Artist: Allison / "strawberryluna"
Web site: strawberryluna.com
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
What do you create?
Mostly screenprinted rock posters and art prints currently, some tshirts too, though I do other design work as well. And undies! I love printing on underwear, it's so fun and playful.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
That's a two-parter for me. I do my design, drawing, and creative work from home usually. I do a lot of sketches in any one of the two or three sketch books that I have floating around, but all of the final work is completed on my computer and lots of it is done on a computer entirely (I'm a Mac girl!) Then, for the printmaking aspect of my work I go to my studio which is a great shared/community space print studio called Artists Image Resource or AIR for short. It's my home away from home.
Do you have another "day job" or did you leave one to pursue your art?
At the moment, I do not have another day job. I've been doing this design and printing thing as my full-time job now for a year and half. I'm really really lucky I get to do what I love for a living.
Where and what did you study?
I studied just about everything but art. Other than art history that is, I think I took every single one of those classes that I possibly could. My education was primarily in literature, linguistics, and developmental psychology. Until I started printing, I never really thought of myself as capable of producing visual art like the people whose work I admired.
Where do you find inspiration?
Anywhere! As cliched as it sounds, it's entirely true. I am as likely to be fascinated by random patterns in a sidewalk as I am by a piece of fine art. When I am looking to recharge my batteries I'll take my dog for a walk in the small woods near our house or maybe page through an art or design book. A lot of times, when I have a project to get started I think about color first, sort of reflexively and often build from there. I really love it when I just stumble upon an old textile pattern or something completely unrelated to what I am working on, and it sparks an idea.
What motivates you?
I love my job, that's the ultimate motivation. There are certainly days where I am tired and stressed out by deadlines or feeling uninspired, but when I think about working my old day job, well, it sort of snaps everything back into place mentally for me. Before I started really working in art and design, I would have these explosions in my head where a fully formed pieces of art but have no way of getting them from inside my head out into the world. So, I always felt like a bit of a logjam was clouding my mind. I still get those explosions, but now I have a release for some of them, and that's a huge motivation as well.
When did you start doing this?
I began screenprinting in November of 2004. I had always wanted to learn how and found out that a community print studio was in my city. They offer an "Open Studio" night where anyone can come in and screenprint once a week for a low fee (currently about $5) and get a real hands on sink-or-swim go at print making. I fell in love almost immediately with screenprinting and started going weekly to work on simple art prints just for fun, just for myself with no expectations of anyone ever seeing them, letting alone buying them. One of my prints caught the eye of a guy who connects poster artists with gigs in Philadelphia and he asked me if I wanted to try making rock posters a go. While being secretly terrified about, I agreed to try. That was in April of 2005 when I did a poster for the band Garbage, and I've been making posters ever since.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
I do, major big time. When I was really young I drew constantly as well as built things out of clay and legos almost compulsively. I also grew up writing short stories, from childhood through college. At some point I felt much more comfortable writing than visual arts and just tended to keep working on that rather than drawing. By the time that high school came around I'd begun to think of my creative expression in terms only of the written word. However, I continued to be in love with other people's work.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
It sounds odd, but doing design and printmaking full-time was actually almost an accident. About a year and a half ago I quit a very stressful day job with every single intention of finding another day gig. My husband, who has a good day job, was incredibly supportive and we agreed that since I had a little bit of freelance work at first, I'd work on that and put off finding a real job for a week or two and then suddenly it was six months later. I'd managed to keep finding just enough work to get me through the next couple of weeks or a month when I realized that is nearly the textbook definition of the freelance life. It felt crazy, like walking off of a cliff. Had I not quit my day job without a contingency plan, I doubt that I would have had the courage to try being a working artist for a living – and yet, here I am. It's one of those golden times where a hasty decision was in fact absolutely for the best, but there was no way that I could have known that when I left my job.
I wish that I could tell some fantastic story of having a great idea to reinvent the wheel... but the truth is far more obscure than that. I really started out by just working on what I loved and was lucky enough to make some good networking connections that provided an excellent outlet for my screenprinting. From there, I suppose more than anything it was having the support and help of my lovely husband and my studio, AIR.
How did you choose the name for your business?
Honestly? It's another less-than-glamorous-tale. Before I started screenprinting, I had been lurking on a poster/screenprinting website forum called gigposters.com and wanted to make a post, which entailed having to come up with a screen name. I believe that I stared at the wall for a moment, just string words together that sounded nice, fresh, perhaps searching for a compound word made of things that I like. Believe it or not, Chocolatepuppykisses didn't quite roll off the tongue so well and strawberryluna just kind of ended up being the happenstance choice at that moment, well before I had aspirations to start my business. Once I did sort of have to start taking my design more seriously and come up with a name for my studio and art work, I didn't feel comfortable using my real name. I figured that "strawberryluna" was feminine and open to interpretation and as good as anything else that I might come up with so I went with that. I feel like this whole interview reveals me to be a bit of a random goofball. Well, that is a fair assessment of my character, what can I do? Hee.
What do you love most about creating your work?
I love getting the chance to try new imagery and techniques. I feel as though I learn something new nearly every time that I work on a new project or print.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
Paris, no contest. We got to go there in late 2001 for about a week. I love the ocean and am always fascinated by any seaside places that I go, but Paris was absolutely amazing every single moment that we were there, I'm sure not speaking excellent, but getting to practice my high school French was a part of that. Being surrounded by an culture much older and so richly in love with history and art was incredible.
A book you love:
One! Yipes! Can I mention two? We Have Always Lived In The Castle, by Shirley Jackson and The Master And Margarita, by Mikail Bulgakov. Both have these constantly wavering levels of beauty and creepiness that leave you unsure about the relative innocence of the main character that is like following a quiet wooded path as twilight falls.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Perhaps that I have never had nor been able to fully comprehend something like a 5-year-plan, but seem to find my way into good situations regardless. In fact, the 5-year-plan types of questions confuse and minorly stress me out because not only is it difficult for me to form one that feels right, I also know that my life had never gone forward in ways that I could have predicted. I'm a big proponent of meandering whenever possible.
What achievement are you most proud of?
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Definitely stay with your guts. If you are interested in and passionate about what you do, then stick with it. Networking is something that is so important for any business to succeed and I think that women have a natural aptitude for it, in that we are raised to be so social and interact with the people around us. But we often don't fully realize that not only is it a social grace but also an important business tool.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Meeting deadlines! In some ways it's the hardest part of my job, scheduling time for design and printing 1-2 times a week at my shared space studio, as well as answering emails and sending out any orders that I have. However, one of the great things about making posters is that the work is very time-sensitive and a piece has to be done and gone by a certain, hard date. So in a way, that's very freeing to me as I don't have the luxury/albatross of working endlessly on a piece as I might if I were a painter. If that were the case, I'd probably finish one piece a year!
What do you love to do in your free time?
Spend time with my husband and friends, giggle as much as possible and just get out of my head. I work alone and from home and sometimes that can make me a little stir-crazy so it's so refreshing to just spend time with friends and laugh.
What are you working on right now?
Other than this interview, I am very close to finishing a project that I started close to two years ago when one of my best friends wanted to have a few prints for her newborn daughter's bedroom. That was the beginning of my alphabet series, which at the time, I have to admit, 26 separate designs and prints didn't really seem like a lot. Oh, but it is! I have three left to complete in the next two weeks and I can't wait to the series all done and ready.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I'm really excited to get working on some art prints and I'd like to try and do some textile designs in the coming year. We'll see!