Posts tagged: Evanston

Jay Ryan smashes together the worlds of rock music and poster making

By , May 22, 2009 8:35 am

The man behind the Bird Machine

The man behind the Bird Machine

Rock-band bassist and silkscreen artist Jay Ryan speaks to us about his work, interests and love for labor intensive processes. While most poster makers enter the craft by way of graphic design or digital artistry, Jay’s education consisted of a degree in painting from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, ditching fine art painting for the more exciting world of poster making. He prefers creating his posters by hand, avoiding Photoshop at all costs…including many cuts from his treasured Exacto knife. Also, unlike most rock bands (with the exception of the Rolling Stones and U2) Jay’s band, Dianogah, has played together in the Chicago area and internationally for about 15 years.

F: You have a degree in Painting, why work on posters and not stick to painting or try out photography?

J: One of problems I had in school was finding justification for doing what I was doing. I wanted to do something where I could have fun with it visually and at the same time serve a purpose. To me, images alone seemed pointless, so I was always attaching text and creating a message with my work. Then, the other half of my life was spent going to rock concerts or band practice – so making posters for bands seemed like a great way to combine these interests!

F: So are your posters as easy as hitting the print button?

J: I make them all by hand with no computers. They are hand drawn, and all layers of film are cut by hand using Exacto knives. If we are making 300 posters, we go through 300 pieces of paper, put one color down, change screens and put another color down on all 300 pieces. We’ll usually end up making posters that include 5-7 colors so it is quite labor intensive.

F: Do you feel threatened by the digital world, where almost everything can be created through Adobe software and a printer?

J: I am encouraged by it because a lot of my peers in the poster community design all their work digitally but still go through the physical process of making these screen prints. In general, I believe there will always be those who appreciate handmade work. For example, there are still people who buy LPs and books despite itunes and the Kindle. Maybe my posters won’t be in the hands of a hundred million people, but I’ll still have people who appreciate and care about the art and amount of work put into the piece.

F: Why is it called the bird machine?

J: I was going to call it IBM, but that was taken, so we settled on The Bird Machine. There’s no real good reason, but I should really make one up. A lot of people ask me this question. A few probable reasons are that my wife is an ornithologist, and when I started the company I read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

One of Jay's handmade creations

One of Jay's handmade creations

F: You are in a band, Dianogah that recently performed in the UK, at the ATP Festival, what was it like?

J: Traveling anywhere with this band is a lot of fun. I’ve been in this band longer than I’ve been making posters. Anytime we get together and travel and play is a blast. We got to see some good bands, stay up late, and act like we were 23, even though we are all in our late 30s. It was a fun weekend, with not a lot sleep.

F: Where do you play out here?

J: We have played in almost every venue in Chicago over the years, but The Hideout is our favorite place to play. Our next gig in Chicago is at the Pitchfork Music Festival; we are playing there on July 19th. There is a poster convention at the festival too, and I’ll be there showing and hopefully selling my posters.

F: What neighborhood do you live in? What do you do around there?

J: I live in Evanston, mow the lawn and walk the dog daily – I am fully suburban, as I work and live outside the city. Actually, there’s not a whole lot to do really close to my house, though there’s plenty within biking distance. I go to Chicago a lot. I used to live near Granville and Western. First best reason to go into Chicago is to go to Hot Doug’s, then Kuma’s Corner to get an amazing cheeseburger. I just had a swine flu burger there and it was great. I love browsing books at Quimby’s Books in Wicker Park and spend more money then I should at Reckless Records. Oh yeah, I also enjoy going to Rotofugi, Renegade Handmade, and eating at Milk & Honey.

F: What is your favorite gallery or place to check out visual art?

J: Rotofugi is like a vinyl toy store, but they also have some books, and have gallery space. Definitely have a bunch of good stuff there. Heaven Gallery is cool too.

F: Where can we see your work?

J: This is where I go hi-tech. Best place to see my prints is to check out my website.

Putting the Hungarians against the Dutch and discovering szeretlek with language expert Rebecca

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By , May 20, 2009 9:31 am
Rebecca transforms herself into a giant hotdog

Rebecca transforms herself into a giant hotdog

Former resident of Topanga, California, a hippie canyon community in LA, now current Northwestern graduate student Rebecca talks to us about studying languages and escaping Evanston – in fact, she is counting the days until her lease is up so she can move into the city. Outside of the Northwestern bubble, she frequently enjoys going to the farmer’s market, avoiding Barleycorn’s, and finding the best taqueria in Chicago. You’ll probably find her taking the Red line down into the city every weekend, annoyed by the turtle-like pace of the train, but at the same time appreciative of the city as it passes.


Exposing Rebecca…

F: What are you taking up at Northwestern?


R: The treatment of speech, language, and swallowing disorders! Most people think of my type as the speech therapists in schools working on kids with a lisp. Although this is a big part of the field, we work on a whole variety of disorders in a bunch of different settings. I’m still figuring out where I want to end up, but I don’t think I will be working on lisps in schools.


F: Why the interest in speech pathology?


R: I’ve always liked languages but never knew what I could do with it. Although I loved studying linguistics as an undergrad, the PhD/academia route just didn’t seem for me. I worked in tech companies for a couple years, just long enough to know that I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day for the rest of my life. All of a sudden it clicked: I wanted to study language and work with people. Speech language pathology just made sense.


F: Does Ali G have a speech disorder?


R: No, I classify him as having his own speech and language unlike any other person in this world.


R: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer, but now I will thank God that I didn’t follow through with that idea.


R: My favorite language is Hungarian, and the word that excites me the most is szeretlek because you can say something as heavy as “I love you” in just one word


R: The language I dislike the most is Dutch because it sounds like all its speakers are coughing up hairballs


R: I think robo-phone-operators are surprisingly intelligent and they will one day run our country


R: After I finish my studies in 2010, I will move back to California while secretly wanting to move to Europe and say goodbye to Chicago.


Uncovering secrets about Chicago and Evanston

R: In Evanston, I like eating at Ruby of Siam. When I am studying for a mid-term the next day, I drink 3 cans of Coke Zero and go to Cosi, which has the nicest employees I’ve met of any chain restaurant


R: Evanston is like a bubble because it’s a suburb despite the fact that everyone says it’s not like the real suburbs, when I need some reprieve, I crash at my friend’s apartment in Lincoln Park


R: My favorite secret about Northwestern is it is the lost city of Atlantis. Actually, my department doesn’t interact with the rest of the University and I know absolutely nothing about it


R: Favorite stops on the Red-line are: Berwyn and Belmont because they both start with a B, and also because those neighborhoods seem like the perfect combination of active city life and quiet residential blocks

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