Partners in life and in their business Extra Vitamins, artists Julia Belamarich and Kyle Warfield met while working at analog-design master Rick Griffith’s Matter Studio, learning the ropes and taking some cues from Griffith’s graphics-cool marketing model. A shared interest in art zines led to their first collaboration, says Warfield.
“Basically, that first zine was a compilation of art and life experiments, as we put it — mostly collages and explorations of different art practices we were drawn to," Warfield explains. “A lot of it was rooted in symbols and petroglyphs, and we began by making collages, which we scanned and altered digitally.” That blend of hands-on and digital image-making was the beginning of Extra Vitamins. “We continued the practice of creating zines and eventually tried to sell them in different venues, at the Denver Zine Fest and online. We began planning for what is now a studio practice.”
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That practice expands on the original idea of zine-making, with a line of hip and affordable art products, from T-shirts to enamel pins. The pair first popped up in earnest as Extra Vitamins last fall for “Feel Days,” a month-long residency at Dateline Gallery during which they built a play-inspired installation and sold merchandise.
“Our purpose in the world is basically to keep experimentation and play a relevant and important part of the design practice,” Warfield says. “Especially with the world being so troubling now, we think it’s important to have this positive and playful, almost inner-child-inspired energy as we all go through this together.” Belamarich and Warfield will again share their entrepreneurial dose of positivity during a two-week pop-up opening Friday, March 24, at the RiNo boutique OKHI co.
“For this pop-up, we’ll have new work in the form of T-shirts, sweats, beanies, enamel pins, patches and prints — and we’ll have one new zine,” Warfield adds. The collection includes many limited editions and one-of-a-kind items: for instance, custom-dyed tees, hand-printed patches and a beanie series for which no two items are alike. Some items include further customization, including sewn-on fabric embellishments. The products also carry on a political conversation as “a critical response to shirts and hats that have nothing more than a brand logo printed on them.” Belamarich and Warfield call that a “boring trend in streetwear culture,” and believe that the idea of clothing as actual wearable art has far more potential.
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But more than anything, the wares from Extra Vitamins are just plain cool, swapping company logos for indecipherable text markings, anti-Trump slogans and fun imagery making connections between spirals drawn on rock walls eons ago and today’s online emoji shorthand. “We’re both interested in asemic writing — writing that’s sort of like what scat is to lyrics and language,” explains Warfield. “We try to create a new world or universe through a combination of different symbols. Some are from pop culture, some are altered, and some feel alien or childlike.”
Extra Vitamins merchandise is also more than affordable, with most items retailing for less than $50. “We're not a rich brand,” notes Warfield. Prices begin around $5 to $7 for patches, he adds, and a portion of profits will be donated to Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood. The highest-priced product? Printed large-scale banners, grommeted for hanging on a wall, bypassing the additional cost of putting a frame on a piece of art. Bring a few bucks and an open mind.
The Extra Vitamins Magical Mystery Pop-Up opens at 6 p.m. March 24 and runs through April 7 at OKHI co, 3151 Larimer Street. Learn more about Extra Vitamins online at the website, or on Facebook and Instagram.