Interview by Jenkin Au
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au

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Over in New Westminister exists the latest addition to the street art supply stores, Mainline. Speaking with owner Jason Fosti, the justalilhype! Crew had a conversation about the scene and the bringing up the shop. Coming from a skate shop, Jason wanted to work towards something that was more aligned with his passions, namely with street art. The store sells art supplies as well as being a gallery, displaying and selling works done by local graff artists.

Please tell me more about yourself.

Not much to say, really. I come from another skate shop that was around for 10 years and we had two other partners over there. We decided to shut it down because there was too much West 49 and stuff like that. We wanted to start something new and something real and art was always just in my life, constantly. Same with my other partner, Mike, he’s always been into art. We always knew that we wanted to do another store and we wanted to do something more simplified. There’s nothing simpler than art.

You touched on starting something real. How was the skate shop, in a sense, unreal?

When we started, the industry was really protected. If you opened up a skateboard shop, you weren’t allowed to be too close to a skateboard shop or mall. Now, West 49 comes along being these big mall stores and you just lose that essence of skateboarding. It’s not the same anymore.

Yeah. To me, street culture belongs in the boutique world.

Yeah, for sure. It’s just the wrong spot for that kind of store to be in.

When you started up here, why did you choose this location?

This location is just so dope. We have the mainline right across the street so we got freights going along all day. We have people benching just watching trains, too. It’s just down from Columbia, which has more traffic, but we’re a gallery which is more classic. It’s so old school to be down here. I used to come down here with my grandparents when I was a kid and they would do their thing. It’s just a dope spot.

In terms of foot traffic, does it hurt that you don’t get that much passers?

We get a lot of artists that come down here. We have people that come down here that I wouldn’t expect to be artists; they are carpenters or whatever and have moved on to other things. They really support this whole feel when they get in here.

Yeah, word.

There’s still a lot down here. We have the surplus store, the goth store and a few more. We want to bring that back and if there are any people that are looking for spots, try to find something down here and bring the life back. It’s a really cool area so we’d like to keep that alive.

You brought up the mainline earlier. Is that where the name came from?

Yeah. We were looking for a new name and it just kind of popped. We are on Front Street and the mainline is right there.

And how long has this place popped up?

Just a couple of months. I took possession in February and we just built everything as we went. The Jesters did a lot of the work for us. The scheme we kept and a whole bunch of stuff we just left it. We built the cabinets and just went with it. We knew this was the spot once we saw it.

This store isn’t just a store – it’s also a gallery. Can you tell us what was going on through your mind when you were coming up with the concept of it?

We knew that we wanted spray paint – that’s our bread and butter right now. There are a lot of artists out there in all mediums that don’t have a place. There’s nowhere to go after school. Where do you go? Many galleries are pretty protected. We are very welcoming and we have lots of people coming in. We’ve done a couple of Craigslist posts with huge replies and we’ll be turning things over on a monthly basis. People can put their stuff in for a month and if it hasn’t sold and we want to keep it around, we’ll probably put it to the other wall and keep churning out new stuff. It’s pretty important to do something with the wall. We couldn’t do anything with it because it was just so perfect, so we just wanted to hang some good art. We keep meeting more people and seeing awesome stuff. The gallery is a huge part. I want people to come in and get people to do the tour and look at the art. We have the back here dedicated to sales, but the whole front part is dedicated as a showcase.

Yeah, especially these cases, eh? The contents aren’t for sale?

No. We’re talking with Kid Robot right now and I think that will be a good fit. We’re waiting for the go ahead and we’ll start bringing in some Dunny’s and other collectables.

On the brick wall, it’s all new stuff right?

Yeah, on this wall, it’s more about the hand done stuff – the more organic pieces. We tried putting frames on the bricks but it didn’t work.

Yeah, the painted edges is a must.

Yeah, all these guys are pretty fanatic about that, too.

How has building the community been?

We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just getting into advertising and my partner just had his second child. It’s been a slow go but we’re moving forward. We’ve just introduced our newest line of paint, Ironlak, and we’ve got a third one coming soon. We just want to expand the supplies.

Montana paint was your staple. Why did you guys decide to bring in Ironlak?

We don’t want to be the flagship store for one product. Montana is really good for freight writers and I just really dig Ironlak. The vibe is really appealing on their website.

Where do you think their forte lies in?

More on the walls, I guess. It’s up and coming and I definitely want to support it. It’s coming out of Australia, but now their main factory is in China now, which makes sense, but originally, they were in China.

And the third line?

Yeah, we’re still deciding between a few.

What else does this store offer?

We’re going to be bringing in skateboard canvasses. They’ve done a few with Skate 3. You can’t skate them but they are perfect for artwork.

Why can’t you skate on them?

They are factory seconds. Instead of spending a whack load of money for something you’re just going to be hanging, you might as well spend $20 on something that’s just as good for art. We’re going to be doing some sculpting shit. When I was in school, we did figurines and it just stays the way it is until you fire it. You can take off for a month and come back and it stays the same. We just want to branch off to more art stuff, like paint markers and decal markers. We focus on the core graff stuff and things that you can do to make art, and not over saturate people with art stuff.

What about the clothing you guys offer?

These are just some of the leftovers from the other store that would still fit with what we’re doing, like some OBEY and stuff like that. Eventually, we want to do our own gear, like shoes and shirts, but we still want to focus on our main things because it’s pretty easy branch out too fast. I can go for a while without ordering shoes.

Within the community, it’s pretty dispersed. How has social media helped Mainline.

I don’t know. It’s kind of tricky. There are different crews all over the place but we’re just getting a whole bunch of artists. We are seeing more and more people come in that we don’t know. My biggest concern with community is with the older people and other people with businesses. We just try to let them know that we don’t support vandalism. We worked with the city pretty well, communicating that there is an art form behind what we’re doing.

How do you guys help prevent the vandalistic side of street art?

Definitely don’t sell markers to kids. That cuts it down right away. You can kind of tell who will be responsible and filter that stuff out. We try not to feed too many people with info about the industry and we want them to find it out themselves. If you want to find out more about Ironlak paint, you should come in and try it out properly and figure out your own style and we’ll be here for support.

What is HYPE?

HYPE for me is just excitement about something that gets you really wanting to participate in it.