How long have the two of you been working together? Did you both do posters before working with each other? We met in college in 1998 while we were both studying art. We were surreptitiously helping each other out with assignments almost immediately. We say this with some shame because this is obviously really looked down upon in academic art circles. Our work was so similar that we had to decide to either be mortal enemies or collaborators. Our collaborations always frustrated people because people think of a successful fine art collaboration as being two distinctly different sensibilities living together rather than a unified front. People regarded us as “cheaters.”
No, we started doing posters in 2003. We’d done a handful of fliers at that point. We’re both totally crazy for music so it was only a matter of time before we mixed printmaking with music.
Is there a job or poster that you have done that stands above others as your favorite? There are pieces that we feel are maybe our signature pieces; ones that generate a big response even way down the line after the event, like the Gang of Four poster for All Tomorrow’s Parties or a Fantomas poster we did for Philadelphia (this ended up in the video game Guitar Hero as well, minus the text of course- we’re the difficulty screen, I believe) but the slog of doing it and the physical exertion of printing these by hand in huge numbers wipes away any affection that we might have for the images. We look at the poster and all we can see are the parts of the design that caused us huge trouble in printing. We just hope it’s not obvious to everyone else.
Do you think you could give us a little insight into the process of creating a poster? What are your favorite parts of the process? Usually after getting a job we just sit down and listen to the records a few times through. We’re not specifically looking for a lyric or image from a song to use as the kernel at the center of the design. You don’t want to get too cute or too punny. Ultimately you have to use your gut. The two things that we always have to remind ourselves of are they hired us for us- we shouldn’t feel obligated to stray too far from our aesthetic- and that part of the value of concert posters is that, even if the band is the client, concert posters are generally outside of band identity and merchandising. They are more a comment on an event, in a fixed point in time.
Even though the printing is a pain in the ass, actually seeing the ink go down on paper is enormously gratifying. Holding a stack of 200 full-size posters is a thrill.
We noticed on your site that you have a “Circus Punk” collectible figure coming out. How is that going and what is it like working in 3-D?There’s a long, long queue of Circus Punks waiting to be made, so I wouldn’t run to your local toy store just yet to put your money down on a Little Friends Circus Punk just yet. That said, we’re really interested in material culture. It’s a huge inspiration for us, but it’s also an area that we’re happy to move into. We’re working on some toy projects right now that we can’t talk about- the toy business is very competitive and secretive.
The thing about working in 3D is that, with these projects, you’re usually not working in 3D. You’re providing drawings, patterns, stuff like that, and the shoemaker’s elves come in and make it into a toy. We wish we could be more involved in it- we love to make 3D work. Even though flatness and the silhouette is a big part of what we do, we’re always seeing things in a three-dimensional space.
What other projects are you currently working on? We’re doing a series of letterpressed greeting cards this year; we are very tentatively getting into animated cartoons (which we dare not go into, for fear of jinxing everything); we’re working on a comic book featuring our Dingus Dog character; we started a series of art prints called “Bad Vibes” which is the same kind of imagery, but not connected to an event, poster-sized and cheap like a poster; we have an exhibition with Tyler Stout and Jesse LeDoux that’s coming up way too soon; various posters, t-shirts, stuff like that. It is way too much for two employees.
The Little Friends of Printmaking are a husband-and-wife team of silkscreen artists living and working in Madison, Wisconsin. Emerging onto an already crowded poster art scene in early 2003, The Little Friends quickly established themselves as an indispensable new talent. They are best known for the interplay of layers in their prints, and a playful looseness that leads the viewer to consider the process by which the image was created. This notion is central to their work — As commercial screenprinting becomes practically obsolete, the Little Friends do their part to demystify the process and re-affirm the qualities that make screenprints desirable and unique among works on paper. Their visual language is steeped in popular and material culture: toys, comics, television cartoons — rock posters as re-imagined by an acid-burned 5-year old. Headshot of Little Friends by Yannick Grandmont.