Monday, September 28, 2009
I first met Strawberryluna when we were exhibiting together at the The University of Maryland gallery show Sweet put on by John Shipman. After flipping through her work and making nervous chit-chat I ended up not getting anything. It was not because I couldn't find anything it was because I could not make up my mind what to get. Strawberryluna is one of those great poster makers where everything she does is awesome and you want to just roll around on the floor with her posters because the are so beautiful, lush, and fun. You can get a chance to be puzzle over what to get when she sells her wares at The Crafty Bastards Fair on October 3rd in Washington, DC.
(PS. I will be there as well selling posters. Look for the brand new banner that screams EL JEFE DESIGN!)
Allison, but all of my work goes under the moniker strawberryluna. It’s just a name that I made up when I was first starting out because I liked the sound of it.
I’m in Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve always been a late bloomer, so age is sort of weirdly abstract to me, and I’ll leave it at that.
When and how did you get started doing posters:
I had been printing small art prints at a weekly open studio night and a promoter saw a few and asked if I wanted to try doing posters for bands. Without thinking, I said yes, so I did my first poster in March of 2006 for a venue in Philly for the band Garbage. Once the reality of doing a real poster for a big band hit me, I was a wreck about it from start to finish. I was just feeling really out of my element, but at the same time I really wanted to do that poster. Despite the nervous sweats and feeling like I was winging it, I agreed to do more. And more, and more. And here I am today, doing posters for bands full time.
What's your favorite thing about being a designer in your city or town? The most challenging?
Definitely being a poster artist in a city like Pittsburgh is challenging! We have only a few good shows a month that come through here, Which is insane as Pittsburgh is perfectly located between more common tour stops like Cleveland, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Columbus, DC, Baltimore, New York and Boston. So, part of the challenge is just based on the number of bands that play here. But another aspect is that while there are poster aficionados galore and an incredible print making studio open to the public here, the venues are about 10 years behind the poster scene and often show no interest in having posters made to promote their shows and/or give to their booked bands. It’s kinda weird to have to chase down the venue owners or managers when I’ve done posters through the band in order to make sure they have some posters for promotion, and yet, it’s quite common too. “Posters” must be some long-lost slang for “voodoo” in Pittsburgh and only a handful of venues still know it. I tend to do most of my poster work for other cities, though I’d love for that to change. My favorite thing about getting to do a poster for a show here in Pittsburgh is going to that show, that’s always so rad, especially when I get to meet the band that I’ve been working for. It usually ends up being very fun and friendly.
Do you consider yourself a poster DESIGNER or a poster ILLUSTRATOR? what is the difference?
Oooooh, the dreaded question! For those that aren’t familiar with this potential division between designers and illustrators, it’s a big one in the poster scene. Amazing that there is a “poster scene” and that it’s big enough to contain scandal and drama, right? It’s true and true. I think of myself more as a designer, rather than an illustrator, even though I illustrate, if that makes sense. I definitely piece together my art and imagery for my posters, rather than sit down and draw out the entire layout all at once. I think that aspect makes me more of a designer. Even if it’s just layering textures and shapes to build an image, it’s not quite the same as “Hey, I just grabbed a pencil and did this drawing that I am going to put text over to make a poster!” It’s just a completely different approach, but a somewhat subtle one, really at the end of the day. To me, that’s the major difference between the two, though I’m sure another poster artist would have a different criteria and answer.
Describe Your Creative Process:
Well, it really depends. A lot of times I do super simple, fairly small pencil sketches, not at all like the typical sketchy-sketch sort of rough looking drawing associated with the word “sketch” at all. When I do those, I might scan that into Illustrator, or I might just re-draw the line work in Illustrator, if I think that I can do so without ruining what I liked about the sketch initially. However, it’s just as likely for me to piece bits and parts together from the outset in Illustrator, and then use my small Wacom to draw elements as well. Often I am just trying to recreate what I saw in a flash, which is how I see a lot of the things that I want do as posters or prints. I’ll just be minding my own business, trying to sleep, driving, doing dishes, whatever usually involves not being able to jot down an idea, when a fully finished piece just flashes and explodes in my head, and then it’s a scramble to try and get it all down. I’m probably successful about 15% of the time on a good day.
What has been your favorite piece you have done (gig poster or art print):
It sounds weird, but most times when I have finished printing a poster or art print, I’ve spent so much time with the design and production that I am done looking at it for a while. It’s almost like taking a long road trip with your extended family. It was a great time, but you are happy for some space when it’s over. That said, I’m still happy to look at my first Seasons art print (Winter 2008), which was originally an illustration for the 2nd Iron & Wine poster, I’m a sucker for overprints, teal & brown, and I love snowy, cold daylight. So, considering I’ve designed and printed that piece twice and still feel happy with it, I’d have to nominate that print as my current favorite.
Group(s) you wish you could do a poster for:
(Current): I’ve been super lucky to have worked for a bunch of bands that were once on my dream list, a few of the ones I have yet to work with are: Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, and Phoenix. Any of those gigs would put me on Cloud 9. (Historic): Billie Holliday, Heavenly, and The Stranglers all would have been awesome bands to make a poster for.
