Sharing the stories behind the most talented creatives in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
I met Allison Glancey of strawberryluna years before I moved back to Pennsylvania. We’d connected online shortly after I started Design Crush and bonded over the city of Pittsburgh, where Allison was living with her husband and the other half of strawberryluna, Craig. You’ve likely seen their gig posters for everyone from Belle & Sebastian to Morrissey. We spent a sunny Friday afternoon drinking boxed white zinfandel and talking all about life paths, dogs, and other awesome things.
Allison’s printing ink collection.
Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with strawberryluna.
It’s a bit of an accidental story, to be honest. I had always been interested in printmaking. I’d never had the chance to learn before I heard about Artists Image Resource (AIR for short) on the North Side. In fall of 2004, I went to an Open Studio night and was lucky enough to have the talented Mike Budai as the person to show me around and how to print. After that I was hooked, 100%. I began attending the AIR Open Studio nights regularly, working on small art prints for my own amusement and slowly started to get a little better with a lot of help from the AIR braintrust. It is a very DIY, punk, make it work sort of artists’ culture and that really helped solidify the process of screenprinting for me and allowed for a lot of experimentation. I started showing work in a few places online (Gigposters.com, Flickr, etc) and got connected to promoters, bands, record labels, managers and so forth, then started doing rock posters as well as art prints. The challenge of having to create and hand print full editions for band clients was really intense and rewarding at the same time. We also designed a line of Alphabet Prints that were featured in Real Simple’s Holiday Gift Guide in 2007 a few months after I had quit a corporate HR job. That exposure and holiday season was the true beginning of me realizing that strawberryluna really could be a full-time endeavor.
Allison prepping her workspace.
What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?
I think that my favorite part(s) of the process are both in finalizing a design. Because we end up working on every design through trial and error, moving, changing, playing, trashing, starting over… until there is this magical moment where it all suddenly feels right. Many times we will just walk away from the piece at that point and come back tomorrow, just to make sure it’s still solid. And then if it is, my other favorite part of the process is almost always that very first pull of the last layer and color on a print or a poster. It’s a very unique, special feeling where all of the hours of work that I’ve already put into a piece come together. It’s a cool “Proof of concept” emotion that I think maybe only other printmakers might truly be able to appreciate. It’s one part relief to two parts thrill somehow. And I love it. No matter how tired I am, no matter how late at night it is when I get to that one moment? It’s the best. My least favorite is, hands down, reclaiming screens.
Prepping and pulling a color on a gig poster.
What other makers inspire you most?
The ones who bust ass like we do! I love to see my friends process photos of their work, both our maker friends here in Pittsburgh and the ones who live far away that we might only ever see in person once a year. Working for yourself in a creative, design and maker business is so rewarding but it is also very very hard work and can be so draining at times. So I find that I most adore like-minded doers who put their heads down and just get it done, son.
Allison at the drying rack.
Where do you see strawberryluna in 5 years?
I’ve never had a good head for 5-year plans. I am much more of an organic let’s open this door and see where it goes kind of person and thinker, and my business model shows that if you really look at it. I would love to ramp up our wholesale side more, and I would love to continue working on more and more illustration-heavy projects. Perhaps actually get a book published! We’ve worked on a few book projects for covers, illustrations, and the like, but they sadly died before publication. I would love to write and illustrate a children’s book. Or ten.
Just a few of Allison’s favorite strawberryluna prints framed in her studio. / Sprite!, her canine assistant.
What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?
So many things. I don’t want to make it sound like paradise here, because it’s not. The winters are long, cold, grey, and hardcore. And it’s a smaller city than the places that people usually think of as great arts-centric communities. But! I think that Pittsburgh offers so much more than many larger cities. For instance, a place like AIR where I learned how to screenprint? That just doesn’t exist in many other places. Space and price are at such a premium in cities like NYC, Chicago, and LA that it’s virtually impossible to have so many rich, community accessible facilities and support systems like we do in Pittsburgh. The maker and small business community of people that I’ve nestled into and have formed super strong bonds with is filled with very strong, hardworking, and lovely talents who honestly subscribe to the idea that A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats as well. If I need advice or a resource I find that most people here are more than willing to share, help, and listen. What seems incredibly natural to me about Pittsburgh’s maker and creative side is often seen as an unusual thing when I talk with peers in other cities and when we do shows across the country. Also, for being such a nice, green, and tech-forward city it’s relatively inexpensive without being rough or run down. I have to say that I also dearly, dearly love that pretentiousness is something that Pittsburgh has never and seemingly (hopefully?) will never foster. It’s a completely “put your money where your mouth is” town where people get excited to make things, open shops, and actually have the opportunities to make because we aren’t working three jobs just to keep a small apartment. With the caveats of being cool with a lot of rain and sleet? It’s a pretty great city. Just don’t tell everyone! It’s kind of a secret how awesome it is to live and work for yourself here.
Posted In behind the scenes, create, paper, paper goods, pittsburgh, prints