Dana Koster and Chelsea America are the creative force behind Broad Sides. Their symbiotic relationship brings verse to art and art to verse. Broad Sides one-of-a kind artwork is captivating, cheeky and poignant. Their burgeoning pop-up shop was featured at Preservation Coffee & Tea and soon Mod Shop.
Tell us about your business name.
We are Broad Sides! In the poetry world, a “broadside” is a sheet of paper that combines text and art, usually a poem and an illustration. In a sense, that’s what we do at Broad Sides: one of us has a writing background and one of us has an art background and we combine the two in unexpected and tongue-in-cheek ways. It’s a pun, too, on the fact that we’re both women, that almost all of the art showcases women’s bodies and the text often has a feminist bent.
"It's a pun, too, on the fact that we're both women, that almost all of the art showcases women's bodies and the text often has a feminist bent."
What is your creative or educational background and history behind how you created your business?
We’re both artists by trade and by training. Chelsea America was born and raised in Denver, CO and earned her BFA in New Genres from San Francisco Art Institute. She studied photography and digital multimedia at the Siena Art Institute in Italy and mostly works in water media. Dana Koster hails from Ventura, CA and has earned degrees from UC Berkeley and Cornell University. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Cincinnati Review and EPOCH, among many others. Her first book, Binary Stars, is forthcoming with Carolina Wren Press in early 2017.
As for what brought us together, we always worked with similar themes within our separate genres – motherhood, sex and dark humor being the main points of commonality – and decided in the summer of 2015 to collaborate on a combined poetry and art show at Preservation. Our favorite part was a wall we created next to the coffee bar with this sort of ever-changing collection of postcard-sized pieces. It was a fun project and we both got hooked on how the art elevated the text and vice versa. That wall was really the birth of Broad Sides.
How does your city/state influence your craft or how you do your work?
We’re both transplants to the area who married men from Modesto. Because of that, we’re both raising our kids here – we actually met through the Modesto Parent Participation Preschool. Our collaboration really couldn’t exist if it weren’t for this place!
Can you take us through your process from inspiration to final product?
Chelsea: It’s hard to think about process for these because the whole project is a process. Some of these pieces are me journaling through pictures – they’re not really made with the intention of an audience at all, they’re more me articulating my feelings through drawings. Some of them are just pure exercises, where I draw people from magazines or from my figure drawing class. I’ll hand Dana a huge stack of them and then not see them again until they’re done.
Dana: When Chelsea gives me a new batch of drawings, it’s like Christmas! Very occasionally I’ll get an idea and make a note of it ahead of time, but most of the time, I let Chelsea’s art inspire what I write on the page. And I really do write it directly on the page as soon as it occurs to me. I tend to write a lot in one sitting. It’s all very unstructured and free and I think we’re both constantly surprised by what comes out and how well it all works together.
"It's all very unstructured and free and I think we're both constantly surprised by what comes out and how well it all works together."
What is a standout or special moment in your creative work so far?
Chelsea: For me, it’s the moment where something comes to life again, where Dana adds the text and then suddenly it has a new meaning, or she extracts meaning out of it that wasn’t there before. It feels like those words should have been on there to begin with. And then there’s this third piece, where I’ve touched it and Dana’s touched it and then a third person comes up and looks at the final work and says this is so me. And because every piece is an original, it really is theirs.
Dana: I love that, too. Twice I’ve walked into someone’s bathroom and seen one of our postcards stuck into the bathroom mirror – that, for me, is the highest compliment! It makes me happy to see people really living with our pieces. I mean, I like framed art on a wall just as much as the next person, but I know the things I’ve stuck on my mirror over the years are the ones that really spoke to me.
What dreams are on the horizon for the future of your brand?
At the moment, we’re a pop-up boutique, so the only way to get our work is to get it in person at an event like Mod Shop. Eventually we may create a space online to sell our work, but at the moment, we’re really enjoying the ephemeral quality of what we do.
Are you bringing anything new or special to Mod Shop this year that you are particularly excited about?
Everything we’re bringing is one of a kind and we are excited about all of it! Right now, we don’t sell any prints – it’s all original art that Chelsea has touched with her brush and Dana has touched with her Sharpie, so if you don’t grab it when you see it, it will be gone next time.
-Dana + Chelsea