Inside Punk Rock Fish Studio in Berlin—Creativity, Integrity and Expression Through Art
Pushing the envelope in a small town is what Punk Rock Fish Studio strives for.
Punk Rock Fish Studio is located in Berlin, Md., a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, boasting of the arts and local business. Although located in Berlin now, Punk Rock Fish Studio once inhabited West Ocean City, Md.
Stephanie Karn and Matt Dove, owners of Punk Rock Fish Studio, met through work several years ago. Dove was running the studio’s previous Route 611 location, offering retail, kids events and more, when he met Karn.
“We met through the ‘Kids Days’ event held at the studio,” Karn says. “I brought my two kids to paint skateboard decks, Matt had his daughter there and we hit it off right away, talking about kids, artwork… it went very naturally from there. It’s always been easy with Matt and I.”
Karn grew up in Fredrick and Dove in Baltimore, but the two have spent more than half of their lives in Ocean City. Karn and Dove have similar backgrounds when it comes to art, both being surrounded by creativity thier entire lives.
“The most important factor for me is the support of my family,” Karn says. “I grew up with my grandfather as a cabinet maker as well my father built furniture on the side… I was submersed in that environment.”
In college, Karn studied interior design, painted on the side and always acted with creativity. Dove has a similar backstory.
“My mom can pretty much do everything— a seamstress, crafter, was a painter,” Dove says. “My father was a builder, my brother is really creative and same with my grandmother…my grandmother and grandfather had integral parts in my upbringing, along with a couple of really good teachers in high school that recognized my interest and were really good at nurturing creativity.”
Dove says his teachers pushed him to develop and gave him confidence. In addition to education, Dove is a professional skateboarder, saying skateboarding is as creative as you can get, claiming it was one of the best schools you can go to.
Punk Rock Fish Studio is in its sixth year of business and currently sits in the couple’s Berlin backyard. Although they don’t sell retail there, it’s a working studio and people are always welcome to come by with some advance notice. The dynamic duo decided to collaborate on the effort, making them ‘all artwork, all the time.’
“We are constantly creating,” Karn says. “It’s nice to bring it home to our children, they just get to hangout and be around it all the time.”
Dove says the two of them are ‘continuing the creative thinking mind set’ with their children and hopefully giving them a step up in the creative process in the beginning if they choose to follow that path.
Punk Rock Fish Studio offers a variety of artwork, ranging from rings and ring boxes, bracelets, necklaces, paintings and furniture.
The studio’s rings use 100 percent recycled materials and are the only rings in existence that use every part of a skateboard, trucks, wheels and deck.
“If the rings are just wood, they will wear out or crush, and can absorb water,” Dove says. “Our rings are reinforced with metal from [skateboard] trucks. Everything is healed completely and the construction makes them much more durable and longer lasting.”
When it comes to paintings, the two mostly use acrylic and spray paint on recycled products. Karn likes to use concrete and copper, while Dove enjoys using fabric but both of them will experiment with any background or medium available. The artwork is then framed using recycled wood from places on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“With all of our artwork and everything we do we try to salvage as much material as possible,” Karn says.
In addition to jewelry and paintings, the couple builds furniture. Karn says their commissioned furniture pieces are functional art pieces. Karn and Dove create tables, chairs and more, claiming they are like not like what you typically see in the area.
“People will contact us to do something for a business or a home and the best feeling in the world is when we ask what they want and people say we trust you, just build something,” Dove says.
The name Punk Rock Fish Studio developed from Dove’s love of fishing and the surf/skate culture driven by its coastal location. With all of the Rockfish in the area, and punk rock [fish] referring to ‘going against the grain or not swimming with the standard direction of the masses or school of fish.’
Dove says the studio’s artwork is a surf and skate culture mixed with Eastern Shore culture in an effort to broaden the spectrum of what locals would normally see.
“We tend to push the envelope,” Dove says. “Sometimes it fits [into Berlin] but most of the time, it doesn’t. We do a couple production projects, like the rings, but we refuse to make a metal ring that looks like something you would see in a jewelry store. We are trying to progress what people think of as artwork in the area. We’re not quite there yet.”
Dove says the studio ‘pushes the envelope’ in the small, local town, but Karn says in many ways, the artwork fits.
“We are influenced by the coastal area in many of our paintings… but with thinking outside the box,” Karn says. “It really takes multiple elements to create one unique piece.”
To incorporate the surf and skate culture, Punk Rock Fish Studio did art, music and food events for four years in Berlin during the Dew Tour in Ocean City. The artists would put on a free art show including music and food, and have the legends of skateboarding get involved by submitting artwork alongside local artists. Dove says they would combine local fare, including chicken, corn, and crabs and smash the whole theme together.
What To Know, Before You Go…
Over the years, the couple has learned to work for the things they need to make, to let it out and let their creative juices flow. The couple says being in their own backyard and being able to close the door, crank some music and do some work has perpetuated their freedom to create.
“My daughter asked me yesterday what my dream job was and said, ‘well besides what you’re doing now,’ and I laughed and said well this is my dream job.”
According to Karn, through it all, one of her biggest challenges is finding the perfect balance. As a couple living together, taking care of children, the house and tending to a backyard studio it can be a challenge. Karn says working with integrity for everything they do is what makes it work, a larger point to all of it.
If you’re looking for advice from an artist who has been through it all, Dove knows just what to say.
“If you are an artist and you are creating, you have to struggle and you have to suffer for what you want,” Dove says. “Part of that anxiety is what makes your artwork original and unique. Do it because it is you and it’s truly where your passion lies and that will translate through your work. Don’t sell out for the masses because then you are repeating what has already been done without true progression.”
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