Steeltown Anthem

Interview + Studio Tour with strawberryluna

It’s kind of crazy to think back a few years and I remember stumbling on strawberryluna’s posters while I lived in Bethlehem and emailing Allison through flickr. Since returning to Pittsburgh I have had the pleasure of getting to know Allison and Craig and seeing their studio continue to grow each year. They have a unique and simplistic style with their creations and whenever they release a new print I find myself wanting to own it. We finally got the chance to stop by their space where we took some photos and had the opportunity to interview both of them.
 

::INTERVIEW::
 
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am originally from Philadelphia, clear across the state. I grew up right in the city, literally in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Olde City. I actually always thought I would end up being a writer, since that’s what I spent the huge majority of my time doing almost obsessively in my teens and early 20s, but so far things didn’t work out that way. Yet! Art, illustration and printmaking were always strong interests, but I didn’t quite find the outlet for those things until a few years after moving to Pittsburgh and finding Artists Image Resource on the Northside where I learned silkscreen printing from Mike Budai, Heather White and the crew at AIR’s open studio nights. -Allison


All photos were taken by Kristy Lumsden
 
I was born right here in Pittsburgh! My family wasn’t much for the arts but my mother was very creative, great at ceramics and not too bad at painting. She was always supportive towards my artistic pursuits, our walls were always covered with my drawings. I took art classes a lot as a kid at the Carnegie Museum. I majored in writing at the University of Pittsburgh, and after a less than traditional approach, ended up as a Creative Director at a local ad agency. I couldn’t replicate my path if i tried. -Craig


The studio view in Friendship
 

Their NEW website that just launched was coded by Val Head and Jason Head.
 
What made you decide to move to Pittsburgh:
It was honestly a bit of a lark. I knew I wanted to move out of Philadelphia and has aspirations of getting the West Coast. But, Pittsburgh was just 300 miles away and seemed like a good first move. If leaving home was a terrible mistake, I figured that I would be able to go return quite easily. I moved here sight unseen and as it turns out, never left for that pioneer-like push west. I love this city! It’s so easy to live here and I definitely consider this town home. -Allison

How and when did you first become interested in screen printing posters:
I’ve always been fascinated by various printmaking techniques and spent some time cutting and hand printing linoleum prints a while back. When I still lived in Philadelphia, a couple of friends of mine were using the printmaking studios at Temple University and were making these really rough and beautiful print editions that I loved. Not being enrolled there at the time, it seemed like a mysterious and magical way to make art. Additionally, since I was very very young, I’ve loved circus posters as well as propaganda posters. I can remember both the very first circus poster stapled to a telephone pole that I carefully took down and brought home, as well as my introduction to the ideology and methods of propaganda in a high school class on politics. The two sort of fused into one for me. However, my own personal poster work came much much later after I moved to Pittsburgh and was doing small run art prints at AIR during open studios. Rather than my seeking out working a life of making posters, somehow they found me. After posting some of the art prints that I had been doing on Gigposters.com, I got connected to a promoter and a set of venues in Philadelphia who were looking to add a couple of new poster artists to their rosters. I agreed to give it a go and things have just gone upwards and onwards from there for strawberryluna. -Allison

I was always aware of them, but Allison was WAY more into them, our first apartment was covered with old circus posters, the bright colors, the fun images and the creepy clowns. I always liked the look of them, but honestly, when someone said screen printed posters, I always imagined the old San Francisco Fillmore posters. I really had no clue about the scene. Allison kinda did all the work and really dove in head first. And here we are all these years later. -Craig

Did you attend art school or are you self taught:
Nope! Self-taught all the way. As is Craig. We’re both pretty firm believers in education and being educated about what you are passionate about, even (or especially) when that means getting that knowledge outside of the traditional means. I went to the University of Pittsburgh and studied an Inter-Disciplinary degree combining Developmental Psychology and Literature with a Certificate in Women’s Studies and a lot of linguistics and Children’s Lit classes. Screen printing was totally a sidebar that I did for fun at that time. -Allison

How did you come up with the name strawberryluna:
I wish that there was some epic story about that! The truth is, the name just sort of came to me on summer day in 2005 when I wanted to transition from total lurker to poster in some threads on Gigposters.com. Pretty anti-climatic right? The name came about just a few months before I learned how to print. I like to think that sometimes stepping stones appear before you know where you are going. At least, that’s been my experience in life. -Allison

