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Design Bureau of Amerika speaks, part 2

Unfortunately, Alan is about to learn the consequences of misinterpreting the nuances of "Opposite Day," by Design Bureau of Amerika, aka Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman
Unfortunately, Alan is about to learn the consequences of misinterpreting the nuances of “Opposite Day,” by Design Bureau of Amerika, aka Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman

After seeing the terrific nostalgic cartoons and drawings at FreeJade Gallery, created by Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman, aka Design Bureau of Amerika, I wanted to know more about them. I also was intrigued by their enthusiasm for the Japanese-made, now discontinued Print Gocco system. This is part 2 of an interview with Burrowbridge (here’s part 1).

LR: How did you come upon the Gocco press?

TB: Keith found this [Gocco] cardmaker in Japan, 20 years old. They discontinued it. It’s a small screen printing studio you can do on your table. YOu don’t need much room. You don’t need a ton of different chemicals. It limits our prints to a certain size. But we’re just exploring how to exploit this machine as much as possible.

Now the supplies are drying out quickly. We’ve bought out the Philadelphia region of all of the supplies. …The process will be becoming more expensive as the supplies become more rare.

LR: So what will happen when you can’t get any more supplies or the machine breaks?

TB: We’re ordering rollers for Keith’s letterset press. And my father was a contractor by trade. He has all the means to build Keith and I our custom equipment. We have a 4 x 4 foot exposure unit that’s hand-built. He’s basically our builder. Once the supplies are out, we’re going to try to invent something.

We never take the easy approach to anything. If it’s not going wrong, then we’re not doing something right.

We take the harder path and come up with larger ideas than are possible. It’s that type of uncertainty that drives us.

LR: Whose work inspires you?

TY: Keith and I, one of our huge inspirations is Reid Miles, who did the album covers for Bluenote Records. …Keith is insanely superstitious, so we only print listening to viny records, a lot of classic jazz, so there are certain albums we play, we put those albums on at certain steps in the process because Keith believes we had a good experience with those albums on.

We dedicate all our weekend time to doing this. Every Sunday morning, we meet at 5 a.m. at a diner out at Perkasie (near the studio, which is in Keith’s basement) and start our discussion there. It’s never less than an 8-hour day. We’ll work 14 hours straight and maybe a 10 minute break for something to eat. When we get focused, there’s nothing better.

Ty Burrowbridge and Keith Bowman

Burrowbridge and Bowman at their exhibit opening night at FreeJade Gallery (photo by Roberta)

LR: How does the collaborative process work?

TB: It starts with one of our ideas. We both start with different elements of an illustration and pass it back and forth. Sometimes Keith will take it home and nail it and I won’t touch the design. We’re really similar in our approach, similar in our passion and our goals, different in our personalities.

Keith is extra superstitious. When things start to go wrong, he gets frustrated. I’m kind of the voice that brings us back. … He’s been doing this for much longer than I have. I’m 24, he’s 37.

There’s one thing that I know I can do and he can do, and that’s work and work to get something done. We really obsess over it, we obsess over type, we obsess over packaging. We both do the business side. I take care of the business portion but he has the business experience (he had his own business for a while).

Poster by Design Bureau of Amerika

poster on street outside FreeJade gallery opening (photo by Roberta, her Flickr set here)

LR: Who was that guy with the mask at your opening at FreeJade gallery?

TB: El Amerikano. He’s a friend we met at work and he’s part of the atmosphere we want to create. He’s a hilarious individual and he’s always been obsessed with Mexican wrestling. He takes pictures with people, Polaroids, and gets requests from women for Polaroids of him blowing a kiss. Not only are we serious, but we like to have a lot of fun.