In the bag

In the early 1990s, the North American punk and hardcore music scene developed an independent, do-it-yourself approach. This grew from self-booking tours and self-releasing records, to designing and hand-assembling every album cover. According to new book DIY Album Art: Paper Bags & Office Supplies, hand-glueing sleeves, silk-screening manila envelopes and raiding thrift stores for LP jackets to reuse became the norm. Aluminium foil, vintage wallpaper, cereal boxes and tar paper were among the harnessed materials, and records labels, such as Gravity, Lengua Armada and Tree Records, stood out for an obsessively handmade approach, says the book’s author and designer, J Namdev Hardisty. ‘They also stand out for the boldness of their statements,’ he adds. ‘While Gravity sleeves look extremely punk (photocopied, with distressed type and illustration), they are also simple and pared-back, which lends a lasting quality.’ Created in a time with limited access to Quark and Photoshop, by mostly teenage music artists, the work has a lasting legacy in its influence on people who emerged from that scene. It can also be seen as a precursor to the effort that is put into packaging by major labels today, trying to create objects that consumers are willing to pay for, says Hardisty. ‘As a teenager buying these records I would be really excited about the inserts and ‘zines, but as a practising designer, I really see this in a new light,’ he adds. ‘The DIY aesthetic didn’t make things feel cheaper, but better.’

DIY Album Art: Paper Bags & Office Supplies is published by Mark Batty Publisher later this month, priced £25

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  • KATIE ARUP November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Any chance of a link to buy the book?

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