After nearly a decade working in the corporate world, Sacramento designer Laura Matranga is returning to her independent roots. Matranga has run her graphic design and printmaking business, Asbestos Press, since 2005. She wanted to be a graphic designer before she even knew what term meant.
As a teenager growing up a small Bay Area town, she started a zine called That Weird Guy Matt. Looking back she says the zine was amateur, but for her, the fun – and valuable experience – was in the layout. “I would make these huge collages, and that is where a lot of this started,” she said.
She remembers waiting in line at Kinko’s — before color copies existed — when a machine that printed in red and blue was the cutting-edge technology of the day. She loved making the DIY, punk-style paste ups and a high school teacher pointed her toward graphic design.
In 2000, Matranga transferred to Sacramento State from community college to major in graphic design and photography. She moved to Midtown, and knew immediately it was the place for her. “I loved Midtown the first time I saw it,” she said. “I moved (there) and I never left.”
Asbestos Press had humble beginnings in the baby blue, bubblegum pink, and yellow kitchen of her first Midtown apartment. It was a tiny working space.“Half was screen printing, half was kitchen.”She eventually grew out of the space and set up shop in a friend’s basement in Oak Park. The rough conditions of the basement were what inspired the name Asbestos Press.“The name started as a joke … and it stuck,” she said.
Matranga made posters for friends’ bands and connected with promoters early on, including the now-defunct Are You Alive Records. When she graduated college, she entered the corporate graphic design world and continued working freelance on the side. She worked for big names like Java City and, later, Jelly Belly, and said it was satisfying to see her design and work on grocery store shelves. It was equally satisfying when her posters designed for local bands were stripped from the post outside what used to be The Beat record store in Midtown. For Matranga, a snatched up poster was a successful poster. “If people seek it out and they want to own it or keep it or steal it … that was the biggest compliment to me,” she said.
She has designed some of her favorite posters for the bands Calexico and Built to Spill, among others. Recently, she designed a poster for the band The War on Drugs as part of the TBD Festival poster series, which had local designers create unique gig posters. She also participated in Words on Walls, a collaboration of poets, designers, and mural painters aimed at the beautification of Del Paso Heights. “This was one of those dream projects where I had complete creative freedom and had wonderful clients,” she said. “I’ve never done anything quite like it before,” and it was literally the largest design she has done. The project was recognized nationally with an Americans for the Arts 2014 Public Art Network Year in Review Award.
After a one-year stint at a corporate job in Sacramento, Matranga quit to focus on Asbestos Press and to pursue a new venture: opening an indie store in the neighborhood she fell in love with years ago. She and her husband, Tim, plan to open Kicksville Vinyl & Vintage early this year in the Warehouse Artists Lofts (WAL) at 11th street and R street. They plan to carry records from the 1950s to the 2000s, including 45s, LPs, 78s, and genres like jazz, punk, reggae and more. Kicksville will also house a selection of vintage furniture, home décor, and music memorabilia. They will share the space with Marty Deanda of MediumRare Records & Collectibles.
Matranga said she looks forward to creating a business from the ground up while continuing to expand Asbestos Press. “I’m looking forward to the store too, because I can be shop owner and shop designer — from the logo to what the shelving looks like,” she said. “To be able to combine all this stuff under one roof will be awesome.”
Learn more about Laura Matranga here.
Words by Kate Gonzales. Photos by Kate Gonzales and Asbestos Press.