You do wonderful gig posters but also stellar art prints such as your animal alphabet series. Do you find a benefit of doing one or other more? Did one naturally lead to the other?
Dang! Thanks. It’s a funny little line to tread doing both rock posters for bands and art prints for…whomever, particularly the alphabet series. I find that although they could seem like 2 different product lines in branding terms, because I don’t approach them that way, and I don’t keep those sorts of rigid walls in my head about my work (nor could I if I tried) that my poster work seems to feed my art prints and vice versa. Art prints get attention to my posters, and my posters bring a set of people into my art prints. This is especially true with the alphabet prints in a funny way. I’ve found that the sorts of people who like screenprinted posters are also people who appreciate hand printed and handmade work. Moreover, a lot of them know people who are having kids or are having children of their own, so in a way, the alphabet print series is a more kid-friendly extension of that aesthetic. Even though, a lot of grown-ups buy the alphabet prints for themselves or for their significant other. And, even the alphabet prints have a lot in common with a rock poster in terms of function and constraints, since both have a problem to solve and involve adding text to complete the design. It’s funny though, I started out with screenprinting by doing purely art prints, and yet I find them to be the most daunting to work on, since there are no constraints for function for them other than to look good (hopefully) and be expressive of something that I was interested in at a certain moment in time. So, while art prints got me noticed and therefore into doing posters, I find them to be the hardest to work on still.
You do all your own printing. What is your printing space like and how did you learn to screen print properly?
I’m currently working out of the same studio space where I learned to screenprint, AIR (Artists’ Image Resource), a community print studio in Pittsburgh. It’s a big, rambling shared space studio where every day is Anything Can Happen Day in terms of what’s going on, who is working, and where the heck is the emulsion?! It has it’s ups and downs, like any workspace, but one of the big upsides has been almost always having other experienced printmakers around to help troubleshoot issues that invariably come up when screenprinting by hand. I was originally taught the basics of the process by Mike Budai, an amazing printmaker and poster artist, with further insanely helpful advice and smart tips from he and artist Heather White while working at a weekly open studio night where mistakes were natural, but also a necessary part of the learning process. Screenprinting is absolutely one of those processes where, as frustrating as this may be, making mistakes is a HUGE part of learning what works and why. I can’t even imagine having tried to learn this form of printmaking on my own in an information vacuum. All of that said, I just started renting a very small studio space and am working on outfitting that for printing too, just to have a place to keep all of my screens, paper, inks, and gear that is not my living room, dining room and spare bedroom. My husband is stoked. We haven’t seen the surface of the dining room table for well over a year.
Do you enjoy printing or designing/illustrating more?
I love them both! Really, my printmaking life is made up of 2 equal, heavy-duty parts. I work hard on a design, and then I get to work all over again on the printmaking part. Printing at this point is so second nature and I tend to find it to me almost Zen-like, where my body is working while my mind is skipping along elsewhere. I’ve been watching a lot of movies and old television series while printing this year, which has been really fun. I still, and imagine that I always will, find the design and illustration portion of my work still really challenging and exciting. I won’t say it’s always fun, because it can be frustrating, but I think that lately, this is where I am enjoying myself slightly more. But, ask me again in 6 months and I’ll bet that I’ll have changed my mind again.
How long does it take for you to get ready for a show like The Crafty Bastards Fair?
Technically ready for the actual show day itself, probably about 3-4 days of all day packing and organizing my stock and all of the items required to set up a tent and make it into a pretty and working show booth. In terms of the things that I sell though, I start ramping up my output anywhere from 1-2 months before a show just to make sure that I have lots of fresh new work. Crafty Bastards actually comes at the end of what I call “carny season”, since I’ve been doing shows almost non-stop since March, which makes me feel like a traveling carnival barker. This is a good thing! So, one could say that I’ve been making work all year to get ready for something like Crafty Bastards as I definitely schedule my output all year long to make sure that I always have enough stock for shows.
This is your first Crafty Bastard Fair in Washington, DC. Is there thing or anyone you are excited to see?
Since this is my first Crafty Bastards show I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Fair looks, for one. I’ve heard such great things about the whole day from lots of crafters that I know who’ve done it in the past. And, this year I’m lucky enough to be included in the event with a good number of my crafty-world friends, all of whom I’m really excited to see again! We love DC and I spent a summer there when I was in high school, so it always feels like a second home city to me.
I’ve spent most of the summer and early fall working on a book cover project for a new Young Adult title called Sisters Red, written by Jackson Pearce and published by Little, Brown & Co. I have a bunch of art prints that I’m dying to get cracking on, and I am going to be working on the cover art for a major band’s newest record, but that one is still under wraps. It’s going to be a busy fall!
Always trust your instincts. Always. After that, if you want to try something, do it. Why not? Keep an open door policy in your mind every day and when even the smallest opportunity presents itself, try to take full advantage of it. You really never know where something seemingly small can lead. I feel like every bit of “luck” that I’ve had stemmed from a magical combination of hard work, risk taking, and saying yes whenever things feel right.
Posted by Jon at 7:03 AM