Electric Works studio tour

Sixth in a series of studio tours from the Bay Area, in celebration of the Printeresting-edited issue of The California Printmaker.

At the tail end of our Bay Area Blitz, we stumbled wearily through the doors of Electric Works. We had already visited several studios that day, and I had presented a lecture at San Francisco State University to boot. So I really needed the jolt of energy provided by this inspiring visit! Noah Lang, who is in charge of publishing and artist management, woke me right up with a dynamic tour of the Electric Works facility, which comprises print production studios, galleries, and a dynamite bookstore.

The bookstore is chock full of goodies from Electric Works, McSweeney’s and other oddball publishing outfits. (If you’re looking to buy me a present, you might pick up this deluxe edition of Little Nemo. Incidentally, a day in this store would bankrupt my co-editor Amze Emmons, so it’s a good thing I was the one who made the trip.) We got our grimy little hands on a copy of Jason Jägel’s 73 Funshine, which was published by Electric Works and won the Independent Book Publisher’s Gold Medal in 2009.

Currently in the Electric Works gallery, there is a show celebrating artwork from the McSweeney’s McMullens childrens’ books imprint. When we visited this show was not yet on display, but we did get to peep an early copy of Jordan Crane’s Keep Our Secrets, a shapeshifting kids’ book from McSweeney’s. The book uses heat-sensitive ink to create a more interactive reading experience:

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Above, my steadfast tour guide Anthony Ryan checks out the gallery with work by Hughen/Starkweather; also on display were sculptures by Andy Vogt.

Formerly known as Trillium Press, in 2006 the team at Electric Works adopted their current moniker, which honors the massive industrial building that houses the facility. Here, Noah shows off the Cyclops 5 Ton Crane:


part of the production area

Anthony and Noah wear William T. Wiley dunce caps

Electric Works employs a range of publishing models to produce an eclectic mix of traditional editions, complex portfolios, elaborate multiples, and books. Some print projects are developed on site, but many of the multiples are logistically complex and cannot be completed in-house; these may be contracted to other facilities.

We had the privilege of seeing multiple editions by Electric Works artists including Enrique Chagoya, Sandow Birk, Marcel Dzama, and Stephanie Syjuco.

You’re probably familiar with Enrique Chagoya’s “Cannibull’s” editions which critique the art world and the financial system. But have you ever seen this custom slot machine, 2012: Super-Bato Saves the World?

Marcel Dzama’s The Cabin of Count Dracula, twenty lithographs and a vinyl record housed in a LincolnLog-esque box lined with faux beaver fur:

I was especially excited to learn more about Sandow Birk’s trio of luxe books based on classic works by Dante. We also saw a set of trading cards based on Birk’s elaborate opus documenting “The Great War of the Californias.”

And of course I was delighted to see a piece by longtime Printeresting favorite Stephanie Syjuco, who plays off our our nostalgia for obsolete electronics with these Future Shock Nesting Boxes:

We also got to see a boxed suite of lithographs by Robyn O’Neil, a custom pinball machine by William T. Wiley, serial monoprints by John Bankston, an enormous drypoint print by Josephine Taylor, and more.

See photos of these and other impressive works on the Electric Works website. You should also look at the Electric Works blog and  Flickr photostream.

Thanks again to Noah and the rest of the Electric Works crew for a great visit!


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Categories: Printeresting, Printshop Tour

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