Dave Anderson sifts through his silk screens. Laying underneath a vinyl record image, he pulls out one that says “Circle City”. He places it on his screen printing machine, and then opens a jar of black ink. He lays a t-shirt on the machine, positions the Circle City screen, and scoops on a glob of ink.
Within a couple minutes he holds a ready-to-wear Circle City shirt in his hands.
Dave and his wife Sarah are the owners of On the Cusp, a screen printing company based in Indianapolis.
Dave remembers the exact date he saw Sarah for the first time. August 17, 2001. She was outside of a dining hall on Vincennes University’s campus and he immediately wanted to meet her. A few days later, on the first day of class, the two ran into each other while they were both looking for the art annex.
From there, they became best friends, and have been inseparable ever since.
Though Dave and Sarah worked in different mediums throughout college at both Vincennes and later, Herron School of Art and Design, they weren’t introduced to screen printing until 2014. By that point they had a daughter, Charlotte, who was four at the time. They were experiencing a newfound pride in Indianapolis and wanted to contribute to the community, so they signed up to be in the Indiana Love Show. The idea of the show was to create and sell Indiana-centric art.
They recruited some of their artist friends to sign up as well, but Dave was left with a question: “Well, what the hell are we going to make?” He had taken a letterpress printmaking class and fell in love with it, his grandfather used to be a pressman, and Sarah’s brother had bought them a speedball screen printing kit for Christmas. All the dots suddenly connected and he knew that they should make screen printed posters and t-shirts.
Dave started watching video tutorials and taught himself how to screen print. Eventually he felt confident enough in the quality of his work to start selling what he and Sarah were designing to the general public.
Sarah didn’t even care if they didn’t sell anything at the art show. She was more interested in spreading the vibe of Indianapolis pride. To both Sarah and Dave’s surprise, they saw a huge success in selling their prints and sold out of almost everything.
The day after the show, the two reached out to Silver in the City, and from there On the Cusp was born.
The meaning behind the name “On the Cusp” is threefold—technological, generational, and astrological. Dave’s birthday is September 21 and Sarah’s September 23, so astrologically they are on the cusp of Virgo and Libra. Though their birthdays are only a couple days apart, Dave was born a year before Sarah, in 1981, the last year of Generation X. Which means Sarah was born in the first year of Millennials, so they are on the cusp of a generational divide. Finally, Sarah and Dave use analog and digital practices in their design processes, which puts them on the cusp between the digital era and a simpler time.
On the Cusp began and remains as a side gig to Sarah and Dave’s day jobs as exhibit designers in history museums. As young parents with jobs, balancing a new business took work. Dave and Sarah spent long nights in studios and wherever they went, their daughter went with them.
“You know how some kids are military brats?” Sarah says. “Charlotte’s totally a studio brat.”
Charlotte is no stranger to an art studio and has been attending First Friday since she was an infant. At four years old, Charlotte was old enough to understand what was happening when her parents started On the Cusp. Sarah says when Dave started screen printing, Charlotte got excited about every new design. And she still does. She is her parents’ biggest supporter.
“I think it’s important for her to see what it’s like to be in a career where you use your hands, you really work, you’re trying to grow something, and you get to see this big result,” Sarah says. “And it’s important for children to watch their parents start a new business and struggle.”
Charlotte even helps out with the business by doing little side jobs like creating labels to organize the posters Sarah and Dave create. She won’t be her parents’ only helper for long. The Andersons welcomed a baby boy, Grant, to their family in May 2017.
Dave and Sarah don’t think Grant will have the same experience growing up that Charlotte did because they say there is a huge difference between having a child in their 20s vs. their 30s. They are more established now, and they aren’t facing the same struggles they did in the past. Though they don’t think he’ll get quite the same experience, Sarah and Dave do plan on filling Grant’s life with art and creativity.
The Andersons used to work out of The Stutz Business and Arts Center, and though they loved the building, they realized it wasn’t the best option for them because they didn’t see as much foot traffic as they would have liked. So, the family relocated into a new house in which they converted the basement into a studio. On the Cusp operates out of the Andersons’ home in Indy, and they interact with customers through pop-up shops.
On their website, Dave and Sarah write, “The cusp is not a clear line, rather a beautifully imperfect, rocky and scattered edge.” And this perfectly sums up their life and their experiences.
“Life is just like that,” Sarah says. “It’s going to be messy; it’s going to be really hard. But you’re not going to appreciate the more beautiful things in life without experiencing that rocky rough edge.”
Having their studio in their basement is convenient, but it also sometimes blurs the line between home and work life. Sarah says this isn’t necessarily a bad thing though because art is such an integral part of their life; there is no real separation.