Clifford Stoltze is founder and creative director of Stoltze Design in Boston, Mass. He's worked with a number of different groups, including some within the entertainment industry, and his work is on exhibit in a permanent collection at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. In his book, 1,000 Music Graphics, Stoltze compiles a variety of artwork by different design groups, all used for music packaging. His newest exhibition, titled Postgig, features a compilation of music posters. It continues through April 27 at Green Rice Gallery. For details, call 704-344-0300. You may also visit www.green-rice.com or www.postgigcharlotte.com.
Creative Loafing: What led you to becoming the founder and creative director of Stoltze Design?
Clifford Stoltze: I started my business in 1984, 25 years ago. The Boston design scene at the time was very conservative, so after being laid off from my one and only full-time design position -- as an in-house designer at an architectural firm -- I felt the only way I could have more creative freedom was to start my own business. Fortunately, my wife Carol was employed full-time and we didn't yet have kids or a mortgage, so I took advantage of the two months of severance pay and decided to take the leap.
Where did you graduate from? And what did you study?
Initially, I attended a small community college in Connecticut and concentrated in fine art. After two years there and a year-long stint in a rock band, I transferred to University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and decided to change my major to design, with the naïve hope I might get a job designing record covers.
When did you begin designing music graphics for bands?
I started working on packaging and posters in the early 1990s as a partner in a small independent label called Castle von Buhler here in Boston. After running my business for about six years, it really started to bother me that I hadn't done any music packaging. Together with my co-conspirators, illustrator Cynthia von Buhler and musician Adam Buhler, we started our own label and produced about 20 releases in its eight-year existence. My role was creating all the packaging and marketing materials. That work led to getting projects from labels like Sony, David Geffen Company, EMI and Matador.
How did the idea for the Postgig exhibition come about?
I first started collecting these posters when I visited Flatstock while attending the South by Southwest music festival in Austin about seven years ago. Flatstock is an amazing tradeshow of many gig poster artists who are there selling their product, so it provides a great opportunity to meet the artists and see the posters in person rather than simply on a Web site. Also, I recently put out a book called 1,000 Music Graphics for Rockport Publishers that featured a section on these gig posters. Between my collection and some of the work that was submitted for the book, I thought it would be great to have a small, selective, traveling version of Flatstock.
Your book, 1,000 Music Graphics, was published in May of 2008. Can you tell me more about what inspired you to release the book?
I have wanted to do a book on music packaging for years. I really think that some of the most influential graphic design produced in the last 50 years is in music packaging. Even in its decline, it continues to be a hotbed for innovative and experimental design and typography. There's no shortage of really inspirational work being done, especially for the smaller independent labels.
The exhibition features original works by Modern Dog, Aesthetic Apparatus, Patent Pending, Hammerpress, The Decoder Ring and more. How did you decide whose works would be featured in the exhibition?
The artists included in this show are among my favorites working in this genre. Although there is a wide range of approaches running the gamut from the minimal clean design of The Small Stakes to the wild chaos of the work from Seripop, this collection generally focuses more on modern examples rather than the traditional rock poster aesthetic. I hope to keep expanding and editing the collection and see it continue to travel to more cities that love contemporary music graphics.