Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jane Siberry Posters of the 1980s

I met Jane Siberry in 1982 and immediatley offered to make concert posters for her. Siberry's partner, John Switzer, let me start with two of his wonderful photographs.

At that time in Toronto many bands were reacting to the emerging British postpunk and New Wave scene by designing fresh, original posters that were up on walls and hydro poles all over town. I collected these posters and was dying to show what I could do.

To get the type to appear over Switzer's photos I put white Letraset letters on a plastic sheet. Then I printed the posters on a Xerox copy machine. Letraset letters must be applied with great care, one at a time. It was very fussy but it was the only technology I had and the posters had to be made.

Jane would visit my apartment at Bathurst and Queen to preview new poster ideas. Trevor Hughes took this picture at the threshold.

Jane liked Hughes' photographs right away, and invited him to take pictures backstage at her concerts. Trevor caught this picture of (left to right) John Switzer, Siberry and myself looking at a box of his latest prints.

Jane's single, Mimi on the Beach, became a hit so I wanted a towel in the next poster. I put lettering on another plastic sheet and put the towel behind it. The copier did a nice job of picking up the texture.

Siberry produced this pin as publicity for her song, The Waitress. I pinned it to a napkin and put it on the copier. I shrank it down a few times and then enlarged the shrunken version to give the poster this rough quality.

I cut these letters out of a black sheet of construction paper.

Siberry thought the empty centre could use some text. Detail of the final poster.

Trevor Hughes took this picture of Siberry in the service alley behind my apartment on Manning Ave.

I also collaborated with illustrator William Kimber.

Kimber applied the golden squiggles to the edges of this nice Hughes portrait. He put a brush in my hand and gave me some of his maximum-chroma inks.

Kimber let me use the light table in his studio. It made working with Letraset much easier.

The white spots came from inside a three-holed punch.

Trevor did all his photography in his own darkroom. I put cut-out letters on one of his contact sheets. I copied it and inked out all the film sprocket holes with a black magic marker. I printed the posters from the inked-out version.

William Kimber made this scratchboard drawing based on another photograph by Trevor Hughes. The copy machine grabbed every detail. We incorporated the opening words to her new song, Seven Steps to the Wall.

This last photo by Trevor Hughes is of Jane and me in her basement studio. Thank you Trevor and thank you Jane for the fun times.


  1. Very interesting John, great graphics!

  2. I really enjoyed the stories of putting those posters together. I remember them well!

  3. Thank you for helping with them, Lisa. And with the Barber's Friend books that came afterward. John

  4. Love to see these wonderful posters and remember the golden days of Jane...
    J (Friend of Irene and Big JS Fan)

  5. Nice to hear from you Janet. I've given Irene some vintage posters to give you for your Siberry collection. Thanks for posting this note. They were indeed golden times! ;-)