Taking the plunge into new and unchartered territory is always a worthwhile experience. Especially when it comes to setting up your own artist-run design studio and clothing brand, which is exactly what both Julia Belamarich and Kyle Warfield went on to pursue.
Named Extra Vitamins, the studio was set up with an aim to make art and t-shirts in perfect unison. And, even though Kyle had studied graphic design and Julia had pursued art, the duo are effortlessly complimentary. Both knew that they wanted to work in art and design full-time, and both are self-taught with the skills that they hone on a daily basis. “We’ve learned a lot through trial and error, especially when it comes to the process of getting objects made,” says Julia. “So much goes into making a shirt or book, and there’s no definitive guide for how to do it.”
For Extra Vitamins, its founders see t-shirt making as an art form in its entirety. “It’s easy to make multiples that most people can afford,” says Kyle, “and it becomes an important part of their self expression too.” So, when noting what it is that makes Extra Vitamins that ‘extra’ bit special, Kyle points towards their multidisciplinary work that’s “playful, positive, psychedelic, type-driven, experimental and nostalgic”. With bold colour palettes and a retro aesthetic plucked from 80s surf culture and nature, we couldn’t agree more.
While working on their projects, they both view each day as a new and exciting challenge. Although varying, their to-do list is filled with creative tasks that circulate depending on the project at hand. “We both have many interests,” adds Julia, “and we want Extra Vitamins to be a practice that allows us to do a bit of everything.” Typically they will begin with the concept and message they want to protrude throughout their work, to then establishing the “vibe and feeling” they want to create. Next comes the custom type, symbols and illustration work, before bringing everything together. “We like to stay open without style,” continues Kyle, “as it’s fun to draw one thing in many different ways. We always want the letters and symbols to be original and speak to the feeling that we’re after.”
Originality is something that they strive for throughout the entire brand. So much so that they have a total of 20 logos: “We love to just keep it free and open, but still strike a balance where you know it’s Extra Vitamins,” says Julia. Think of their creative process as one that’s forged from a collage-like methodology, achieved through a cut-and-paste technique that binds all of the elements that they work on separately into a harmonious “rhythm”. The end result can be plentiful, and tends to range from t-shirts, tie-dying and sewing labels, to videos, coding, photography, books and packaging.
A recent addition to their vast and punchy portfolio is the Plant Power book. Inspired by nature and the 60s/90s environmental movements, Kyle explains how the end result feels “very relevant”, even today. We’re talking psychedelic posters and “back to earth” hippie aesthetics from the 60s, cohesively teamed with “save the whales”, surf environmentalism, rave flyers and the “reduce, reuse and recycle” of the 90s. He adds: “We wanted to make a book about the importance of reconnecting with nature and the earth, and also reconnecting with yourself.” By approaching the project as if it were a series of posters, each page therefore has its own distinct message and style. “The format with overlapping pages also led to a fun aesthetic mashup with opportunities for discovery – like drawings that line up or speak to each other,” says Julia.
Plant Power is just a sheer example of the duo’s cross-pollinating means of creativity. Working in a free-flowing style between each medium, it’s a difficult practice, especially when having to balance the workload between several different forms. But however challenging, it’s one that both Julia and Kyle enjoy. With plans to drop their next collection of clothing – small batch, hand-dyed pieces, to be exact – the duo are also participating in the first virtual Brooklyn Art Book Fair this month. Alongside working with fabrics, Kyle and Julia are particularly drawn towards printed matter, due to the medium’s ability to deep-dive into a topic and freedom it allows for creating tons of content. “A lot of things can work on a page, as it’s a very open-ended format,” says Kyle. “We also like thinking of a book as an object, choosing special papers, using cut-outs and cool binding techniques; there’s a lot to explore.”
GalleryExtra Vitamins: Plant Power
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.