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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Campus Creatives: Corie Johnson

    Hallie Bolonkin / Arizona Daily Wildcat Corie Johnson, a UA graduate of studio art and Chinese studies student, displays a T-shirt, one of many that she designed, which she plans to print as a part of her designer T-shirt company. Johnson is using a program called Kickstarter in order to raise money to start her design business.

    If you look around the UA campus, you may see someone wearing one of Corie Johnson’s works of art — a T-shirt print of an elephant or perhaps a baby growing in the middle of a burning star.

    Johnson, 23, intends to transform her love of printmaking into a designer T-shirt company called WaferLove Clothing before she gets her Bachelor of Fine Arts in May.

    Instead of applying for a business loan to buy their first printing press, however, Johnson and her business partner, recent UA graduate Rafael Lopez, are looking for funding from family, friends and strangers via the website Kickstarter.

    Kickstarter provides an online forum for any individual or group with a creative project to ask potential patrons to pledge a donation. Rewards are given for each donation tier after the project is fully funded. Patrons are not obligated to pay if the project’s Kickstarter goal is not met.

    Johnson and Lopez have a Kickstarter goal of $3,624. As of press time, 11 backers have donated $827. Johnson said the money raised via Kickstarter would pay for a printing press that will be used not only for WaferLove’s operations, but also future workshops on printmaking.

    Johnson and I met at the end of a frigid February week in Tucson. Under layers of clothing, the avowed “”nerd”” wore one of her more distinctive print designs, “”CockAtari.””

    “”It was about how video games start to rule your life in a sexual way,”” Johnson said.

    To learn more about Johnson and Lopez’s project, you can visit or search for “”Waferlove”” on

    How did you come across the idea of getting funding through Kickstarter?

    Rafael saw this young man that had gotten — you get your funding based on percentages and he had gotten 7,000 percent funded through a lockpick that he invented. If you donate so much, you get a lockpicking set. We were looking into buying a press just by ourselves, hopefully with a tax refund and everything. So he (Rafael) found that website and we decided to give that a try and see because there are a lot of other creative projects on there. …

    If you donate so much, you get a T-shirt, of course. There’s one with a tank top. Not with the “”CockAtari”” tank top, mind you. I thought about it, but I’m not sure how that funding would go one way or the other. It might be a lot of people or, like, “”Ugh, that’s bad taste.”” So (Kickstarter) has different tiers of donation. It’s an all-or-nothing thing.

    Now that I graduated and I’m not in any printmaking classes, I don’t have access to the (UA’s) press anymore. So we’re working on doing the Kickstarter website to try to raise funds to buy our own press. What we want to do is have interns from the U of A printmaking program that want to come and learn the business aspect of printmaking. Because a lot of people, they will tell you, “”You can’t be an artist professionally, there’s no market for it.”” But I want to show people you really can do what you love and if it’s art, you’ll find a way.

    It’s surprising that you went to Kickstarter rather than through traditional funding like grants.

    Unfortunately, a lot of grants funding, they say, “”Hey, we have this project, we’ll give you a grant if you do it.”” So I didn’t want to do somebody else’s project, I want to do my own. … I think Kickstarter is more this generation and grants feel more like the last generation. Plus, I don’t think it’s as admirable, I guess. There is a lot of people competing for grants, but on Kickstarter you have to really fight and find people for every donation. Every dollar you get, you asked for. So it’s a lot more personal. It’s kind of like printmaking, every cut.

    What are some of your inspirations for your art?

    Technology, definitely. Being a huge nerd always shows up in my art. For my first year of art school, every single piece I made was about zombies. I always wonder about the zombie apocalypse, where I would go, where I would hole up. I actually used to have a machete in my car. It wasn’t mine. I was dating this guy and he let me borrow it because I went to a not-very-good part of town. He’s like, “”Take the machete!”” And I was like, “”Whatever, just put it in the Jeep.”” So I had it for two years and I finally just saw him and I was like, “”Here’s your machete back.””

    So I guess zombies, technology, video games. I’m very, very inspired by classic video games.

    I actually did some work on Chinese topics. … I guess I’m really inspired by the propaganda art, especially during the time when the Soviets were helping the Chinese and when Japan was invading. … I also like to do animals. I guess my first T-shirt ever printed was an elephant T-shirt and that was the T-shirt that Rafael saw and just loved. So I kind of evolved from there.

    What will you do if you don’t get the funding by the end of the deadline?

    Well, in theory, I only have to raise X amount, because we might cheat a little and have like, “”Hey, mom. Can you donate X amount of money so that we can get the thousand dollars we’ve raised already?”” But again, on Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing.

    So if we can’t raise it all, then we’ll have to buy it ourselves. We’ll have to suck it up and use our tax returns to buy a press. That would be really unfortunate because, again, I just graduated and I’m really poor. (Laughs.) This is actually my house. I live here. (Laughs.) There’s a hole in the ceiling. Not really, that would be terrible. But hey, there’s a roof, which is a lot more than what other people have.

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