Sunday, May 15, 2011
By Gavin Sheehan
on May 15, 2011, 4:00 AM
Frankie started out as a way for the couple of Andrew Shaw and Mary
Toscano to promote their own artwork, music and other various
projects by utilizing each other's talents. But shortly after their
works got local exposure, their talents became a must have and the
duo started getting requests from bands and other organizations,
making them one of the biggest secret weapons for many to get their
work noticed. Today we chat with the two about forming Hankie Frankie
and the process behind their work, plus thoughts on a couple other
Mary Toscano & Andrew Shaw
Hey Mary and Andrew. First thing, tell us a bit about
I grew up in Salt Lake City. I received a BFA from the University of
Utah, where I now work at the Book Arts Program. I make drawings,
prints, paper sculptures, and collaborative works with Cara
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and moved to Salt Lake City after
getting my undergrad degree at the University of Nebraska. Go Big
Red! I work in the Communications department at the Salt Lake City
Public Library and spend a lot of my free time working on music and
How did the two of you first meet and end up becoming friends and
We met at a backyard barbecue party of a friend. The next night, we
had our first date -- the rodeo at the Utah State Fair, a perfect
soil from which the flowers of love grow. We've been married for
two-and-a-half years and love living, working, and playing in
downtown Salt Lake City.
I was going to say we were never friends. We went straight from "Hi,
nice to meet you!" to dating. But that's splitting
What is it like for you both being creative minds working on your
own projects and seeing each other's work?
Mary has introduced me to the world of art in ways I was never
exposed in the past. She's helped me think about my music and other
work more critically and to infuse it with stronger conceptual
foundations than I did in the past. Being together with someone who
is always working and thinking creatively, and sharing a studio and
life with someone who is so talented, is constantly inspiring. We're
both creative in different mediums, so our thoughts and minds
influence what each other does without fostering competition or
creating derivative works from each other.
Andrew and I rarely work in the studio together, but because our
space is so small we are always surrounded by each other's work. I
can tell when Andrew has been puttering about in the studio, and it
motivates me to work, too. Its funny because when I work I'm really
quiet and am pretty much stationed at my drawing board, but my work
takes up SO much space. Whereas, Andrew's work area is kind of
cramped in a corner of the studio, but his sound art fills up the
entire house, vibrating the floors. It's incredible.
Where did the concept of Hankie Frankie come from? And where did you
get the name for it?
Hankie Frankie started as simply a place for our various work
(music, art, design) to live. But as our commercial work has
expanded, we've decided to focus the "Hankie Frankie" brand
on the commercial work (music production, graphic design, art
production for commercial purposes) and to separate our individual
artistic pursuits (my personal artwork, Andrew's personal music
projects) away from Hankie Frankie. So Hf is becoming the commercial
side of our work. Hankie Frankie gets its name from a conversation we
had about baby names we like. Since we don't have children, our
projects get a lot of our attention and care and are our "babies." We also think it's funny that it sounds like "hanky
So what is the difference between "Hankie Frankie projects"
and your "individual artistic pursuits"?
This is really the difference between "design" and "art."
In design, we are presented with a problem or project and asked to
come up with a solution that clearly communicates an answer or
elicits intentional emotional/psychological responses. For example,
business cards we designed for a law office were designed to
represent the lawyers as professional, knowledgeable, and
sophisticated. Art, on the other hand, is intended to elicit
responses that create conversations or make the viewer ask questions
about the work, about a concept, or about the world they live in.
What we do for Hankie Frankie falls firmly on the "design"
end of that spectrum, whereas the music and visual art we create
falls along the "art" side of the spectrum. Pop, folk, and
rock music projects (like The Platte) end up falling somewhere in the
middle -- intending to elicit a more specific response -- whereas
my sonic art and Mary's visual art pursuits intend to be more
vague and engage the listener/viewer to develop their own
perceptions, narratives, and conclusions.
Tell us about some of the Hankie Frankie projects you've worked on?
How do you combine ideas and mesh styles?
We've worked together on album art for local musicians (The
Poorwills, Cathy Foy), design of e-book covers, business cards,
greeting cards, and other design items. Andrew is more of the "music
wing" of Hf, producing last year's recordings by Cathy Foy
(Future Of The Ghost) and Trever Hadley (Band Of Annuals). I've recently picked up book-binding work for local artist Jim
Our personal design aesthetics, keeping in mind that these are
different than our artistic aesthetics, are very similar -- we are
both inspired by the book cover design of the 1960s and 1970s and
historical letterpress printing styles, like the "artistic
printing" style of the turn of the century. Mary finds
influence in biological science, and I enjoy learning about
modern tech and economic trends, and Hankie Frankie's style shows off
much of this diverse influence.
With the different types of design projects, which do you like
working on the most?
