Creative Couples: Melissa & JW Buchanan19 July 2010
So it’s been a while since the last interview. It’s back, and have we got a great couple to feature.
Melissa & JW Buchanan are a husband and wife team, better known as The Little Friends of Printmaking. They’ve been together for over ten years, collaborating and creating some of the most striking posters on the market today. They’re style is profoundly unique and recognizable. Read on and find out how they met and work together.
How did the two of you meet, and how long have you been together?
Melissa and I met studying art at the University of Wisconsin what seems like a lifetime ago. We met at the beginning of the process, in a 2-D Design course, gluing little cardboard squares and triangles to a sheet of bristol board. Our mutual exasperation bound us together, like hostages in a bank vault. Collaboration and our eventual partnership came later, and then kissing and marriage after that. We’ve been together for twelve years, “together” for eleven years, and “super-together” for almost ten.
What’s it like working with your better half?
Since it’s all we do, it’s hard to imagine working any other way. We don’t have much to compare it to. Together, Melissa and I have developed a sort of shorthand with each other, a secret twin language. We can work quickly without having to over-explain ourselves or fight to justify our ideas. I guess it’s a mutual understanding and experience at work. We have a low-grade telepathy. We can just nod and point and gesture or grunt like cavemen. Melissa will raise an eyebrow, and it will speak volumes. Needless to say, we’re very good at Taboo. And the ease with which we work together can make working with somebody else feel like slow-motion. We don’t take what we’ve got for granted.
Can you describe your creative workspace?
In the living room are all the books, and in what ought to be the dining room is a long table with our desktop on it and sundry drawing stuff. Downstairs is our print studio and our inventory room. So over the course of a project we’ll move from one side of the house to the other, thinking in one room, working in another; and then printing completes the circuit.
What are the benefits of living/working together?
We’re a team. And I feel like our relationship is stronger for having worked together so much. Sometimes I think about the hours I have to work and the sacrifices I have to make to complete our projects, and I can’t imagine how I would explain or justify that to someone who wasn’t as invested in the process as Melissa. And, of course, we can stretch out all over the house and make a mess or work all night if we want to. And I’ll never have to hear someone complaining about how I need to “get real and quit this art bullshit.”
It can be hard to get away from work. I live with my partner and work is always just a few feet away. The concept of “free time” eludes us, for the most part. Things can get overwhelming.
Has your work changed as a result of living/working together, if so how?
I feel like collaborating has allowed us to do more and better-quality work. Writer’s block, so to speak, is less of a problem because someone else can take charge for a while. We never seem to have a shortage of ideas, and we can develop concepts quickly. Mostly, the work just looks better.
Are you currently collaborating on anything at the moment?
On everything, always.
Any advice for future creative couples?
If you want to start a collaboration, you need to begin from a position of mutual respect. Otherwise it’s almost not worth pursuing. Don’t eat meals after 10:00pm (that one’s from Wii Fit Plus). Understand that there will always be another project down the road, so you can compromise a little today and get your way tomorrow.
Thanks you guys. I look forward to keeping up with your work.