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5 Questions with the Little Friends of Printmaking

LOOKING FOR a unique and affordable way to give art this holiday season? Put "Greetings from California" at Foxy Loxy Café on your list.

The Little Friends of Printmaking are JW and Melissa Buchanan, a married couple based in Los Angeles. Their printmaking career began with making concert posters and has branched into the pair giving lectures and holding exhibitions.

“Greetings from California” opens during First Friday in Starland on Dec. 1 with a live music set by Brittany Moses Toledo. The prints remain in the gallery until Jan. 28.

We spoke with Melissa last week.

1. How did you get into printmaking? Has it been a lifelong passion or a new thing?

We’ve both been making prints since we were teenagers. The experience of being able to make multiples of your art is incredibly addicting, and it became sort of a lifelong passion for both of us.

2. What are the joys and the challenges of working with your partner?

There were certainly growing pains early on, but working together is incredibly comfortable for us now. It’s very freeing to know that you’re always getting honest feedback and support— which can be rare commodities among artists and designers. The rigors of printmaking kind of require you to work with a buddy, and we consider ourselves very lucky to have found a partner that shares our particular vision.

We started working together so early, at such a young age, that what you see now is a house style that we developed together over the years. It is, I suppose, a synthesis of the best parts of each of our visual style. Eighteen years or so into the process, it’s become hard to draw a bright line of distinction between our styles.

3. What's your creative process like?

We illustrate and hand-print all of our work ourselves. We’re there from beginning to end, actively engaging with each step of the sometimes extraordinarily convoluted printmaking process. We’ve been doing things this way for years now, and what was once a dire necessity is now one of the core principles of our art practice. The silkscreen process and the act of printing have informed our aesthetic as illustrators and designers completely. Engaging with the process directly has given us a greater understanding of the materiality of the medium.

4. What would you tell someone trying to start out in printmaking?

Don’t start out buying fancy equipment and overextending yourself —start small! The first prints we made at home were printed on a kitchen table, with supplies we had lying around. You’d be shocked at the results you can get if you focus on what’s achievable.

5. What's the importance of setting a realistic price point for art?

Keeping artwork affordable has been a major priority for us throughout our career. It’s much more important for us to put our work into the hands and homes of the people who want it than to set an arbitrary, aspirational price point. Because we both design and hand-print all of our work ourselves, we’re free set the price wherever we like. Nothing feels better than when a young person buys one of our prints with a bunch of wadded-up ones and change. I still remember being a kid without a lot of pocket money, wishing I could buy the things I thought were cool, and I’m glad we can pay it forward.