DIY Design

Posted on November 3, 2011 – 11:06 PM | by Admin
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by Sarah Hansel  Photos by Scott Duncan

Aside from the stylish sign above the door that reads “Asbestos Press,” the shed in Laura Edmisten’s Curtis Park backyard looks like…well, a backyard shed. Inside, however, it’s a different story.

Splashy posters line one wall, and shelves on the other wall hold boxes and boxes of vintage comic books, retro packaging, and other inspirational items Edmisten has collected over the years. Wooden frames and printing supplies are propped up and piled everywhere.  I must have looked overwhelmed when I entered the shed because Edmisten immediately began explaining her screen printing process—a complicated endeavor involving transparencies, squeegees, and a light box her uncle made for her. Most of the details go over my head, but it’s clear that Edmisten has honed and perfected this process. It’s also clear that she is incredibly passionate about screen printing and design.
Edmisten studied graphic design at Sac State, but taught herself how to screen print. “I bought a kit from a store and that’s how all this started,” she says. “I knew nothing about screen printing…I was making my own transparencies out of photocopies and exposing my screens with the sun.” 
In 2004, Edmisten began making greeting cards and concert posters, and soon Asbestos Press was born. “Originally [Asbestos Press] was to be an art collective,” she says. “That ended up not working out…and I took it over. The name was kind of a joke. It gets peoples’ attention. A friend of mine at the time lived in an old house in Oak Park, and she offered me her basement. When I went to check it out the place was filled with pipes with crumbling bits of asbestos. Somebody threw out the name Asbestos Press and I kept it.” 
Now, Asbestos Press is a fully equipped (asbestos-free) one-woman business, and Edmisten is well known in Sacramento for her hand-printed concert posters. She hasdesigned posters for shows featuring local bands like Sea of Bees and Der Spazm, as well as higher-profile shows like Pinback—which was her favorite project to date. “It was so exciting to me to be able to work on a band I love so much.” 
Her next big project is designing concert posters for legendary punk band X’s show at Harlow’s in December. The band put out a “call to artists” on their website – every city on their tour has a different local artist designing a poster – and Edmisten is Sacramento’s artist. “I’m so stoked,” she says, grinning. “That one I’m going to spend some time on. I love X, they’re awesome.” 
Though she’s had plenty of opportunities to work with bands she listens to, Edmisten also welcomes poster commissions for bands she isn’t familiar with. “It’s been worth my while many times to branch out and not stay within certain boundaries,” she says. The same goes for her design aesthetic. Although she admits her work is heavily influenced by retro and vintage style (one look at her kitchen, which is filled with retro spice containers and other awesomely kitschy paraphernalia, confirms this), she rejects the label “retro designer.” “I don’t want to be stuck in one genre,” she says. “I definitely am capable of other things besides that.”
The work Edmisten has done for her day job as a graphic designer for Jelly Belly certainly proves this point. Jelly Belly’s cartoonish, colorful candy packaging is a far cry from Edmisten’s graphic two-or-three color posters. Her designs for Jelly Belly are also made digitally, whereas all her posters are hand-screened. Edmisten says she likes the contrast: “I can come out here, I can print, I can experiment with ink and paper and different styles and I don’t have to stick to certain rules or guidelines. This has always been freelance for me. I’ve always had a day job but I’ve always had a different type of creativity than I do during the day.” 

In an era where most graphic design is done solely on a computer, Edmisten’s DIY attitude is a rarity. “Every print is unique,” she says. “You’ll have maybe a distressed area on one print where the ink didn’t pass through all the way, and the next one will have it in a different area. I love that.” 
Edmisten describes her process as “technology going backwards,” because she begins by laying out an image on the computer. “But the finished product is a hand done piece where every piece of paper is different in some way,” she says. “You don’t know if you’re going to get this piece of distress here, or this letter might not print that great on the next poster, but that’s what’s cool to me. The mistakes are interesting.”

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