Mütter Museum Interviews Madame Talbot

How did you get started and what were your influences in life
that inspired you to make your art?

I first started by taking a graphic arts class in high school, I always wanted to be an offset printing press operator. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I always wanted to be a pot dealer. When I was seven or eight, I had these huge aspirations of selling grams of pot when I became an adult and living in some sort of a hippie commune. Heh.

I learned the tools of the graphic arts trade in "graphic reproduction" class, 3 hours a day, five days a week. We learned darkroom work doing stats, halftones, negs, veloxes, stuff that almost no longer exist anymore.

Outside the darkroom, I learned how to run different offset printing presses, how to do paste-up and layout using a waxer, Bestine, Exacto knifes and metal rulers. The difference between a pica and an inch. But the very best thing of all, was I learned how to use a Rapidograph.

About Madame Talbot

This is what my first rapidograph looked like.

It was the rapidograph that actually opened a LOT of doors for me - Well, the rapidograph and smoking a lot of pot.

I used my rapidograph constantly and realized what I really wanted to do, was to spend all of my waking hours drawing. In my "graphic reproduction" class, I had hooked up with a bunch of wonderfully intelligent stoners who in turn introduced me to William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller (read his Paris Years) - both of whom made a huge impact regarding the paths I have taken - and at that time, we would all sit around in a basement listening to music, drawing with our respective rapidograph pens, happily stoned out of our ever-loving minds.

The music that influenced me the most is this song and continues to be my most favorite song to this day - the guitar solo is quite possibly the BEST ever!

King Crimson, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, Robert Fripp, later the Stranglers, PIL, that sort of music.

At that time I ended up moving into a sort of artists collective (it was NOT a commune!) called The Subterranean Cooperative of Urban Dreamers aka SCUD.

There were approximately 13 of us and we lived in an old Edwardian era flop house that was located in the armpit of what was once Old Belltown, Seattle (before they destroyed it and made it New Belltown).

This was my home for 10 years and it was there that I developed my artistic chops. I quit my job and did freelance full-time while also working on my self-published glorified comic books: Faux Pas, Discreet Ephemera and Rapture. I was known only by a symbol back then, a triangle-slash which I still use to this day to sign my posters.

About Madame Talbot

And, I achieved my life's ambition! I sold grams of pot to my housemates and to my fellow artists in Belltown for a couple of years.

About Madame Talbot

I also achieved another goal which was to one day meet William S. Burroughs and I not only got to finally met him and give him some pot -

About Madame Talbot

But I was able to collaborate on one of his stories which is in my third book Rapture.

You can see our collaboration here.

Then I took up tattooing, I had gone to Art School and did NOT do the required apprenticeship (slave labor) that is normally required of most tattoo shops. I ran my own shop called Parlor 13, there were only four tattooist in Seattle at that time, Vyvyn LaZonga, a biker shop up on Capital Hill and my partner Parlor F and me, Parlor 13. I did this for about five years.

Seattle changed, tore down most of its history and I desperately needed a change and took off on a cross-country trip and landed in Nashville - I worked at Hatch Show Print for a while, met my husband, eloped, and went on another cross-country road trip hooking up with old time circus and sideshow folks, then arrived back to Seattle in order to try and reignite some sort of flailing career. I was floundering at that time, badly.

I went to the Seattle Art Store on Western Avenue and that was where I had my first of three epiphanies. I went in and asked if they had any amberlith.

About Madame Talbot

The two youngsters at the counter had absolutely NO IDEA what I was talking about. I realized that an era had just died right there in front of me and that I could either die with it, or go with the changes but not until I first stood outside the store crying big tears into my husband’s comforting arms wailing about how I was a DINOSAUR and that my career was totally over. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with myself.

Two weeks later, I bought a computer and discovered eBay. During that time, I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life, and then I had my second epiphany. It was one of those dreams that changes your life and it did.

I had a dream that my fellow co-worker at Hatch Show Print was doing the dance in Singing in the Rain, the one where Gene Kelly is dancing around in the rain and then gets up on a light post?

So my co-worker is up there and he looks down at me and says, "You need to make your own posters." That was it. It was that simple.

About Madame Talbot

I woke up and knew right then and there that I had to make posters, that was my path. To make ends meet, we bought treasures at yard sales and resold them on eBay and during that time, eBay was like a gold field. ANYTHING you put up on eBay would sell for outrageous sums of money!

At this time, I had no idea how the whole computer thing worked, it was a bunch of gobble-de-goop code that went into the computer and somehow it made a webpage. More than anything, I desperately needed to know how to make a living and this new frontier called the Internet was the only way I could think of doing this.

Then one day, THIRD Epiphany. I was putting stuff up on eBay and I had to revise something and clicked edit. I saw the code and it was truly like a Helen Keller Water moment, when I actually saw the code for the first time and it clicked - I finally figured out how it all worked. It was so easy!

I spent two weeks teaching myself how to write my own very basic html and figuring out how to make a website. That was in 2000. I made my first website writing my own code. It looked like crap back then, but it was a start.

Also, I was drawing with my trusty rapidograph and making posters like crazy. The website was making about $25 a week and we were THRILLED. We always said if we could just hit $100 a week, we would be happy.

I have been through seven offset printers (they all end up retiring) because no one does Old School printing, now days printing is pretty much all digital - Print To File which I will never, ever, ever, ever do. Ever.

Everything I do on the computer I make sure that it STAYS on the computer or the Internet. Anything that is an actual physical object to be printed, I absolutely refuse to use a computer for those items.

It is a solid rule that I am very rigid with, I take my original artwork to a darkroom tech who shoots a neg of it. That neg is stripped and then sent to my printer, who burns a metal plate. That plate is then put on a real printing press and is tweeked for the paper, ink and water is added, and then the printing happens.

I use computers for communication and commerce. When I create, I turn off my computer and phone and sit down at my desk with a rapidograph, illustration board and I draw, or sew dolls or make framed curios or whatever I feel like.

So this next couple of years, hopefully the website will be self-sufficient enough for me to be able to work on my book, the tarot, more posters and more dolls.

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Madame Talbot's Victorian and Gothic Lowbrow