It’s 8 p.m., and Freddy Jimenez is taking a break from working on a project for local artist Cristopher Cichocki to practice playing drums—before checking Instagram regarding details for his next project.
At the age of 28, Jimenez is finally the self-sustaining artist he set out to become. The path was not easy, but his dedication to technique, artistry and community has sustained him and made him into a driving force in everything he does.
Jimenez is a simple guy: He wears plain black clothes; he has short hair and no visible tattoos; he doesn’t drink or smoke. Thanks to his passion for art and love of community, Jimenez has managed to create a name for himself by producing both high-quality art and events, collaborating with numerous local artists, musicians and designers along the way.
His company, Blue Hill Studios, is a homegrown operation, started out of his parents’ house in Coachella. His parents supported his desire to print shirts, but they initially didn’t see it as more than a hobby—because they didn’t really understand the work that goes into producing shirts. However, they’d soon learn.
“The screen-print dryers I was using were too powerful for my parents’ house. I could have blown out the fuses. I had to get generators for the dryers,” Jimenez said with a laugh. “The process was so loud, too. I don’t know why my neighbors never said anything for, like, two to three years.”
Today, Jimenez operates full-time out of a studio in downtown Indio, which celebrated its grand opening in March 2018. It’s adjacent to the Indio Performing Arts Center, the city’s artistic center; down the street from iconic Mexican-food restaurant Rincon Norteño; and a hop, skip and a jump from Club 5, Indio’s newest community-minded dive bar.
Jimenez comes from a musical background. He’s played music his entire life; his first instrument was the flute, then the trumpet, followed by bass guitar. His uncle and dad played music, and so did his brother, playing in a local cover band doing romanticas—a genre of Spanish adult-contemporary love songs.
“Seeing my family play music was my first inspiration, but I started going to local house shows in sixth- or seventh-grade with my friends Joseph and Michael Torres,” Jimenez said. “We would go to death-metal shows, which inspired me to play guitar. My brother had a drum set, though, and that’s how I picked up the drums. From there, I started bands here and there, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started a band called A Curious Case, which was an indie-dance band. That band lasted two years; then I started Tribesmen.”
Behind the drum kit with Tribesmen—an instrumental, post-rock band—Jimenez has played many shows in the Coachella Valley and beyond, including the Tachevah festival in Palm Springs.
The late ’00s—as he was graduating high school and shortly thereafter—were a particularly creative time for Jimenez, as he started both doing shows and doing screen-printing. He started screen-printing using a small Yudu machine, but his practice expanded once he got a full-sized manual screen press. However, it wasn’t easy.
“It was so much harder to use the press, learning to make screens; I kind of underestimated it,” Jimenez said. “I was going to sell the press, but the guy I bought it from, Sam Orozco, told me not to sell it. He had moved out of town (which was why he sold the press); he promised to come down to teach me how to work it. But he died a week later, and he never showed me.”
Jimenez kept the press out of respect for Orozco and his wishes, and committed himself to mastering it. He learned mostly through trial and error.
“I fucked up a shit ton of shirts. Prints, too,” he said.
Today, however, Jimenez knows what he’s doing, and he has steady work, thanks to a good reputation, mostly through word of mouth. He’s printed shirts for many local businesses and organizations, including Fresh Juice Bar, Palm Springs CrossFit, Raices Cultura and Cactus Tattoo, among others. He’s also made items for local bands such as Pathos, Plastic Ruby and Black Market Jazz, as well as his frequent collaborator, the Coachella-based artist and illustrator ANTA.
Learning how to produce serigraph prints, the hand-made prints made popular by Andy Warhol and Shepard Fairey, proved to be his most challenging yet most rewarding artistic pursuit.
“Printing serigraphs is different from a shirt. It’s a lot harder. It takes up so much time,” Jimenez said. “Everything must be aligned perfectly. That’s why nobody really does this kind of print. It’s also expensive, but it does result in a certain quality and unique effects that cannot be achieved with digital prints.”
Jimenez endures, however, in part because of his love for the eastern Coachella Valley and the local artistic community. He employs the serigraph technique to produce instantly recognizable show posters for the music events he produces.
The name Blue Hill Studios came to him one day as he was driving home.
“Blue Hill signifies the east valley to me. As the sun was setting one day, I looked at the mountains, and they looked blue to me,” he said. “I immediately thought Blue Hill Studios would be a great name for my production company.”
Jimenez has ambitions to also create a full recording studio and record label, along with the printing studio. Jimenez said he has engineered recording sessions with many local bands, including Ocho Ojos, CIVX, Kayves, and Venus and the Traps. However, the printing aspect has taken off much faster, though Jimenez is still collecting gear and improving his recording techniques.
Collaborating with other artists and having the means to make products is the most rewarding part of Jimenez’s work, he said.
“All my friends are artists and are really supportive,” he said. “That’s the reason I keep doing this. They give me work to do. I’m lucky to be part of this scene. Blue Hill also gets a lot of respect, because what we do is seen as more of a craft.”
In a sense, Blue Hill Studios is sort of a miniature, local equivalent of Warhol’s Factory. Jimenez has collaborated with many well-known artists, including Armando Lerma/The Date Farmers, Albert Reyes, Cat Cult and Tommii Lim, among others.
In his early days as a printer, Jimenez admits that he tried to rush jobs and move quickly between orders. Now that he is more successful, he takes things slower, and he gets to be more selective about the jobs he takes on. His next step would be to perhaps hire an employee.
“But I don’t want to get too commercial. I don’t want to be just another print shop,” he said. “Taking my time and putting out good work is always the most important thing for me.”
Immediately after our interview, Jimenez went back to playing the drums and working on shirts. When you’re your own boss, the work doesn’t stop … unless you want it to.