I’m always amazed by Allison’s creativity, and in the early years when it was just her, I always thought.. good lord, what if I end up doing this? Im gonna be called strawberryluna. I have to give Allison all the credit. I don’t think I would have named it this at all. But now, I wouldn’t want it any other way. When I see people looking at our work at shows, their eyes light up and they immediately smile at the name. SO, good job Allison. -Craig

Do you remember the first poster you did for a well known band? Were you nervous:
Of course! To both! The first poster that we did was for the band Garbage. It was a classic moment where I said “Yes” to something before really thinking it through by accepting that first gig as a challenge. It wasn’t until I was actually printing that poster, at AIR, during open studio that I got super nervous. At that point it was way too late to chicken out and I had to swallow my nausea and print on. I know if we had the opportunity to “think about” we probably would have let that chance pass us by out of fear. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for things that might seem outrageous. -Allison

 
I remember it all too well, we had no clue what we were doing, no idea how to do separations and we kinda just winged the whole damn thing. -Craig


Few of the very first prints
 
What are some of your favorite objects in your studio:
Let’s see. I’ll handle the print studio in Friendship: Our light-box for sure because Craig, myself and my stepdad, painter Clay Johnson, built it from scratch and it can burn 2 large screens at once. The prints, posters and 2 paintings (again, by my stepdad) that adorn the studio walls made by some of our talented poster artist friends, and my print rack. I love that thing! I scored it from a sign and screen printing shop in Bloomfield that was closing down. I think we were all glad that such a solid piece of equipment was going to a new home where it would continue to work for a long time. -Allison

In the home-design studio where we do all of our drawing, design, illustration and keep our books for inspiration, texture specimens, and the like, we have a reproduction of an Eames Native Bird sculpture. Other than that, the chair Allison bought me when we got engaged. -Craig

If you had to recommend two books to another artist/ illustrator what would they be:
1. The amazing “Push Pin Graphic” 25 year collection, for sure. I go back to that collection often and I feel like I see and learn new things every time.
2. I’m torn between the next two, so I am going to break the rules and name
2a. Ezra Jack Keats “The Snowy Day” for it’s stunning beauty, simplicity and use of color and texture. That book has been setting my mind on fire since I was about
2b. “Come Alive! The Spirited Art Of Sister Corita”, where every page is amazing. She combined her personal beliefs with propaganda and art like no one else before or since. Her story and work consistently blow me away. -Allison

 
Paul Rand, from Lascaux to Brooklyn, Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball -Craig


These posters are from other designers and friends
 
What is one piece of advice you would offer to an artist trying to break into screen printing:
Fuck up. No, really. In screen printing you *have* to print a lot, and that will lead to making a lot of mistakes. More mistakes than you can even imagine, because silkscreen printing is unique in that there are many ways to not just create your images, but also to mess up at every single stage along the way, of which there are many. You will make mistakes at each one of those stages, repeatedly.
 
However, each mistake reveals something about the process that you could not otherwise learn, which is also unique about screen printing. So, you just need to dive in and experiment. And more, have fun! Make things that you like and then do it all over again the next time. -Allison

 
There are tons of limitations to screen printing, once you embrace them, the possibilities are endless. —-Craig

Any fun projects coming up that you are stoked about:
We’ve got a bunch of gig posters lined up for the summer that we can’t wait to get cracking on and we are in the middle of writing and illustrating a children’s book for a good old skool publisher that we are really really excited about. It’s a dream project that I can’t wait to share once we’re ready. -Allison

 
We want to sincerely thank Allison and Craig for taking the time to let us invade their studio, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing all the new projects that have coming up this year! You can visit their website / Twitter / Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

  1. Nick says:

    Yinz are good. Rill good! Great post.

  2. Rachael says:

    Very cool! Love their work and it’s nice to read about their process and studio. Thanks for sharing!

  3. [...] Take a peek into the inner workings of strawberryluna with this interview & studio tour put together by our friends and Pittsburgh art & design blogger Dane from Steeltown Anthem and photographer Kristy of Burning Bright Studios. [...]