Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interview with strawberryluna

strawberryluna is currently showcasing a collection of her silkscreen prints at Bluebottle. Amy our intern here at Bluebottle has interviewed strawberryluna in order to let readers get a peek at how her process works....

1. You've mentioned that writing was your first means of creative expression. How does narrative inform the images you make?

That background in writing really informs how I approach design. My designs always have a story or a narrative in them, even when the image is a series of abstract shapes. When I am working on a layout, the way that the subjects and colors relate to each other, how they reflect or communicate an emotional state—these things come from my writing background. Most of the time I'm sure that I am the only person who thinks about or even sees the storylines in my prints. Oddly, because my creative process involves working out a narrative, I know when I've solved the riddle of a design when it all makes sense in my head.

2. How did you get into doing iPhone screens for Poolga?

I'd read about Poolga on a few blogs and really loved what they were doing. I think that their collection of wallpapers for iPhones and iPod Touches are amazing. So, I was feeling frisky and decided to email them as see if they might accept some designs from me. Be brave! You never know when it can work in your favor.

3. You mentioned Mike Perry's new book in your blog last week. Who else is getting you inspired and excited lately?

Oooh yes, much love for Mike Perry's work for sure. Other recents are Orla Kiely. She is always an inspiration to me, and I'm really excited in the geekiest of design nerd ways about a new collection of designs that she's done exclusively for Target that's coming out later this month.

I've also been re-visiting the work of two children's book writers and illustrators from my childhood that just cannot be matched: Ezra Jack Keats and Leo Lionni, both of whom use a combination of cut paper and painting to make magic. Particularly Keats' use of patterns and color always makes my heart skip a beat. Whistle For Willie (Keats) and Frederick (Lionni) are books everyone should read before they die.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention thinking about some bit of Alexander Girard's work every day. He was simply perfect in his work and that's all there is to it.

Funny thing about all four of these people, it seems to be all about reduction and abstraction to make things fit and work and be beautiful in unexpected and bright ways. I love that about all of their work.

4. Your designs work just as well when you take out the gig information. What's the relationship between your art prints and your gig posters? Do you draw any lines of separation between them, or is all one big smoosh of design?

I try really hard to integrate both the image and the text in my posters. Otherwise you are just slapping some text somewhere near an image and calling it a poster for ____ band. At the same time, I want the imagery to be as strong and communicative as the gig information. I always hope that the relationship between the image and the band yields a poster that makes sense for the band and their fans, and brings people to the gig.

Occasionally an art print will be a re-tooling of one of my illustrations for a poster, but that's fairly rare. [Usually when I make an art print], I have an image in mind that I want to get out with no strings attached, no other meaning or use except as an art print.

So it is one big tangled ball of design. The art work for both a standalone art print and a poster are about a small moment time for me. The artwork needs to make sense as an expression of something about the band, and it needs to make sense to me as a visual storyteller. Sort of like the way that photographs capture a fraction of a second, yet say and show more than one frame's worth of information. That's my hope with each print or poster, anyway.

5. Your work has got this perfectly vintage sensibility. Why?

I do most often look to the past rather than imagining a future when I am looking for inspiration, or am just looking at things. Sort of tends to be true with movies and books, as well. I love the way that something old can be as fresh, if not downright more refreshing than something amazing that was produced today. The past is the new five minutes ago, really.

6. When are you going to launch your line of strawberryluna underpants?

Haha! I do have a secret line of underpants. I take them to craft & poster shows. I love love love printing on undies for girls & boys. It's so fun and people's reactions are always amazing. Good clean fun, I say! It would be rad to have an official line someday. I don't care how hippie-crust-punk-anarchist you are, everyone needs underwear at some point.

7. You work with a very hands-on, traditional process. How do you build in room for happy accidents in this medium?

It’s true. I love using techniques that have not changed much over the past decades, or even centuries. The modern screenprinting process is still [basically the same process that they used back in] medieval China.

Part of what I love about screenprinting is how plastic it is from start to finish. Not only can you get a wide variety of effects from a limited set of materials (inks, overprints, transparency, textures, layout, etc.), but from the moment you begin your work, you are dealing with your finished product. What's interesting and sometimes frustrating is that you don't know how small choices at the beginning might play out to the finished product.

This same plasticity can also cause disasters, as every screenprinter knows all too well. At every step of the way you have opportunities to make changes in your design, but you also have opportunities to make mistakes. Hopefully these are happy accidents, should they occur. Which is more often than not. Registration can be off from the outset, never to be fully nailed down. Registration of one color to the rest can (and does!) suddenly change in the middle of a print run. Also, I hand mix my ink colors and they look different wet than dry. Some inks dry lighter, other darker, or more red, etc. Your films can be wrong, you can burn a screen backwards so that it won't fit in with the rest of the screens and design. Textures that you wanted might not show up as desired, or at all. And, of course, the opposite can happen, where an area that you hadn't planned for a texture to be in doesn't wash out correctly, and there's an impromptu texture.

So with all of the ways that every choice you make affects your finished print, you never really need to build in room for happy accidents. Instead you must learn to accommodate them and keep moving forward. There are definitely prints that have turned out not at all like I'd imagined or planned, but actually ended up being better, or at least as good as I'd wanted the original to be. Once you get into screenprinting, accidents happen all of the time. You just hope that the happy ones outweigh the ones that make you cry.

strawberryluna's Short & Sweet Show at Bluebottle

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