Nick Marzullo climbs the stairway of his Humboldt Park apartment into a cramped attic virtually wallpapered in stickers. Tiny filing cabinets are stuffed with markers and crayons. But this is no playroom for Marzullo’s 11-month-old—it’s business. The ministudio is the headquarters of Pawn Works Sticker Club, an organization that produces artists’ sticker designs and distributes them through vending machines to give the artists a promotional boost.
“The studio is playing into the kitsch of the sticker medium,” Marzullo says. “It’s small, everything is microscopic—all the supplies that are here are small, the artwork is fairly small.”
He previously lived behind his former Ukrainian Village gallery space, Pawn Works Gallery. “I’ve always lived in a space that I’ve worked in,” says Marzullo, who shares the apartment with his girlfriend of six years, Sydney Walters. “Sydney and I . . . had a baby and stepped it up, domesticated a little bit more. It’s a big step backwards as far as the size of work space and a very big step forward as far as a way of life.”
Pawn Works expands beyond Marzullo’s attic walls—he co-owns the business with Brooklyn-based photographer Seth Mooney. The org facilitates mural projects and art-making workshops in Chicago and New York; Marzullo and Mooney are working with the National Museum of Mexican Art and the youth-centric Yollocalli Arts Reach as part of the 25th Ward’s Art in Public Places initiative.
Marzullo became interested in stickers at an early age, collecting Disney decals at the age of three. “I try to be on the next artist in the street-art world and buy prints,” he says. “I’m a collector at heart, so I have flat files and stack everything.” His home currently displays repurposed signage by Skewville, paintings by LA-based visual artist and music producer Teebs, and other street artists.
With Pawn Works doing more work on the east coast, the Big Apple beckons. But Marzullo and Walters have no plans to move, he says. “We’re doing our best to stick around.”