It's hard to say I like one type of project over another. Book cover
and album cover design is very similar, and album cover art is so
intertwined with the music it represents that it's hard to separate
the two. I personally just love the creative process: being presented
with a project, talking about a concept with Mary and the client,
developing some ideas, and ultimately executing. Each step is
challenging, exciting, and fulfilling. Seeing a project come
together, often after weeks or months of discussions and iterations,
is very satisfying.
I love when a project gives us the opportunity to make something by
hand. Andrew and I do most of the design work on the computer. Not
something I relish; I'm much better with a pencil and a pair of
scissors. So Andrew gave me a digital drawing tablet for Christmas
to make it easier to incorporate my drawing skills into our designs.
But I still prefer to make things by hand. I really like it when we
have an opportunity to letterpress print something, like we did for
the Poorwills' coaster.
What's the usual process for you when working on a new project, from
concept to final product?
We haven't made it a science yet, but, in general: A.
Define the problem/project. For example: The Poorwills want to put
out a record. We wanted to do a full design collection that would
work on album art, poster design, t-shirt design, koozie design,
drink coaster design, and more. B. Brainstorm possible solutions. For
the Poorwills, we developed three very different concepts, brought
them to the band who provided some feedback about what they liked and
didn't like, then came back with a final concept that we could all
focus on. C. Develop initial design. We hunkered down and banged out
the basic elements of the design -- bird, moth, corner-fill -- and
developed an initial layout for the album and coaster designs. D. Go
through iterations with the client. The Poorwills provide feedback,
we make changes. Then more feedback and more changes. Eventually we
found the sweet spot. E. Flesh out the full project, piece by piece,
critique by critique, approval by approval. F. Celebrate.
Since you work in various areas of design and art, how did your
roster of projects grow? What projects does Hankie Frankie have on
Like so many others, we really have a "do it yourself"
mentality, so when we need something designed to accompany one of our
other projects (album covers, art exhibition collateral), we have
mostly done it on our own. Although David Wolske designed and printed
a gorgeous handbill for "Into the White," an art exhibition
Mary and Cara Despain did at Kayo Gallery last spring. The more we
designed for ourselves, the more we were asked to design for others.
Our clients have all been pretty close to home, for family members or
good friends, but it's provided a good experience with a forgiving
client. We see what we do as supporting the people we love and we
have "real" jobs to pay our bills, so we've charged little
to nothing for the work. We'd love to see the operation continue to
expand to other bands, authors, artists, etc., but we're happy to
just go with the flow. We don't have any big Hankie Frankie projects
on the horizon, but we'd love to talk with anyone interested in
working with us.
What do you think of the surge of artists and designers throughout
Utah and the work coming out of the state?
We love seeing all the work that's being made in Salt Lake City and
around Utah. We have a really talented group of artists and creatives
in our community, many of whom we're proud to call friends, and we
feel like we're inundated with influence and inspiration. Myself, in
particular, work with incredibly talented people every day at the U
of U Book Arts Program, many of whom have also been interviewed for
this blog, and seeing the work they produce pushes her to create more
and better work herself. We love visiting the Alt Press Fest, Gallery
Stroll, Craft Lake City, Salt Lake Art Center, Utah Museum of Fine
Art, Central Utah Art Center, and the other many venues and events
for contemporary arts and crafts in Utah. Salt Lake City is a great
place to live for people like us who love music, design, and
What can we expect from Hankie Frankie over the rest of the year?
What can we expect to see from you each individually?
Although we're not real sure what Hankie Frankie will encounter over
the next year, we're each working on our own art and music projects.
Mary's work will be on exhibit at Nox Contemporary in November and at
the Gallery at Library Square (Main Library) next spring. She's also
working on new installations with long-time collaborator Cara
Despain. I'm working on a new music project, thinking about
what should come next from The Platte, and has some sonic art
projects in mind, as well. He'll be playing at Urban Lounge on June
26th with Keppie Coutts from L.A., and Kilby Court on August 8th with Salt
Lake's The 321s.
Is there anything else you'd like to promote or plug?
We're working on a redesign of our little website to help better
show off the work we've been doing. Hopefully it will be live by the
time you read this. We'd also love to have more
Hankie Frankie fans on Facebook, and more time to share our thoughts,
work, and influences on there. We're also still looking for a
biological engineer to help us with a concept we came up with on our
first date at the Utah State Fair -- the poopless pocket bunny. We
think they'd be really popular.
|Follow Gavin's Underground:
you be a rising musician or an artist looking to promote or a
filmmaker in need of a poster, everyone in entertainment needs help
with their look. --- Every day in Utah there's a new project starting
somewhere, and when the realization of that project becomes reality,
those behind the creation sometimes need a little help. Which is
where the duo we're talking with today come into play.