In an apartment in South Tacoma, artist Carrie Foster draws. In a small back room, there is a do-it-yourself printer. The walls are covered in original artwork, mementos from Bob Jewell and Foster’s lives, and a whole load of folded and stacked shirts is ready to sell.
Jewell and Foster are Yin and Yang. Their personalities, ambitions, and skill sets are vastly different, but together they are the creative force behind the Shroom Brothers screen-printed shirts and framed prints. And people around Tacoma are taking notice.
“‘Oh, finally, a Tacoma T-shirt that is not insulting,’” Foster remembers people saying about their most popular tee, which features a larger-than-life octopus curling its eight arms around the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. They call it their “Metallica shirt” because it’s such a hot seller.
Foster is the behind-the-scenes artist who quietly yet consistently pumps out intricate and creative artwork — lots of whimsical South Sound-inspired scenes. Like most artists, Foster questioned her work and wondered if anyone would want it. Jewell supported and pushed her to give it a shot.
Jewell has been the self-taught printer, front man, and motivator of the operation since the beginning. After convincing Foster to screen-print her artwork on clothing and figuring out a way to make the process easier to handle, the two began their clothing line that taps into Tacoma’s charm.
At first, they struggled. The process proved more difficult than they expected. However, after trial and error, the couple found themselves making their first successful shirts. Now their products are sold at seven stores in Tacoma and online on sites like Etsy — and more are in the works.
“We want people to be proud of Tacoma,” Jewell said. “We are. We love it here.”
After people see Foster’s designs, they fall in love with Shroom Brothers, too. Jewell and Foster love them right back. Both had their issues before they began printing designs. Jewell said he struggled with drugs and alcohol after he and his wife of 20 years divorced. So, many years ago, he took a one-way trip from Maine to Tacoma to start a healthier chapter in life.
“It’s rough, gritty, but it’s beautiful all at the same time,” Jewell said of his adopted hometown. “It fits me; that’s who I am.”
“It’s rough, gritty, but it’s beautiful all at the same time. It fits me; that’s who I am.”— Bob Jewell on Tacoma
Foster can relate. When it comes to bringing her artwork to the public, the process is tough for her. It’s Foster’s artwork that people come for and Jewell’s persistence and charisma that draw people to recognize it. They work in tandem. They are better together.
People say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and in the Shroom Brothers case, the same applies to their company name.
“They see our banner, they laugh, and they get that look on their face,” Foster said. “Then they see that design and all of a sudden, Shroom Brothers, the name and all it denotes, goes away.”
At its heart Shroom Brothers is about diving below surface expectations to find surprising discoveries. And Tacoma happens to be the perfect muse.
Find Shroom Brothers:
Wunderkammer Curiosity Shoppe
in Freighthouse Square
Crimson Wraps & Graphics
on Jefferson Avenue
The Washington State History Museum Gift Shop
on Pacific Avenue
Creative Forces Gifts & Sundries
in Hotel Murano
The Nearsighted Narwhal
on Sixth Avenue
Grit City Grindhouse
on South Seventh
Destiny City Comics
on Saint Helens