Simply put, Susan Archie is responsible for some of the most memorable cover art of the last decade. Working as a freelance graphic designer with a number of loyal record labels, Atlanta's Dust-to-Digital and Table of the Elements among them, Archie's work has been repeatedly nominated for Box Set Packaging Grammy awards (four in the past six years) and praised by the New York Times. As anyone who has picked up a copy of Goodbye, Babylon or Screamin' & Hollerin' the Blues can tell you, Archie brings a true artist's attention to detail in her designs. These multilayered, ornate packages work to evoke the obsessive, nostalgic moods associated with record collecting and archiving. Some of her work can be seen at Spruill Gallery's current exhibition, Run for Cover. Archie lives in Candler Park.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
Boynton Beach, Fla. I lived a mile from the ocean. I was a surfer chic. I was always doing something artistic and musical in school. We had good arts programs and my mother encouraged my art. I was in the rhythm section in high school orchestra and played the cymbals in marching band.
Did you study design in school?
When I was in college at FSU I disdained commercial art. Then real life set in. You gotta make a living.
How long have you been designing albums?
15 years. At first as a production artist for Table of The Elements.
Did you plan to make this work your focus?
When I went off to college I wanted to be a photographer for Surfer magazine. I ended up moving to NYC with a new wave band. I worked my way up to being a computer graphic artist for huge corporations. I did org charts and systems diagrams, PowerPoint presentation kind of stuff.
What got you started designing covers?
I moved to Atlanta in 1989. In 1994, Steve Dollar introduced me to Jeff Hunt at Table of The Elements, who needed a computer tech. We created great, distinctive album art. The stuff was reviewed in ArtForum, not Spin. I thought that was exciting.
What music do you listen to while you work?
All kinds, mostly whatever I'm working on. I like to listen to music that energizes me for boring tasks. If I need energy I play the 'hits' ambient/folk/shoegaze when I have to think or write. I-pod shuffle if I'm busy. I work by myself so I sing along a lot. I am too old to keep up with the kids, but locally I love Deerhunter, Atlas Sound, Black Lips, Smoke That City, King Khan & the Shrines, Chickens and Pigs.
Could you compare the process to another fine art?
Its not a fine art. I think it's most like magazine editorial, or architecture, it's a combination of many parts. I think of myself as a documentary maker.
Could you explain the process of a project from start to finish?
I start by illustrating the concepts my clients present. For the big pieces, I make an illustrated outline and inventory, then we decide materials, forms, rough layout schemes and do cost request. Then we refine selections based on feasibility, turnaround time, and cost. Then comes layout drafts, managing content as it becomes available then you refine and tweak drafts until time runs out. It takes at least a few rounds to finish. Most all of my clients are heavily involved in the visual process; they all have certain ideas on how it should look.
Are there any covers that you wish you had designed? What work makes you jealous?
Anytime I see stuff by Bob Dylan or Neil Young or Joni Mitchell or Lucinda Williams I would love to work for someone like that, but I don't have enough presence. My work is cool, but I'm not ... I'm a geek, and I'm horrific at selling myself.
I am happy because I know that some of my old idols (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith) own my work. I know that Bob Dylan gave Neil Young a Goodbye, Babylon after his brain surgery, and we were invited backstage at a couple Bob Dylan shows, so that is pretty great. I just started working with a jazz legend, Dave Holland. And he's very happy with me, so I just have to keep building.
Who or what are your inspirations?
I do my best to be inspired by the work I'm given. People who inspire me are my girlfriend Janet, and the artists Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, because they presented the mundane in a new way.
You can see more images of Archie's work at her website World of anArchie.
Run for Cover runs at Spruill Gallery through March 6. Visit Spruill Center for the Arts for more details.
Thomas - is there any word on what, if anything, the BeltLine is planning in…
Slightly related, Bloomberg had an interesting article about the impact of sea level on Kiribati…
"I'm buying two Hummers."
Keep your sex life to yourself, buddy.
The change in antibiotics for livestock would be great, but the loophole for animal producers…
"It's Chicken Fuckin' Little on a global scale" ___________________________________ There was a time when your…
"Sorry but NOAA and NASA both have been shown to provide info based on false…