Fashion, Art, and Recycled Magazines: The Making of Slake

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Slake is more than a best selling literary quarterly filled with original artwork, essays, poems, and memoirs from some of Los Angeles’ most notable writers and artists. Clocking in around 200 pages, each issue is crafted by a skeleton crew dedicated to saving the printed word. Among them, Slake co-founder (and a former colleague of mine) Joe Donnelly. He invited me to check out their new-ish headquarters in Atwater Village to witness the painstaking Slake process. Or, as he says to find out why “Slake takes so f—cking long.”

At close to 9 pm on a Monday, art director Alex Bacon and assistant art editor Anne McCaddon are sitting at drafting table littered with collages, glue sticks, and Exacto knives. The wall is papered with layouts, including the 40 pages of art that Bacon and McCaddon created from scratch. Bacon, a former professional snowboarder, created ad campaigns and board graphics for The Movement (a magazine fully run by snowboarders) back in ‘90s and Anne, who describes herself first and foremost as a painter, with an interest in fashion, textiles and sculpture, explain how fashion, street art, and a photocopier collide in “Dirt,” the latest issue of Slake.

Where did the idea to create the art yourselves in addition to designing the entire issue come from?

Bacon: Joe talked about the theme “dirt” and we kicked ideas around, dirt being this and dirt being that, and whatever it is. It is everything. And that got me thinking about getting our hands dirty so that lead me to think that we should do everything by hand. And that got me thinking about how much work that was going to be. It was going to be a lot of work.

How did you decide on collages?

Bacon: I was really influenced by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin and they did this thing called the cut-ups in the ‘50s and ‘60s and it was taking words and cutting them up, reforming them, and making them into something else. I thought that sounded like something we could do and that lead me into the collage idea.

 McCaddon: What I like about it is that it looks like these found scrapbook journal things, very personal and coded and kind of like manuscripts or someone’s secret map or something. There is gossip in the issue and secrets and it looks like you are opening someone’s personal notebook. So we started pulling a whole bunch of research material. I brought in these pictures I got at a swap meet from some guy who went to Italy in the ‘50s and took a bunch of pictures, he even had a checklist of everywhere he went.

Can you describe the process?

McCaddon: We both started making them at the same time and mine were really simple and quite eerie and abstract and you had to figure out what you were looking at and Alex has this very punk rock, loud style, and I was worried at first that it would look a mess. But they really compliment each other. I do abstract paintings right now that reference things but I try to leave it open for the viewer but the way it worked for Dirt was we just started doing it and something would happen by accident. The work takes you to something else and you let it take you.  You don’t have to force it into something, so you try not to preconceive what it should look like.  I got a lot of ideas from textiles, for one piece called “Ring Shout” I made a pattern, then fabric, essentially, by weaving the patterned paper and afterwards I  photocopied a grid over top of it because the story is about people who bump into one another at random points.

 Alex: I took images that had been submitted by people and local photographers and I ran them through the printer, and tweakthem. I took my four year olds’ puppet that we made and she painted and I used it for the “Print Shop Boulevard” piece, which talks about a mural and I thought about how found objects like paper bags were part of the city and it tied into the story. These all tie into what each story is about. And for me there was this little metamorphosis of starting out really rough and raw and moving into the more simpler abstract creations that Anne was making but still trying to keep the rawness. It just blew me away these ideas she brought to the table that I would never have thought of before. It just made it way more fun than it ever would have been.