A midcentury chair reupholstered in a Tranqui Prints custom fabric.
A midcentury chair reupholstered in a Tranqui Prints custom fabric.
Courtesy of Tranqui Prints

Tranqui Prints Studio to Offer Workshop, Resources for Local Artists and Makers

If Miami were a canvas, Nick Mahshie would be its painter.

The locally born artist has always been inspired by his lush surroundings. As a teenager growing up in Westchester, his paintings were a reflection of his surroundings, and they were always filled with brilliant color. "Bird Road tire shops, palm trees, lizards, cleavage — it was always about Miami," Mahshie says.

Even after he left his hometown, first to attend Rhode Island School of Design and later to Buenos Aires, Mahshie maintained his tropicalia aesthetic. As a performance artist known as Tranqui Yanqui — a play on the Latin word tranquilo and the Argentine version of gringo — Mahshie frequently constructed immersive installations that including a bevy of locals donning Tranqui Yanqui's signature look: verdant tropical landscapes and kitsch iconography painted onto cardboard and fashioned into clothes. In a city that's famous for its melancholic tangos and moody disposition, Mahshie was a beacon of neon light.

His alter ego preceded him, and the name stuck. After leaving Buenos Aires to attend grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Mahshie decided his venerable Tranqui brand would have a home in Miami. Within the scene of his childhood inspiration, Tranqui Prints was born — and the impetus behind its sustainable, community-oriented growth is a direct response to his hometown pride.

A shot from one of Tranqui Yanqui's performative installations in Buenos Aires.
A shot from one of Tranqui Yanqui's performative installations in Buenos Aires.
Photo by Eugenia Kais

Tranqui Prints' textile designs are handmade by Mahshie at a screen-printing studio offering custom textiles for an array of design-oriented projects. Screen-printing by hand, a technique that was popularized by Andy Warhol but fell out of popularity with the rise of machine printing, is a complex process. Mahshie creates each textile in his seasonal lines one by one in his studio at the Fountainhead in Little River.

His vision for the brand, both as a commercial venture and a community-oriented project, draws on Miami's complicated relationship with its own growth. Upon his return to the Magic City after nearly 15 years, Mahshie was awed by its evolution and disturbed to find that gentrification was rapidly consuming the city's most impoverished historic neighborhoods.

"How does one act when you feel like in some ways you're part of the problem? I didn't grow up in Little Haiti, and now I want to buy here and live here and start a business here," he says. "But then again, you look at developers and you think, My values are different. How do I participate in the community and respect people who have been there for a long time without forcing change on the neighborhood? If somehow I can use my business ethics to demonstrate that this is important, perhaps that will be a cue for others to do the same."

Mahshie set out to engage local business owners and artists to share resources and benefit financially from one another's endeavors. For Tranqui Prints, he is working exclusively with Little Haiti business owners to source fabrics and execute his smaller design projects, such as pocketbooks, shorts, and home accessories.

Tranqui Prints works primarily with Little Haiti's Bortan Fabrics, where G. Apollon frequently counsels Mahshie on his selections. His tailor, François Arsene, has worked alongside the owner of Virgil's Tuxedo, another Little Haiti establishment, for more than 30 years. "I knew I wanted to find some people that had these skill sets that were close to me here where I'm living," he says. "I found François and Apollon and immediately established a rapport, and I thought, This is how a community should function. I shouldn't have to go to big-box stores when I can literally bike to Bortan and Virgil's and keep community business alive."

On the surface, these are small, practical steps. But in light of the recent events stirring up the local Haitian community, a micro-act such as this one could have a widespread impact if other business owners follow suit. Little Haiti is experiencing rampant construction and inflated real-estate prices. The death of local artist and gallerist Edward Daleus was recently decried in the Miami Herald as perhaps directly correlated to his ouster by a landlord. And Trump's disparagement of Haiti as a "shithole" country and his decree to deport thousands of Haitians has shaken the community.

Tranqui Prints offers its accessories line at pop-up shops across Miami. Follow @tranquiprints on Instagram to learn more.
Tranqui Prints offers its accessories line at pop-up shops across Miami. Follow @tranquiprints on Instagram to learn more.
Courtesy of Tranqui Prints

The fact that Miami organizations tend to support artists with a certain pedigree while shunning lesser-known makers lacking influence is not lost on Mahshie. He suggests local artists should be conscious of that reality when building their own creative businesses. "People should shop locally, and we should support those people and be able to survive off their trade," he says. "How can other creatives who have influence set a precedent? They can make conscious decisions about who they work with."

His goal is to create a funnel in which his success with Tranqui Prints directly supports Bortan Fabrics and Virgil's Tuxedo. "One thing I've been thinking about is offering my fabrics for sale at Bortan. I would drive people to his retail location, and they'd support him and buy from him."

As a community-oriented venture specializing in elevating all artists and makers, Tranqui Prints hopes to also engage local artists interested in using Mahshie's equipment and space for their own screen-printing projects.

"This is a really accessible medium," he says. "This technique, which had a moment long ago, can be incorporated into anyone's practice. I really want to open up my space to other artists so they can open up a practice geared toward textiles or fashion."

Rather than spend upward of $700 per month for studio space, Tranqui Prints would allow artists to rent space within his studio based on the time frame that their schedule demands. The studio would be membership-based, so artists "can just use what they need," he says.

Mahshie is scouting locations and is working with a local landowner who's considering converting the space into artists' studios. He plans to open Tranqui Prints' community studio by the summer. Meanwhile, he's busy dreaming up his next line: a kaleidoscopic jungle of Florida hues that reflect where his heart truly lies.

For more information about Tranqui Prints, visit facebook.com/tranquiprints.

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