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The reemergence of handmade posters

The modern craft movement is embracing them as a way to liven up walls without spending a lot of money.

August 06, 2011|By David A. Keeps, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • A poster advertising indie rock duo the Raveonettes is $30 at tworabbitsstudios.com.
A poster advertising indie rock duo the Raveonettes is $30 at tworabbitsstudios.com. (Two Rabbit Studios, Two…)

Whether they advertise a concert, commemorate a local landmark or simply encourage you to "Keep Calm and Carry On," posters remain one of the most affordable ways to bring art into the home.

Hand-silkscreened posters have become darlings of the modern craft world, taking their place at events such as Unique L.A. and the Renegade Craft Fair among the felt pillows, crocheted throws and letterpress stationery cranked out by a new generation of indie artisans.

"An original painting is much more valuable because there is only one, but posters are a fantastic way to get great quality, handmade art at a reasonable price," said Bob Motown, co-owner of Two Rabbits Studios, which sells prints for as little as $10 online. Many posters are screen-printed in limited runs, just like art prints that retail for hundreds of dollars, and often they were designed by the same artists, he said.

It is something of a renaissance for the art form. Posters made the leap from public notices and advertisements to home d├ęcor during the early days of rock 'n' roll, when teenage fans hung concert posters on their walls.

"They are very much woven into the fabric of American music culture and have a rich, deep history," Motown said.

Motown co-founded Two Rabbits Studios with Mike Thacker in 2007 in an Altadena backyard. Now they operate out of a 6,500-square-foot warehouse in downtown Los Angeles.

"There is a giant poster subculture out there which comes together on websites such as Gigposters.com and events such as Flatstock, a series of exhibitions put on by the American Poster Institute," Motown said.

Many designers can make a career from the art form, said Clay Hayes, who launched Gigposters.com 10 years ago. The site has grown to include more than 10,000 registered artists, nearly 36,000 registered users and a classified sales section that attracts more than 10,000 unique visitors daily.

Rick Goral, the designer and owner of Seattle Show Posters, believes the poster keeps people engaged in a digital era where music consumption is "a 99-cent click."

"Screen-printed posters are handmade," he said. "You can run a finger over the ink and feel the different layers."

Performing artists and concert venues commission posters, said Nathan Goldman of DKNG Studios, which has been the poster maker for the Troubadour in West Hollywood since 2007. Most poster houses give clients discounts on design and printing fees in exchange for permission to sell their work online.

"We approach each poster with the idea of creating something custom that's completely unique to a particular band's aesthetic, sound and style," Goldman said. But concert poster designers often create other types of works, and through websites and craft fairs they have more ways to reach shoppers looking for affordable, handmade art that strikes a chord.

"Posters transcend fads and express people's personal style, hobbies and favorite things," said the Long Beach-based graphic artist and printer at the Poster List who simply goes by the name Adam. Among his works, most of which sell for $10.99, are graphic representations of Los Angeles landmarks, breakfast foods, vintage cars, bicycles and electronics.

"I create posters that pertain to my interests or things that I find inspiring," he said. "I'm really, simply trying to convey the world through my eyes."

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