A breath of fresh art

Laura Edmisten

SN&R Photo By Anne Stokes

Ever since Jules Chéret melded public art with print advertising way back in 1866, poster art has been the medium by which artists have communicated at the grassroots level, and music—the other grassroots art form—often has been the subject of choice.

Sacramento is an excellent case in point—from anonymous, black and white Xerox pages to full-color flyers, from Skinner’s murals to Paul Imagine’s psychedelic-tinged, Danse Macabre images, Midtown has a healthy “rock art” culture. Currently, none is more eye-catching than the work coming out of Asbestos Press, the one-woman artistic enterprise of Laura Edmisten. Working out of her modest kitchen, she’s been dressing up Midtown’s utility poles with the striking palette and layered images of her posters for local bands like Be Brave Bold Robot, Agent Ribbons and Chelsea Wolfe.

Tell me about Asbestos Press.

Asbestos Press started in the summer of 2005. My boyfriend, Matthew, and I wanted to make interesting show posters for our friends. The first ones were for the Noise Geniuses, Sean Hayashi and Deluxe.

Matthew eventually moved from Sacramento to pursue other interests, but he still makes posters under the name Dead by 2012, and I’ve continued on as Asbestos Press.

Everything I make is silk-screened, and always by hand. I think that there’s something to be said for pieces that are created and printed by hand.

What’s the story behind the name?

When we first started, a friend of mine offered us her basement to use as a workspace. The only catch was that we couldn’t work there until the asbestos was removed. The space ended up not working out, but the name “Asbestos Press” made us laugh, so we kept it.

What’s your training?

I graduated from Sac State in December 2006 with a double major in graphic design and photography. I currently work as a photography archivist for the California State Library, and I’m also a freelance graphic designer. Asbestos Press is a hobby for me, a means for me to be totally hands-on as a designer. I love being able to print my own work. The inconsistencies and the ability to create unique, layered designs are what attracted me to the medium.

As far as silk screening goes, I’m more or less self-taught. I didn’t really know where to start, so I began attending the local rock-poster shows, Rock Art Revulsion, asking questions to just about anyone who would listen. I found that other poster artists are pretty friendly and once they see that you have a genuine interest in screen-printing most of them will help you out with information—like where to buy supplies, what to buy, what to avoid, how to line up your colors [registration], how to trap images [making sure there are no gaps in between the colors], etc. I also turned to the Internet and old books. Eventually after a lot of trial and error, I figured out the process.

How much is the imagery in a piece connected to the band or their music?

Rock posters are made to get your attention. A poster is, after all, an advertisement. I don’t think that the image itself needs to be linked to the band directly. However, it’s always nice to include some subtleties about the music into the poster, or to use a motif that evokes the feeling of the music. In the end it’s really about getting people out to the shows.

Are you producing work for shows outside of Sacramento?

Almost all of my work has been for shows in the Sacramento area, though I have done a few posters for shows in San Francisco. I would love to continue doing both. Creating posters has also led me to other screen-printing projects, as well. I am currently designing and printing album artwork, and I have also done wedding invitations as well as my own art prints, greeting cards and calendars.

How big is your average run?

My poster runs are anywhere from 30 to 50 prints, but there have been a few jobs where I printed several hundred. I did around 200 for an Agent Orange show in San Francisco, all of them printed in my apartment! I had posters drying everywhere, even in the bathtub. When screen-printing, you always have to print more than the job requires, to account for loss, misprints and my occasional fingerprints.

Once the posters are complete the person or band that ordered them does the distribution. I also put some around town, as well. Plus, I keep extras for myself for future art shows, or for sale.

Are there some bands that you would love to do some art for?

Tons. I think my dream poster project would be for Modest Mouse or the Pixies, maybe Fugazi. Or, if this was 25 years ago, the Clash.