Flatstock 18, the rock-poster showcase at Bumbershoot, brings together poster designers from all over the world. Four Seattle-based poster designers share their work and chat about the business.
The venue is packed. The energy of the room radiates a passion for music, and the work of dedicated artists is finally being showcased.
This isn’t a rock concert, though, it’s Flatstock 18 — the popular rock-poster design show opening its sixth year at Bumbershoot this Saturday at Seattle Center.
Flatstock is a time when poster designers get out of their apartments and display their art to the masses, most of whom don’t realize the amount of work that goes into making the concert posters that advertise their favorite bands.
The convention, presented by the American Poster Institute and Bumbershoot, brings together poster designers from around the world and has become so popular that it’s moved from the Center House to a larger area in the Fisher Pavilion.
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“Sometimes you can’t even walk in the aisles, it’s so packed,” said Laura Stalions, director of Seattle’s Flatstock. “It’s a huge draw.” She says Flatstock puts the “art” in “Seattle’s Arts and Music Festival” — Bumbershoot’s tagline.
Here, four local poster designers chat about their work, Flatstock and their busy, busy lives.
Arla Shephard: 206-515-5632 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Terich, Design Medicine
As a child, Matt Terich wanted to be a comic-book artist. He stopped drawing when he learned how to play the guitar.
Years later, Terich came full circle. As a musician in the band The Senate Arcade, he started creating fliers for their concerts. Before he knew it, he was designing for other bands as well.
Terich moved to Seattle from San Diego in 2000 and now works as a user-interface designer for a stealth-mode startup technology company. In the evenings, he designs posters; on the weekends, he prints them himself.
The man behind Design Medicine says his hobby-turned-side-business is definitely time-consuming, but “in the end it really is just a labor of love.”
The busy designer enjoys working on posters for more experimental groups.
“You want a poster that looks like how a band sounds,” he said. “When you get a group with a really oddball sound, you can go kind of wild with the design.”
For that reason, Terich liked working on a poster for the Japanese experimental group Boris.
“I was sketching around and I just drew that crazy face,” he said. “The original sketch was one inch high, and I thought it would be fun to blow it up. I wanted the sound of Boris to invade the poster; the torn edges I almost wanted to look like they were invading someone else’s poster. … Their sound is kind of loud and crushing — I don’t know if others would put it that way, but that’s the way I interpreted it.”
At Flatstock, Terich likes meeting new people who might otherwise not know his work.
“One of the really interesting things to come out of Bumbershoot [for me] was a couple who wanted me to design a wedding poster invitation for them,” he said.
He now has yet another side business, at posterbride.com. (See related story.)
This September will mark a milestone for Seattle-born artist Nat Damm — it’s the 10-year anniversary of his band Akimbo, which has a new recording coming out. It also will be nine years since he first became involved with poster design.
Designing posters for a living is conducive to a touring lifestyle, Damm said. He works on two to four posters per day, and when he’s on tour, he brings his laptop to work on the road.
Poster design kind of just fell into his lap, he said, through his work promoting his own band. The attitude around posters was different nine years ago, he said, when Seattle had a ban on putting posters up.
“I think, personally, [posters are] a sign of a thriving community,” he said.
Events like Flatstock are important to give poster designers this sense of community, he said. Otherwise, they can stay holed up in their basements working for hours on end.
“Getting to meet a lot of my colleagues is fun,” he said. “It’s really inspiring to see all of that other work out there.”
Damm is sometimes so busy that he’ll wake up and realize he hasn’t left his apartment in 48 hours.
“Being poor, not having a break ever [is hard],” he said. “I’ve been trying to take weekends and not work. The job never stops. It’s a hard job to have, but it’s also a really liberating job. I can do what I want.”
Sasha Barr, The New Year
Sasha Barr works at Sub Pop Records and Suicide Squeeze Records during the week and squeezes in freelance work in his off hours. (Remember Intiman’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” posters plastered on buses earlier this summer? That was his work.) He also has a side business with his girlfriend, called Wonder Thunder, designing artwork for pillows, napkins and things like iPod sleeves.
What started in college as a favor to his friends “just turned into something I do for a living,” the designer said, and he plans on continuing for as long as he can.
His work is kind of playful, he said. Sometimes he tries to pick a random lyric to work with, one that strikes him in an interesting way.
“For example, a couple of years ago, [for Death Cab for Cutie's] ‘Transatlanticism,’ I did two different posters. One for heaven and hell [because] the line was ‘If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied / Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs.’ ” The posters sold out at the last Bumbershoot.
Barr, who moved to Seattle from Tennessee a year ago, said he isn’t good at selling himself and is typically approached by other people to do work, sometimes at Flatstock.
The Flatstock events have brought a lot of attention to poster design, he said, making the pool of really talented people “a lot bigger.”
“More people are waking up and saying, ‘I want to do that, too. I want to be a poster designer,’ ” he said.
Andrew Crawshaw, Broken Press
By day, Andrew Crawshaw works at a frame shop in Ballard. By night, as the designer behind Broken Press, he works on his craft.
In the weeks leading up to Bumbershoot, Crawshaw, who moved to Seattle from Boston four years ago, has been working on album covers and posters. He is also reproducing a painting for an oil painter in Sacramento, Calif. On top of his day job.
He doesn’t get much sleep.
The designer says he dived head first into poster design two years ago.
“Music has always been a big part of my life, and when I moved out here, I realized there was a big poster community here,” he said.
If Crawshaw isn’t familiar with the band he’s working with, he’ll listen to its music and try to identify certain lyrical themes. Sometimes it can take him a couple of hours to finish one poster; sometimes it can take weeks.
His final poster for a Conor Oberst show was actually the second or third version.
“His music, to me, is not quite gospel, but it has that Southern preacher vibe, so I [originally] used a church,” he said. “For this we went with something a little lighter and not so strongly themed, but something that really fit with his music … I tried to find images that reminded me of him.”
Crawshaw stays in the poster business and goes to events like Flatstock for the “endless inspiration.”
“I like the constant involvement with music,” he said. “Seeing other people’s art … drives me to be better.”