Catharsis Printworks is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based in-house design and print studio. They have created an impressive body of work for bands such as Bon Iver, Tame Impala, Andrew Bird, Volcano Choir, Hot Chip, and Grizzly Bear. I talked with the duo behind the print shop about their passion, thoughts on the interactions between visual art and music, DIY culture, and more.
Who are you, and what do you do?
Tyler: We are Catharsis Printworks and we are a two person screenprinting & design studio based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It consists of master illustrator & designer, Audrey Lewis, and I (Tyler Hahn).
How did Catharsis Printworks originate?
Tyler: I had been doing gig posters with my best friend semi-regularly when I was in college for a few dollars here and there and the opportunity to work with cool bands. After college I wanted to start doing it more regularly and turn it into a consistent gig. At the same time, Audrey wanted to have more creative freedom from the job she had at the time, so we combined forces into what is now Catharsis Printworks.
What is the meaning behind the name?
Audrey: Music and art have both been major outlets for emotional release throughout my entire life. Whether I’m relating to a poignant song or an intense piece of artwork, they have often aided me in bringing a deeper understanding to my own experiences and the relationships I have formed with the people around me. I have had a lot of revelations, as far as how I feel about certain life events, from listening to music, and artwork has always been my way of visually representing that emotional release. The name first came about when I was listening to Wilco, and during a song, I had what I described as a “cathartic experience”. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word to represent the general effect that both music and art has on me as a whole, thus Catharsis Printworks came to be.
How did you come to specialize in gig posters?
Tyler: I think going to lots of shows as a kid and always admiring the amazing merch that bands had to for sale. I wasn’t much of a t-shirt guy, so I went for the screenprinted posters. I knew that if I was going to do my best work as a designer, it had to be for things that I loved and admired. Gig posters were the obvious blend of music & art for me.
When a band comes to you for a commissioned piece how do you go about crafting a work of art specifically tailored to their music?
Audrey: Listening to their music is, of course, the first step. However, more often than not, our commissions come from bands we already know and love, so getting a feel for the music usually isn’t too hard. The process often stops there and ideas form based entirely on the music alone. If we feel like we don’t have a wide enough scope for the feeling we should convey, we might research more about the band members or the fans of the music – even taking a look at other artwork put out for that particular band (focusing mainly on color schemes) might give us some insight as to how we should go about crafting a piece that the band and their fans will really appreciate.
What is your interpretation on the relationship between visuals arts and music?
Audrey: I think in general music and art have always served as a muse for one another. They are just one of many outlets for inspiration, just like nature, or public speakers, or science, etc. Music and art both draw from those sources, and from each other, in order to inspire and create. In a more tangible sense, music and art – specifically the gig poster industry – have a very symbiotic relationship. Poster artists promote the band visually, and in turn, the artists get exposure to the musicians’ fans.
What does DIY mean to you, and why is it important to your work?
Tyler: I grew up in a very DIY music scene in northern Illinois, so everyone was very scrappy when it came to recording records or making short films, that sort of thing. I think that that environment makes you appreciate the flaws in things self-produced. We learned really early that each print is going to be slightly different, and that’s the nature of DIY – it’s exciting.
What works are you most proud of, and why?
Audrey: Pride for us comes less in individual works and more in the process itself. When I see our past work, rather than seeing the art for what it is, I see mistakes that I’ve made and affirmation that I have improved since and will continue to improve. Although I am happy with all the work that we’ve done, I think it’s really valuable to view our whole body of work as a work in progress so that we take lessons from everything we do. Plus, I have never been good at picking favorites.
For more information or to commission a piece, check out Catharsis Printworks below.