Didn’t get enough of Todd Thyberg of Angel Bomb Design + Letterpress, or his upcoming graphic novel, The Airship, in the latest issue of redshoes news? Then read on!
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Hey Todd! Tell us about you.
It’s funny how all your experiences add up to create who you are and how that constantly evolves. I’ve done a lot of different things and what I do now, and who I am, really is a composite of my past. I grew up in North Dakota and my family pressured me to study engineering in school. I was supposed to follow in my dad’s footsteps, but had no interest in engineering, and going back to NoDak to farm. So after two weeks of engineering classes, I switched to creative writing. I loved to read and always wanted to tell stories. I’d never even heard of graphic design. I’d always drawn and loved being creative, but didn’t really think I’d be an artist. After a year of college, I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere, so signed up for the Navy to be an Aircrew Ordnanceman and go into Explosive Ordnance Disposal. I still remember stumbling upon a brochure for the design program after I was enlisted and thinking, “Fuuuuuddddggggge!”
Tell us about Angel Bomb.
I originally started Angel Bomb in 1997 after I left my first job out of college. I was working at General Mills designing cereal boxes, and they were going to move me to flour bags, which sounded pretty lame. I was full of energy and creativity, and that just wasn’t going to cut it. The corporate design environment wasn’t one I really thrived in. So I decided to open up my own shop. I had no interest in calling it Thyberg Design. What does that mean? I wanted something vivid and memorable, and I remember running through all sorts of naming ideas when I hit upon a song title from a local group, February, called Angel Bomb. It stuck with me; the dichotomy of an angel, which was good, and a bomb, which was bad. I liked the idea of good creative with impact, and I’d had this fascination with explosives, so there you go. It was slow going and I was young and not interested in aspects of the business that weren’t creative, so after two years I shelved it. I resurrected it again in 2006 and have been going strong and growing ever since.
How long have you been into letterpress?
I added letterpress to Angel Bomb six years ago. My dad gave me a small tabletop press that he bought at an auction for me because he remembered me saying I liked letterpress. It was a great gift, but a very tiny press, and I thought, “If I’m going to learn this craft, it’s something that I want to add to my business–I’m not going to do it as a hobby.” So I searched for and bought my first (real) press, a Chandler and Price 8 x 12, learned how to print with it, and practiced until I could offer it to clients.
Tell us about obtaining a Jerome grant.
I have friends who are artists who kept encouraging me to apply. I’ve never really considered myself an artist. I’m a designer and sometimes I make art, so the whole idea of applying for a grant to make art was a bit foreign. I’d helped a friend–who had received the Jerome Book Arts grant the year before–with the layout of her book, and once I had developed my idea, I thought, “OK, I’ll give it a shot.” I reviewed a lot of different applications and had artist friends coach me on my application.
Why a graphic novel?
I’ve long wanted to tell stories, and usually think in terms of visually telling a tale. I make prints and wanted to do something more long-form, so the graphic novel seemed an obvious choice. I don’t read too many, but do feel they’re a great medium, and have become hugely popular. I have been a big fan of Chris Ware and the Acme Novelty Library.
What is it about?
I’m a huge fan of time-travel stories, and this story plays on that idea, but brings more actual science into the mix by involving current multiverse theory instead of time travel. I wanted to tell a story set in the past that involved a future or more evolved universe, and also dealt with the difficulty of crossing over from one to the other. I’m also intrigued by the combining of digital technology with the written word, and wanted to try something unique.
The Airship is about a scientist who creates this device onboard a dirigible that can transport the ship through space-time into other dimensions, or universes, if you will. Without giving too much away, he is transported to another universe and is trying to reach his father to let him know that he’s OK, but the messages get garbled and the reader needs future technology in order to decipher the messages.
The story came about when I started thinking about how I sit at a computer and design things that I then go and print on this outdated technology. I’m bridging a gap of eras, and that the people from the era of these presses would marvel at the technology we’re using today. I wanted to create a piece that took place in the past and was printed on the technology of that time, but by utilizing modern technology (future to them), the reader would have a deeper experience than just reading the story. With your smartphone, you’ll read QR codes in the book, which allow you to access messages from the son, and other goodies.
Did you write it yourself?
I did. It’s going to be a trilogy since trying to write, design, illustrate and print the whole thing myself was way too time consuming and expensive to produce, so I needed to split it up.
Did you get help from anyone?
I’ve gotten lots of encouragement from people, but this is a solo effort. If it’s well received, I hope to be able to hire additional help with illustration for the second volume.
And you did all of the design on The Airship?
Yep. The Jerome grant gives you a timeline of a year to produce the book, so it’s great for the deadline, but also fairly short when you’re creating everything from scratch.
How many will there be?
There will be two versions, and I’m hoping to make 200-250 hand-bound chapbooks and 30 hardbound slipcase deluxe editions as well.
Tell us about the process.
It’s a three-color book, so I first make color separations of the files and have negatives made. Then I make the photopolymer plates myself here in the studio. Once those are set, I’ll be printing them one color at a time. I just acquired a larger press that will hopefully expedite the printing, but it’s been a bit stressful getting it up and running. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to use a hand cranked press to run them. There will be a little over 9,000 impressions total, so I’m hoping to avoid that.
Where can people find them?
The books will debut at Minnesota Center for Book Arts at a Jerome Book Arts Fellowship Exhibition on Nov. 2. They’ll be for sale there and, eventually, I hope, at other book centers around the country. They’ll also be for sale on my website and available at the studio. The chapbook will be $150 and the deluxe slipcased edition, $350.
Wha is your hope for the graphic novel?
I hope to raise awareness of Angel Bomb and show off the capabilities of the studio. I’d love to be able to grow the business such that I could hire some help, which would free up time for me to make more books.
Are you interested in doing more books?
Hell, yeah! I’ve got a fun idea for an homage to one of my earliest favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft. It would be a great, creepy read.
What has been the most challenging?
Starting. Receiving the grant was huge. I was elated, but at the same time, trying to plan out the writing, design, illustration, prepress, platemaking, printing…all these steps to the project. It was daunting. It took a while for me to break the project into manageable pieces that I could tackle without freezing up.
What has been the most rewarding?
The encouragement I’ve gotten from friends and even people I don’t know who’ve learned of the project. It’s been fantastic. When someone tells you they’re proud of you, it really feels good.
How has this changed Angel Bomb?
I’d like for there to be a “fine press” side to Angel Bomb where I create more books and unique projects like The Airship. It’s difficult to balance the daily client deadlines with longer self-imposed deadlines, but the variety and challenge is great. I love working on client projects, but I think it would be great if I could also make more personal projects. I guess I’m chasing after that artist title after all.
I want to make a few prints, some shorter work before getting back on Part 2 of The Airship.
Are you doing any shows this fall?
Besides the Jerome Book Arts Fellowship Exhibit on Nov. 2, there’s Art Attack at the Northrup King Building, Nov. 2-4, where I’ll have the book on display and for sale as well.
Learn more about Todd Thyberg, Angel Bomb, and The Airship here.
I’m sorry I’ve been MIA! I’ve had a lot of projects going on at once. Some are finally wrapping up or have wrapped, which is great timing, because this is Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week! That means tons of fashion events, including The Shows, which are put on by MNfashion. Many of you know I was named MNfashion’s Art Director in July. I’m so excited to be part of this fantastic organization, and am so proud to help present The Shows this week.
There are still tickets available, so head to the website to pick yours up. I’ll see you there!