When Joe Horacek sees someone wearing one of his hand-printed shirts he oftentimes just smiles and nods. If the opportunity presents itself he might ask about the shirt to see what the wearer says, but he’s not fishing for a certain response.
He’d rather lay low, make his art and share it with others, that’s really what his story is about – sharing art.
The soulful melody of Louis Armstrong plays in the background of the little house turned print shop. Tucked between a few other local storefronts on the corner of 33rd and A streets, Little Mountain Print Shoppe is Joe’s own little cabin on the mountain. It’s where his sketches and designs make their debut in the form of shirts and sweatshirts.
Joe is humble and soft-spoken about his shop. One day he’s printing shirts for Sanborn Canoe Company in Minnesota, the next he’s working on a custom local order or doing the bills, but in some ways screen printing is just a front.
For Joe, having a shop allows him to continue to create and design while having a tangible way to see his art come to life.
He opened Little Mountain back in 2011 after working at a screen printing shop in Iowa where he sat behind a desk every day. It exhausted him without ever tapping into his artistic roots, so he knew Little Mountain had to be different.
After buying his first screen printing press there was a lot of trial-and-error work. It was often one step forward and two-steps back during that first year, but it’s how he honed his craft. Joe said he also spent a lot of time learning and researching the best materials for making his screens and ink. Even the angle, speed and pressure he applies to his squeegee is an intentional part of his printing.
But all of those pieces circle back to Joe’s desire to simply create art that matters. He draws inspiration from nature, viewing it as one big garden from which he can create. He loves mountains, because they’re part of nature, but also part of his name.
In Czech, Horacek translates to ‘little mountain’ and Joe said when he learned that he knew it needed to be the name for his shop. It’s his way of paying homage to his family roots – his artistic father who helped him build the racks where his shirts are displayed, his accountant mother who taught him the finer points of QuickBooks and his brother and sister who support his business by simply wearing his designs.
Little Mountain is bigger than just Joe. It’s bigger than screen printing, and that’s the way Joe wants to keep it.