Out of everyone I met in college, Samantha Kramer is by far the one I love the most. I first met Sam in a college printmaking class, where we bonded over a mutual dislike for a certain terrible professor and a serious love for working in the studio's darkroom all night long. I have so many great memories of the two of us giggling the night away... We have been super close ever since then, and even though Sam lives in North Carolina now, we still keep in touch very well, Skype all the time, and visit each other at least once a year. Since graduating from college, Sam has always had jobs in the creative industry, but now she is working for herself and sells her awesomely funny and creative note cards and prints in her very own Etsy shop, Near Modern Disaster. She also sells shipping supplies & vintage postage stamps at her second shop, Pack and Post. Sam is super successful and awesome, and I am proud to know her. Whenever we chat, I feel motivated and ready to work on my creative business, and I think you will feel that way too after reading her interview. I am extra excited to announce that, for the next three days (Feb. 28 - March 2 at 11AM EST), you can purchase her products at a discounted rate through this link that will take you to her Fab.com sale. Hooray!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. What kind of art do you make?-->
I’ve been working under the name “Near Modern Disaster” since 1999 when I was a photography student at the University of Florida. I’ve moved on to illustration since then but photography never completely left the picture. I still use it as a basis for most of my work.
For readers who aren't familiar with Etsy.com, how would you describe it?
Etsy is a combination of the world’s largest craft fair, the world’s largest antique mall, and the world’s largest art supply shop wrapped up in a nice one-URL package. It’s certainly the best place for anyone looking to dip their toes in the craft or vintage retail pool.
You studied photography in art school... What do you think are the differences between a snapshot and an art photograph?
On one hand, it’s all about intent. On the other, it really comes down to marketing. If you say it’s art, who’s to question you?
How are computers changing the way we interact with our personal photographs?
I don’t think computers have changed our interaction as much as smart phones have. They’ve made the personal public. And with all of the retro camera apps, they’ve made “snapshots” more interesting. It’s pretty difficult to take a boring photograph if you run it through a fancy filter.
How do you personally go about making art? (Tell us a bit about your process, your creative routines, your inspirations, etc.)
As I mentioned before, I use photos as a basis for most of my work. Most of the time I use my own photos but in the case of a piece like my Hipster Deer, I’ll spend a while scouring the internet for the best taxidermied deer head photo I can find.
I use the photos as reference, drawing in Adobe Illustrator with my Wacom Tablet. I’ll usually do a few versions of every image - changing colors, adding and taking away certain lines, etc.
I keep a “to draw” folder on my desktop with different images I’ve taken as well as a Word doc with different ideas. It’s hard to really pinpoint where the ideas come from. Mostly, I just draw what I like. The Hipster Deer are sort of an exception. My boyfriend was on the phone with his sister who told him that the previous night she had almost hit a deer family with her car. I asked how she knew they were a family – did they have matching t-shirts? I actually started drawing deer wearing Mickey Mouse t-shirts and then decided I’d like some hipsters instead.
What are some of your creative aspirations for the future?
My main “end products” right now are note cards. I produce them all myself which is MEGA TIME CONSUMING. I’d love to get to the point where my order numbers were high enough that I could affordably send everything off to a local print shop.
I’ve done quite a few custom pieces over the years and I’d love to continue with that. My most requested illustrations are custom “Make Out City” portraits. I’d love to branch into wedding stationery using those portraits as a starting point.
In your opinion, what is the difference between art and craft?
In your opinion, what is the difference between art and craft?
I don’t think the terms are mutually exclusive but I suppose I’d err on the side of craft being more functional and art being more decorative?
To you, what is bad art? What is good art?
This question is basically impossible to answer. Art is so subjective. There’s loads of work out there that I’d consider garbage – but some of my favorite illustrators draw things that would get a “my kid could’ve done that” response. To each his own! Then again, we can all agree that everything on Regretsy is crap, right?
What is your current favorite piece of art that you have made?
I feel like the most recent pieces are always the favorites. I just (finally!) did a Make Out City portrait of my boyfriend & I for Valentine’s Day. Is it too nerdy to choose that one? I also just finished a custom Make Out City portrait of Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels for a friend as a birthday gift to her husband. It’s pretty magical.
What are some of your current art obsessions? (artists or types of art, etc.)
I’ve also been really interested in collage artists lately. No one in particular, just finding myself drawn to images on tumblr, etc. I spend so much time on the computer that I start to lose touch with the art of “making” things by hand. Definitely have “experiment with collage” on the bucket list.
What do you collect?
I’ve been on a vintage stamp kick lately. So much so that I’ve opened a second Etsy shop to sell them. (www.packandpost.etsy.com) I’ve always loved sending mail and have always been particular about the stamps I’ve used. Growing up, my father collected so I suppose it’s a hobby that was lying dormant since childhood. Now I’m putting together collections for other people to use on their wedding invites. Who knew collecting for others could be so fun?
Recommend some inspiring books/websites/music/movies to us...
Husband and wife duo Something’s Hiding in Here are a constant source of inspiration. Relatively certain that everything they touch turns to gold. (http://www.somethingshidinginhere.com)
“The Ballet” from Brooklyn, NY is your new favorite band. You’re welcome. (http://www.thepirateship.org)
I’m a huge fan of everything Rick Colado does. He currently performs under the name “Rickolus”. His latest EP “Coyote and Mule” was released on cassette (I know, I know – it comes with a digital download, settle down.) with beautifully illustrated screenprinted artwork. You can get it here : http://www.circleintosquare.com/item/coyote-and-mule
On the business end of things, I learned TONS from Meg Mateo Ilasco’s books “Craft, Inc.” and “Creative, Inc.”.
Also, I’m a Pinterest junkie. If you aren’t using that site, you probably have more free time than I do but SERIOUSLY, follow your favorite artists and bloggers as well as your friends and be prepared to lose days at a time.
Do you have any advice you could offer to someone who wants to start making art but doesn't know where to begin?
Just do it. And put that shit on the internet. ALL. OVER. THE. INTERNET.
Thanks so much for such an awesome interview, Sam! :)