything you propose them, it’s ridiculous but is the way it is. It’s like talking to a baby: ‘no, no, no, and no’. If it were not so serious it would be to laugh”.
“And that’s how a t shirt comes alive. You can do that with everything… Almost.”
However Joan is hesitant about intertwining business and politics: “I think I have to separate my political opinion not from my work, but from the shop. It is a very dangerous thin line I think I should not cross, because of the different interpretations such work could have.”
However, sometimes irony is a good way for Joan to criticize something. And some of these ironic designs are found in the store. – Story continues below ⇓
“This shirt says: ‘KÜSBOMBIN’ which means ‘piss off’ or ‘fuck you’, but in a very soft way. In Catalan it rather means ‘leave us alone’ or ‘go away’.” He combined this phrase with the year 1714. “This was the year that Catalonia was conquered by the Spanish after a very bloody war.” Joan knows such a statement might offend people, and thus he employs irony to soften the message by shaping the phrase and year like the internationally famous and very commercial Heineken logo. “And that’s how a t-shirt comes alive. You can do that with everything… Almost.”
Besides his own designs and those made by his son and other local artists, Joan also sells other pop-culture based prints and products. It is the strong combination of bought and original designs that made Groovy Shop Gallery grow out to be a beautiful creative hub that resists all narrow mindedness that Catalonia and Joan himself have faced over the years.
In the end Joan get’s his inspiration “from nearly everything. Photos, album covers, song lyrics, posters… ”. The store is a Walhalla for fans of music, series, political irony, movies and even those captured by the latest Pokémon craze. Because for Joan: “anything can be used, if it gives you a picture that defines the idea you want to convey.”